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Environmental group’s database takes aim at drinking water standards

By Josh Bergeron

josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — A nationwide water quality analysis released Wednesday shows several contaminants above health guidelines in the Salisbury-Rowan Utilities System.

But the authors of the analysis say there’s no need to panic. Salisbury-Rowan Utilities meets federal health-based drinking water standards, and the report uses more stringent standards than those in state and federal guidelines.

“It is our feeling that too many drinking water standards are basically based on political and economic compromise rather than what scientists say are levels that protect public health,” said Bill Walker, a spokesman for Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Working Group.

The nationwide database shows Salisbury-Rowan Utilities’ water levels exceeding health screening levels for seven cancer-causing agents. Those carcinogens include bromodichloromethane, chloroform, chromium, dibromochloromethane, dichloroacetic acid, trihalomethanes and trichloroacetic acid.

For Salisbury-Rowan Utilities, the nationwide database uses tests conducted by the utility and provided to the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality and information from the Environmental Protection Agency.

In most cases, the contaminants that tested higher than the Environmental Working Group’s health screening standards came from the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.

For example, it chose 0.02 parts per billion as the screening level for the metal chromium and hexavalent chromium. That level is more stringent than the level originally used to declare water from wells near coal ash ponds in Dukeville unsafe to drink. For chromium, Salisbury-Rowan Utilities was measured to be 0.076 parts per billion. The national average is 0.8 parts per billion.

EWG President Ken Cook said Americans deserve the fullest picture possible of what’s in their tap water.

“Just because your tap water gets a passing grade from the government doesn’t always mean it’s safe,” Cook said.

EWG’s national database shows that nearby water utilities also exceeded health standards. Kannapolis’ drinking water had nine contaminants above health guidelines. Nearby cities that had eight contaminants above health guidelines include Concord, Charlotte and Lexington.

 For more information about the database, visit ewg.org/tapwater

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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