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.

NOCHE

The Holden Arboretum

Area Agency on Aging 10B, Inc.


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

HOF's Canton expansion could take an island and make it a village
I live in the block from Broad St to the Hall of Fame and will be impacted by the expansion. I am in the process of selling my home and planned to long before i...

Cleveland redeploys police to replace rejected red-light traffic cameras
Periodic rotational enforcement without warning does NOT change behavior and the city officials know that. This is the basis of all officer-run enforcement trap...

New enrollment period offers more insurance options
The removal of federal funding for healthcare CO-OPs may limit the growth of the CO-OP movement. http://www.healthcaretownhall.com/?p=6381

The family of Boardman vet killed in Vietnam receives his medals
My name is Mike Eisenbraun. I am Larry's brother. I was 14 years old when Larry was killed in Vietnam. He has been gone for 46 years but it seems like yester...

Cleveland seniors are creating new wealth -- and facing new challenges
Why is anyone surprised that we people over 65 are not retiring? If you have been paying attention, defined company funded pensions were phasing out in the eigh...

Ohio company cuts off a dairy supplier after allegations of animal abuse
these people should be held accountable for their actions. i would be more than pleased to see a year or more behind bars. i will NEVER eat anything that comes ...

Goodyear recruits thousands of vets
What a wonderful interview! Excellent reporting skills by a talented young reporter! I look forward to hearing more from Ms. Schley!

Ohio Democratic Party begins the rebuilding process
I agree 100% with Sen. Brown. I think it is absolutely critical for the Democratic Party in Ohio to engage in the long, tedious, hard task of re-building from t...

They're talking again in the Macedonia bridge dispute
Norfolk Southern says the Ledge road bridge meets regulations for train traffic, however it was built as an overpass for a roadway and/or farm usage. I think t...

Cleveland City Council to consider transgender public restroom law
this is sick. I do not want my daughter in the same bathroom as a perverted 45 year old man. this proposed legislation could seriously damage the security of ch...

Copyright © 2014 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