Stockton residents call for halt to chloramine use

By on February 11, 2016
Stockton residents call for halt to chloramine use

Due to the water contamination taking place in Flint, Michigan, the issue of safe drinking water has become cause for concern, especially for one Central Valley city: Stockton.

A few weeks ago, Stockton changed how they purify their drinking water, moving from chlorine to chloramine, a combination of chlorine and ammonia. Stockton’s north end has already seen the water change. The south end will occur rather soon.

Residents throughout the city are concerned about chloramine’s effect on both their health and their city’s infrastructure. According to residents, health problems include:

  • Gastroenteritis
  • Skin rashes
  • Hacking coughs and nasal congestion
  • Dry, itchy eyes
  • Ammonia toxicity, especially for those who suffer from liver, kidney or urea diseases

Residents began complaining about chloramine-related illnesses before the city switched their purifying process, said Connie Cochran, the City of Stockton’s Public Information Officer.

“We encourage people to visit their physician to talk about other potential illnesses that could cause these symptoms,” Cochran said.

Stockton residents have also expressed infrastructure-related concerns stemming from the use of chloramines. Stockton has pipes made of various materials, like copper, plastic, lead and asbestos, so there is concern that chloramine can cause pipe corrosion.

In 2012, Laguna Nigel’s Moulton Nigel Water District customers sued the agency for pipe corrosion and water leaks. The homes’ leaks were due to the chloramine having a chemical reaction with copper piping, which caused sporadic holes.

Stockton residents are concerned they could see similar issues over the next few years.

In addition to the health and infrastructure concerns, Stockton residents are worried about local ecosystems, specifically fish and amphibians, which can die from chloramine exposure.

“Chloramines, like chlorine, are toxic to fish and amphibians at levels used for drinking water,” an EPA explanation on chloramine reads. “Unlike chlorine, chloramines do not rapidly dissipate on standing. Neither do they dissipate by boiling.”

Residents believe there is a real concern regarding the Delta’s safety. There is a widespread belief that chloramines could end up in the Delta, where Stockton obtains its water, if the chemical is accidentally back flushed.

“That would be detrimental to the watershed and the Delta as a whole,” said Heidi Hecht, founder of the Facebook page “Stockton United for Healthy Water.”

“These chloramines would kill fish, amphibians and plants,” Hecht noted.

The general consensus among residents is the same. Many, if not all, believe the city decided to go with chloramines, despite their controversy in the water community, because it was a cheaper alternative than using granular activated carbon (GAC), which is recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Stockton residents started a petition, calling for the halt of Chloramines until the following is done:

  • An in-depth, independent study is conducted on chloramine safety and its impact on residents and infrastructure
  • Properly informing residents regarding the chloramine issue
  • Allowing residents to vote on the use of chloramine use

“We want a chloramine moratorium until they [the city] can prove it’s safe,” said Hecht. “We want to be given a choice – a vote – on the cost analysis. If we were to go to carbon filtration, it would increase our water rates about $1.25 per family.”