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Water tests come back negative, again

By DARRELL SMITH - dsmith@newsexaminer.com

There is more to the numbers than just a list of “no violation” one after the other.

Customers of the Connersville Utilities water department should have received the annual Consumer Confidence Report, giving levels of certain contaminants in the drinking water. It compares those to the permitted levels whether the numbers violate state or federal requirements.

City Council at its last meeting approved an Environmental Restrictive Ordinance that bans new water wells in the down downtown and southward.

The former Hoffman Dry Cleaner property at 911 Western Ave. and the Hassler Textile Services property at 700 Eastern Ave. have been monitored. Chlorinated volatile organic chemicals have been detected on or near both.

Those properties are south of the aquifer that supplies drinking water for Connersville, said David Kunkel, water plant operator. The main water wells are near Roberts Park, on the north end of the city. With the aquifer – an underground stream – flowing south, the contaminants would not have entered the water supply at those wells.

Connersville Utilities pumps 2.5 million gallons of water daily. Keeping that much water safe to drink takes time and expense.

As testing equipment gets better, they start finding more substances that might not have been detected years ago, said Utilities Superintendent Brad Colter.

Testing is not done for every possible contaminant every year, Kunkel said.

Copper and lead are the contaminants that most people would check first, said Connersville Utilities Director Mike Bottomley.

Tests for those two metals came in August 2017. The maximum allowable for copper is 1.3 parts per million. The local sample tested 0.122 ppm. The lead maximum is 15 parts per billion. The sample tested 2.1 ppb.

Volatile organic chemicals are tested every three years. Sampling for those came last month, he said. Synthetic organic compounds are tested every three years; the most recent in 2016. Inorganic compounds are tested every three years and those have been tested this year. Nitrate testing is every year.

TTHM (total trihalomethanes) and HAA5 (haloacetic acids) are tested quarterly. Radioactive contaminants have been monitored every three years but are now every two years, with the next sampling coming in 2019, he said.

Testing for bacteria contamination is done monthly but no numbers are included in the annual report, just a statement at the bottom, “No 2017 samples tested positive for bacteriological contaminants.”

The last bacteriological test that come back positive came in about 2009 and likely came as a result of mishandling a sample rather than from a contamination, Colter said. “If we have a failed bacteriological sample, the whole town would be under a boil water advisory,” Kunkel said.

The testing is performed at an independent lab in Muncie.

It costs $2,500 a quarter for the TTHM and HAAS tests. The radioactive testing is about $4,500 each time, Kunkel said.

In addition to the testing, water department personnel inspect all seven booster stations, three water towers, two well fields and two water treatment facilities for vandalism or other problems twice a week, he said. 

The contaminants do not affect the water’s taste. In August, the local water earned the Best Tasting Water in Indiana title from the Alliance of Indiana Rural Water for the fourth time.

“We really can’t tell you why our water tastes as good as it does,” Kunkel said. “We must have minerals in there that gives it the taste it has.”