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Is Fairmont’s water safe?

July 30, 2012
Fairmont Sentinel

To the Editor:

The bad taste of Fairmont drinking water results from the blue-green algal blooms that occur in Budd Lake during summer. The problem is caused by the compounds geosmin and methylisoborneol. These compounds are formed intracellulary and released by cell destruction during water treatment to remove the blue-green algae.

In 2006, dozens of water analyses were conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey in Midwestern states where surface waters were used for drinking. Where blue-green algal blooms occurred in these waters, as in Budd Lake, cyanobacteria were always present. Cyanobacteria produce several types of cyanotoxins. In order of their presence the analyses identified: Microcystin, 100 percent; Anatoxin, 30 percent; Saxitoxin, 17 percent; Clindrospermopsin, 9 percent; and Nodularin, 9 percent.

As indicated, Microcystin was present in 100 percent of the drinking water analyzed. Exposure to low does of Microcystin-LR is known to cause the growth of liver tumors and liver failure. The other cyanotoxins in the water can cause kidney damage, affect the nervous system and cause allergic or respiratory problems.

The USGS has reported "evidence of poisonings, and sometimes death, in at least 36 states." In August 2010, Microcystin-LR was found in the finished drinking water in three Ohio water systems. From studies published in June 2009, it was determined that cyanotoxins can remain in water even after the water has been treated and the algal blooms disappear.

In 2001, investigations by Elijah Stommel, Dartmouth Medical Center, Paul Cox, et. al., have determined that the toxin, bet-methylamine-L-alanine BMAA is produced by cyanobacteria derived from blue-green algae in contaiminated lakes. They believe this toxin is probably responsible for increasing occurrences of ALS and other neurological diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. They report that "people living around lakes may have breathed in the BMAA from air, or eaten fish contaminated with it, or swallowed it while swimming." They also believe people should avoid drinking "green, smelly water," such as the contaminated water from Budd Lake. A recent Sentinel article (June 29, 2012) stated "we are right in the middle of the area with the rate of highest Parkinson's prevalence."

Fairmont drinking water is presently tested for "hundreds" of contaminants, and is in compliance with "state standards" (Sentinel, July 27, 2012). However, in recent correspondence (July 2, 2012) Lib-in W. Rezania, public health engineer, Minnesota Department of Health, Drinking Water Protection Section, wrote, "There is no requirement for the testing of cyanotoxins in drinking water." The strong oxidants, chlorine and chlorine dioxide, presently used to treat our water, may not be effective in destroying/removing cyanotoxins.

Henry W. Roehler

retired USGS geologist




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