News
News Home
Quick Bites
Exploradio
News Archive
News Channel
Special Features
NPR
nowplaying
On AirNewsClassical
Loading...
  
School Closings
WKSU Support
Funding for WKSU is made possible in part through support from the following businesses and organizations.

Hospice of the Western Reserve

NOCHE


For more information on how your company or organization can support WKSU, download the WKSU Media Kit.

(WKSU Media Kit PDF icon )


Donate Your Vehicle to WKSU

Programs Schedule Make A Pledge Member BenefitsFAQ/HelpContact Us
Environment


Ohio's clean drinking water doesn't come cheap or easy
Chlorine was big, but doesn't do it anymore
Story by KAREN SCHAEFER


 
Frank Woyma, manager of Cleveland's Baldwin water plant, says city water is safer than bottled.
Courtesy of KAREN SCHAEFER
Download (WKSU Only)
In The Region:

Unless you have a private well, wherever you live in Northeast Ohio, you're probably using tap water to wash dishes, bathe, even make your morning coffee. Most U.S. public drinking water is safe – certainly a lot safer than it is in countries where water treatment may still be in the Dark Ages. But as independent producer Karen Schaefer reports, keeping up that high standard is becoming a lot more expensive.

LISTEN: Clean drinking water doesn't come cheap or easy

Other options:
Windows Media / MP3 Download (4:01)


There was a time – not that long ago – when typhoid outbreaks like those that killed thousands in Haiti after the hurricane were also killing residents in Cleveland. In 1903, nearly 500 people died from unsafe drinking water. The last case was in 1935.

"Chlorine has been one of the biggest ... advances in human health in the history of mankind," maintains Alex Margevicius, Cleveland’s water commissioner.  

He’s standing in a corridor at the Baldwin Water Treatment Plant on Cleveland’s east side.  It’s one of the city’s oldest water treatment facilities, built in 1925. He says Cleveland started adding disinfectants early on.

"We added chlorine in 1912, because we were having cholera and typhoid outbreaks. And chlorine was the first thing that we did to make sure we had better water.

Since then, public water treatment has come a long way. Once a year, Cleveland opens one of its water treatment plants to the public. Baldwin plant manager Frank Woyma, who’s worked for the city water department since 1991, says for many visitors, it’s an eye-opening experience.

"Most people are just amazed at what it takes to make drinking water." 

Lake Erie origin
The process starts with water from Lake Erie, pumped from one of four water cribs located several miles off-shore. The first treatment step is to siphon the water into huge underground settling tanks treated with alum, to sweep out larger sediments. Then it’s sent through cleaning filters, made of crushed coal and sand, that remove the finer particles.

"At 55 million gallons of pumpage a day," Woyma says, "it takes about 8 hours for a drop of water to get from one end to the other."

The final process is to add chemicals that disinfect the water to be sure there’s no lingering bacteria that could make people sick. It’s a practice all water treatment plants follow. Even so, in 1993, an outbreak in Milwaukee of the bacteria cryptosporidium killed more than a hundred people.

Alex Margevicius says it was a wake-up call to the industry.

"The U.S. EPA came under a lot of criticism. You’ve got all these rules and still something happened. People died. So the U.S. EPA and the water industry and American Waterworks Associations said, 'Can we do better?'"

The safety of tap water in Cleveland and many other Great Lakes cities now exceeds federal drinking water standards. By law, those federal standards are updated every six years. But there’s a new class of contaminants under review; trace amounts of pesticides, prescription drugs and consumer products like shampoo and fragrances are showing up in water across the U.S.

Gabriel Eckstein, a law professor at Texas Weslyan University, says, "Science suggests that aquatic species are being harmed."

Some pesticides, even in tiny amounts, can disrupt growth hormones in amphibians and cause deformities. Eckstein says, so far, there’s no scientific evidence of impacts to human health. But he says cities like Cleveland aren’t likely to adopt new technologies – like reverse osmosis – that could remove these worrisome chemicals from drinking water.

"They’re not thinking about it  because the technology, even though it is there, is expensive. It's extremely expensive."

The U.S. EPA is now studying the possible health risk of more than 200 trace contaminants. The results could inform future drinking water decisions.

Even without regulatory changes, the cost for treating drinking water is going up, as chemical costs rise.And if you’re thinking bottled water may be a better alternative, Frank Woyma says, think again.

"It’s our water they put in the bottle. They may run it through a charcoal filter, but if you leave that bottle out in the sun, it’s going to grow bacteria in it."

Karen Schaefer's series on Northeast Ohio water quality - Drink, Fish, Swim – is supported by a grant from the Burning River Foundation.

(Click image for larger view.)

Listener Comments:

I think it's important that every city incorporate a water sampling station to ensure the city has analyzed the quality of water running through consumers home and businesses.Water is an important necessity and cannot be fooled with.


Posted by: Water Sampling Stations (http://www.american-mc.com/) on August 13, 2013 3:08AM
Add Your Comment
Name:

Location:

E-mail: (not published, only used to contact you about your comment)


Comments:




 
Page Options

Print this page

E-Mail this page / Send mp3

Share on Facebook



Stories with Recent Comments

Cuyahoga Valley National Park OK's sharpshooters to thin deer herds
In this article you mention that the Mule Deer Foundation is a "hunting group" in reality the Mule Deer Foundation is a conservation group that is over 25 years...

Clarence Bozeman: In the driver's seat of history
I believe he was a teacher of mine as James Ford Rhodes. My favorite teacher of all time! Loved learning this part of his amazing history.

Cleveland RTA is moving Public Square bus stops beginning this week
I am very confused. Why are you taking one or more of the park and ride 246 out of service in the morning. I looking over the new schedule I see that there ar...

Canton school board will vote Wednesday on its high school merger
Great to see that THE REPOSITORY is advising a 'no' vote for now! Another point, besides all the Very accurate points already made against this move is the fac...

Some parents opting their students out of Common Core test
I am an 8th grader at a school in Allen County. I have just recently taken the ELA performance based assessment and found it extremely difficult. It asked me a ...

Fallout from the Ohio Supreme Court Munroe Falls ruling
The comment by Nathan Johnson from OEC is confusing. Instead of cities being 'emboldened' to craft zoning laws that were just stricken down by this ruling, comm...

Stopping sediment dumping in Lake Erie
Ah, yes, the Army Coro of Engineers, the geniuses that designed the levee system in New Orleans that has made the flooding worse due to no sediment reaching the...

Ohio charter school critic says reform bills are a good step
The cold truth is that these charter schools are offering services beyond the what the state tests can guage. Parents and students have a choice and they are ch...

State law trumps restrictions on oil and gas drilling in Munroe Falls
Justice O'Neill's quote brings up a point I wish WKSU would address: since, unlike for Federal judges, our judges here in Ohio are elected, and therefore respo...

Ohio Supreme Court invalidates local fracking bans
If Ohio has their way, Fracking Wells will be planted in the courtyard of every town. That is if the State of Ohio can profit by it...for more on how the court ...

Copyright © 2015 WKSU Public Radio, All Rights Reserved.

 
In Partnership With:

NPR PRI Kent State University

listen in windows media format listen in realplayer format Car Talk Hosts: Tom & Ray Magliozzi Fresh Air Host: Terry Gross A Service of Kent State University 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. NPR Senior Correspondent: Noah Adams Living on Earth Host: Steve Curwood 89.7 WKSU | NPR.Classical.Other smart stuff. A Service of Kent State University