Thermopolis Independent Record - Your source for news in Hot Springs County

By Cindy Glasson
Reporter Photographer 

South Thermop water questionable


November 16, 2017

At some point during the last year, nearly everyone has heard about the water issues in Flint, Michigan. The contamination levels in their water has rendered it undrinkable by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards.

Hot Springs County residents receiving their water through the South Thermopolis Water and Sewer District (STWSD) were recently appraised of a situation with their drinking water that, while not undrinkable, it is above EPA standards for levels of disinfection byproducts.

Specifically, the water exceeds the standards, or maximum contamination level, for total trihalomethenes (TTHM).

While not an emergency warranting alternate drinking water sources at this time, some people who drink water with high TTHM over years may experience problems with their liver, kidneys or central nervous system, and may have an increased risk of getting cancer.

TTHM comes from disinfectants used in the treatment of drinking water, which react with naturally occurring organic and inorganic matter present in the water, to create the issue of high levels of disinfection byproducts.

The STWSD has been fighting this progressively since they started up their system a couple of years ago. Total organic carbons are compounding the problem, but they are almost impossible to eliminate.

EPA standards call for no more than .080 milligrams TTHM per liter of water. The levels with the STWSD are currently 81.025 mg/l. In addition, Haloacetic Acids are not to exceed .060 mg/l, but the water at the district currently shows 24.75 mg/l.

The water at STWSD is tested every quarter and according to the EPA report, the average TTHM for the year is 73.90 mg/l while Haloacetic Acids are averaging 25.23 mg/l.

Numbers went up each quarter throughout the year, however, going from 55 TTHMs in January to 74.4 in April, 80.7 in July and up to 84 by the October sample.

The Haloacetic Acids were a bit different, starting at 25.4 in January and 28.7 in April before dropping to 23.3 in July and 23.5 in the October sample.

STWSD district receives their water from the Town of Thermopolis treatment plant, a surface water facility.

The Town’s water source consists of three wells and the Big Horn River. The wells draw from the Alluvial formation.

The water is treated in a series of processes that include coagulation, flocculation, sedimentation, filtration and disinfection. A small amount of chlorine or other disinfection method is used to kill bacteria and other microorganisms that may be in the water before it is distributed for use.

At this time, STWSD is trying to negotiate with the Town of Thermopols to obtain a higher quality water for their system. There is also a Level II study going on to see if changing the water source from the Town to Big Horn Regional Water is a possibility.

In the meantime, they have asked the county to participate in a joint powers board that plans to look at all the possibilities on the table. It isn’t a quick fix with estimates of at least a year to find a solution.


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