Toxic Drinking Water

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by Verdeboy, Dec 20, 2008.

  1. Verdeboy

    Verdeboy In the Trades

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    A few weeks ago, I had my 15 minutes of fame for discovering toxic chemicals in our drinking water. The water department had decided to resurface the inside of one of our million gallon holding tanks, and they put it back on line without ever testing the water for VOC's (volatile organic compounds.) I was the only person in the whole town who noticed a chemical odor from the tap water, and as a former chemist, I was able to tell them with perfect accuracy what family of chemicals were in there.
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2008
  2. SewerRatz

    SewerRatz Illinois Licensed Plumber

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    Good catch :)
  3. Cookie

    Cookie .

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    That is really cool, Eric. You must be a very good chemist.
  4. SteveW

    SteveW DIY Senior Member

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    Great story - good pickup, Eric, and glad they did the right thing when you reported it.
  5. Cass

    Cass Plumber

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    One big ata boy for you eric...I'da done the same thing...
  6. frenchie

    frenchie Jack of all trades

    I wonder how much more would have leached out of that sand, and into people's morning coffee, over months or years, if you hadn't caught it?

    Good call.
  7. Cookie

    Cookie .

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    What exactly Eric could those chemicals had done if you didn't find it over a period of time like Frenchie said. I am curious, I don't know chemicals.
  8. Probedude

    Probedude New Member

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    Just need a good nose and exposure to the smell to know that it's not normal.

    Oh, and not having smelled it long enough to have killed off your brain cells :p

    Dave
    (chemist by degree)
  9. Verdeboy

    Verdeboy In the Trades

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    According to the water department, the chemicals (mostly Xylene, a paint solvent) were detected at below the MCL (Maximum Contaminant Level), with sampling done from a spigot located at the bottom of the million gallon tank. However, Xylene is completely insoluble in water, and its density is much less than water. That means the bulk of it would have been floating on top.

    I smelled it first thing in the morning. This is because, over night, the xylene would separate out in my pipes and rise up to the highest point, which is in the faucets. So, the first few ounces of water that came out of the tap was nearly pure paint solvent. Once you let the water run for a bit, the smell disappeared. Also, the odor threshold is 100 times greater than the level they claimed was in there. And there was a very strong odor, which means there was at least a thousand times greater concentration than they had claimed.

    Anyway, here are the toxic effects.:

    Short-term: EPA has found xylenes to potentially cause the following health effects when people are exposed to it at levels above the MCL for relatively short periods of time: disturbances of cognitive abilities, balance, and coordination.


    Long-term: Xylenes has the potential to cause the following effects from a lifetime exposure at levels above the MCL: damage to the central nervous system, liver and kidneys.
  10. kingsotall

    kingsotall Plunger/TurdPuncher

    As a fellow New Mexican, I thank you.
  11. Verdeboy

    Verdeboy In the Trades

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    What part of NM?
  12. kingsotall

    kingsotall Plunger/TurdPuncher

    Abq I live in Flagstaff, AZ now but the rest of my side of the family lives in NM. Still consider it home.
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2008
  13. Cookie

    Cookie .

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    That would probably still improve my coffee, ( I make horrible coffee).

    But, on a serious note, that is really good you found it and contacted them. Just imagine the damage that could had been to people if you hadn't. They owe you one. They owe you a big thank you to say the least.
  14. I'd be suing the entire state, shaking profusely and frothing at the mouth, lawyer right there wiping the drool from my chin.


    Call in "extra!" because it's gonna be big.



    I'd get my dog in on the mix too...premature graying of the hair. That's worth a cool 1/4 mil right there. File that under "Expressed desirable appearance values" that were grossly diminished by repeated exposure to poisoned, harmful water contaminates.
  15. Verdeboy

    Verdeboy In the Trades

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    The problem is, there's no evidence other than the fallacious results they put in the newspaper. I actually took my own sample of the water, when it was at its worst, but I (stupidly) dumped it out after they had told me it wasn't collected in an "approved" container after letting the water run for 10 seconds.

    That was before I realized that only the initial few ounces were heavily contaminated. So, unless a bunch of people can prove they were sick during that time, I just have to let it go. No one in this backwards town seems to care anyway.

    BTW, their excuse for contaminating the water was: "We never painted the inside of a tank before" and "We trusted the contractor. It's their fault" and "We let the paint cure the necessary time according to the manufacturer's specifications" and "We already tested the water earlier that year for VOC's, and there weren't any present."

    To which I responded: "You should have talked to someone who has painted the inside of a tank" and "You are responsible for any work that is contracted out" and "Paint-curing time varies tremendously based on the humidity and temperature, not to mention that the tank is essentially a closed system, giving the solvent vapors no where to escape" and testing the water before it is painted is completely worthless other than to give you a baseline for comparison after the tank was painted."

    I also had to practically beg them to test for lead, since they initially sandblasted all the old layers of paint, which could easily have had lead in it. They told me they were hesitating because, "Just asking for that test could open up a can of worms, and the higher-ups would start asking questions."

    They never did make public the results of the metals testing.
  16. sue for your "american dream"

    Maybe like Rugged stated , the whole community
    can sue the water company and get some money for it..



    oh, never-mind

    I meant the lawyer that sues for you will get some
    money..
    ...
  17. Cookie

    Cookie .

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    Well, actually here is what I would do. No one likes to hear the sickness that might be involved, especially if you remind them, that their children have been drinking it. Do you know how long people/children have been drinking the water? Can you find out the short term results from it? Even if you have to go to a doctor and ask, do it. Then you find out the long term results from their children drinking it; and pregnant women drinking it, how it effects the unborn child; also, include how it effects the sick people with lowered immunity systems, and the aged people. Do your homework. I would do it because I hate to be shoved around. I would make sure the community realizes your results. Was this the same water that supplied the schools water fountains? The same water people filled up their swimming pools with? Took baths and showers in? Watered there gardens with? I wouldn't let myself be walked on.

    The results of the metal tests they had taken should be public record.
    Since this happened once, and because of the way I am, I would make sure I had this so-called, approved water container on hand. Just because.

    Oh, and also, Eric, if you consider fighting this, find a lawyer whose kids have been drinking the water, too.
    Last edited: Dec 21, 2008
  18. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

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    Nice catch Eric!
  19. Cass

    Cass Plumber

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    File a request using a FOIA (Freedom Of Information Act) letter and see what happens...it might work...
  20. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

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    The cops were probably wondering why all the local glue sniffers were carrying water bottles all of a sudden...
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