Goleta Water May Contain Unsafe Chemical Levels

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Goleta Water May Contain Unsafe Chemical Levels
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By Lauren Bray, edhat staff

After conducting an independent water analysis, a Goleta woman is claiming local tap water is causing skin irritation with abnormally high levels of a chemical used to treat drinking water.

Caroline Bennet contacted edhat with a concern that her family had been suffering numerous skin issues (ranging from burns, itching, and eye-stinging) from Goleta tap water after recently moving from Santa Barbara. Several mothers in the area reached out to Bennet on Facebook stating their children were also getting rashes after bathing. One woman stated her scalp was so itchy she thought she had head lice. After hearing these similar complaints and with water filters failing to work, Bennet decided to have her tap water independently tested. 

Bennet received a full report from KAR Laboratories, Inc., an environmental and analytical testing lab based in Michigan, and said the results were disconcerting. The Total Trihalomethanes (TTHM's) were reported to be 150 ug/L (micrograms per liter, also known as parts per billion). The Federal and California maximum allowable annual average level is 80 ug/L.

TTHM's are commonly found in municipal water supplies and are a combination of chloroform, bromoform, bromodichloromethane, and dibromochloromethane. They are colorless and odorless being formed when chlorine is used to disinfect water for drinking. They represent a group of chemicals called disinfection byproducts.

A charcoal filter is recommended to remove TTHM's from drinking water, but they are still categorized as Cancer Group B carcinogens which means they're shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals. Consuming water containing TTHMs in excess of 80 ug/L over many years may cause liver, kidney or central nervous system problems, although the health risk is generally considered low and tied to continued exposure over decades. U.S. EPA says it regulates disinfection byproducts such as TTHM "to address health risks posed by a potential association between chlorinated drinking water and cancer, particularly bladder cancer."

According to three studies posted on the National Center of Biotechnology Information, higher than normal levels TTHM's in drinking water may of pregnant women contribute to low birth weight and potential for birth defects. 

Bennet stated she found research that TTHM's averaged 42 ug/L from a sample of 727 cities in the United States and 36 ug/L from 25 California cities. "Our water is currently worse than pool water," said Bennet after learning the average TTHM's found in 22 swimming pools averages 132 ug/L.

TTHM's gained national attention several years ago during the Flint, Michigan water crisis. According to Michigan Live, "Flint's highest running annual average of 99 parts per billion at one site was the highest of any of the violations in the state since 2010. Other averages among the violations ranged from 82 to 88."

The Goleta Water District's online report of Drinking Water Quality Tests from 2016 show the average TTHM's were 80 ug/L with a system average of 69 and a system range from 5.7 - 130. 

"I called Goleta Water and they said it only matters if the average of the whole year (four quarter results averaged) are below the health limit. It does matter to me though, because I am showering in 150 ug/L right now, and it is extremely uncomfortable," said Bennet.

"As a comparison, other nearby water companies do not have such high levels of TTHM's. Lompoc, according to their water quality report, has a range of 6 to 29 throughout the year. I just received the results from Goleta water's own testing. The 3rd quarter numbers go up drastically for TTHMs, from 29 in the 2nd quarter to 100 in the third quarter at the Oak Grove sample location. Other locations go up from 8 to 77, and 18 to 88. Something bad has been going on and it shows up in the August testing," said Bennet.

Below is a graph created by her husband to show the average TTHM range according to a report from the Goleta Water District's 3rd quarter testing (this report is also provided below). 

“We do use chlorination for disinfection. That is a very common way for both water districts across the state and country use to disinfect water," said KK Holland, policy analyst for Goleta Valley Water District, reports KEYT News.

Holland went on to say online water tests aren't reliable. “All of those water tests will state very clearly they’re only for informational purposes only. They’re not for use for regulatory compliance," she Holland. KAR Laboratories stated in their letter the report cannot be used for Safe Drinking Water Act regulatory compliance purposes because it does not comply with all of the U.S. EPA regulations, mainly in the area of sample collection. The complete letter and report are available below. 

The water district stated to KEYT their records show the district's water quality is in compliance with all state and federal regulations.

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ocean789 Nov 23, 2017 07:45 PM
Goleta Water May Contain Unsafe Chemical Levels

It is important to know that Santa Barbara Water District spent $23 million recently on an ozone filter to deal with this problem. Goleta has not dealt with the problem, but is instead hiding it by not testing every 90 days. They are therefore not in compliance with the EPA, as admitted to me by Jeff Densmore of the State Water Division. Also, I wrote to NSF and they told me that there are no shower filters certified to remove TTHMs. Shower filters are only certified to remove free chlorine, which is different to TTHMs. Free chlorine is what is added to the water, which then combines with ash, grasses etc from the lake, and forms TTHMs. The water company needs to be the one to deal with the large amounts of organic matter in the water, as Santa Barbara Water District has done.

richyrich Nov 16, 2017 12:50 PM
Goleta Water May Contain Unsafe Chemical Levels

Sounds a bit like a sales pitch. Yes carbon briquette is superior but I have worked with many forms of activated carbon over a couple of decades and even cheap carbon filters work very well. I know this for a fact because it was always backed up with analytical data to ensure efficacy.

CivilEngineer Nov 15, 2017 01:02 PM
Goleta Water May Contain Unsafe Chemical Levels

This story points out the problems with testing done by the Water Companies at their distribution points and testing done at the end user location. The chlorinated water has to travel through pipes that have algae and sediment in them, and that's where the THMs are formed. Not at the squeaky clean treatment facility. Those of you suggesting carbon filters, what is the amount of carbon required and how often do you have to change them so that they work efficiently? I bet it is not as simple as you make it sound. Thanks for publicizing this.

richyrich Nov 16, 2017 12:52 PM
Goleta Water May Contain Unsafe Chemical Levels

Shower filter should be replaced every six months, and whole house filters or more dependent on the total volume of water that flows through the filter. It is simple to test that the filter is still effective by using a small trace chlorine test kit. Test the water prior to your carbon filter and then after your carbon filter. When chlorine starts to bleed through it's time to replace it.

Flicka Nov 15, 2017 11:48 AM
Goleta Water May Contain Unsafe Chemical Levels

Well, for years those in charge told the residents in Flint Michigan their water was perfectly safe. Will these agencies lie? Uh, "oh never". Then all hell breaks loose when they're caught in their lies.

RHS Nov 15, 2017 08:21 AM
Goleta Water May Contain Unsafe Chemical Levels

Please pay attention to the point that the commercial by mail water testing companies are not reliable. Almost universally they want to sell you extra treatment equipment and therefore are skewed toward results that will create panic in the customer. I see no reason to think that Goleta Water or any other public agency has a motive to lie to its customers. Count to ten.

1984 Nov 14, 2017 09:53 PM
Goleta Water May Contain Unsafe Chemical Levels

last week I had 2 huge cherry red Arm pit burns. I also have a raw itchy brown patch of skin on top of my right hand that looks exactly like the one shown on Mrs Bennet. I live about 1/4 mile from the Rancho Santa Barbara test plug and my tap water has been grossly over chlorinated for years.

a-1511568359 Nov 14, 2017 02:52 PM
Goleta Water May Contain Unsafe Chemical Levels

These "burns" are likely not burns at all, more like irritations. It isn't necessarily true, but stress and anxiety can cause all of these symptoms. Some people are VERY sensitive to chlorine, but that doesn't mean we stop disinfecting our entire water supply to cater to the few. Like the article states, people who are sensitive can buy a charcoal filter for their home's water supply.

Roger Nov 14, 2017 02:25 PM
Goleta Water May Contain Unsafe Chemical Levels

People are dying from the water in Flint and now East Chicago, Indiana Some guy gave me crap one day because I'm poor and drink bottled water like it's anyone's business he said I should drink tap water...I guess maybe it could be the easiest way to waste people and make them sick through the tap water...Thanks Lauren and Caroline.

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