To the Editor:
Re: "Setting record straight," a letter to the editor in the Aug. 8 edition, written by Lih-in W. Rezania of the state of Minnesota's Drinking Water Protection Section, Environmental Health Division.
The presence of blue-green algae (also called cyanobacteria) and its disease-causing cyanotoxins in lake water, as in Budd Lake, was discussed at length in my letter to the editor published July 30. Recent research has revealed additional information.
It is now known that the strong oxidants, chlorine and chlorine dioxide used to treat our drinking water do not eliminate all cyanotoxins (plant poisons), and that cyanotoxins can promote cancer. Excessive amounts of chlorine will interact with organic materials (blue-green algae) to create trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids, which also can cause cancer.
Cyanotoxins are some of the most powerful natural poisons known. The presence of earthy taste and musky odor in water indicates the presence of blue-green algae and the probable presence of cyanotoxins.
The damage or death of the blue-green algal cells releases cyanotoxins. Cell death occurs naturally as the cells mature, die, decompose and sink to the lake bottom. Cell damage is accelerated by high pressure pumping, long pipe transport or pre-chlorination. (The water from Budd Lake is pumped 250 feet to the filtration plant from the deep water intake located at the lake bottom 20 feet below the surface.) Massive mortality occurs during algal-bloom collapse at the end of the summer season. The huge influx of cyanotoxins at that time (with no visible blue-green algae in the lake water) is difficult the detect and treat.
A conclusive way to determine if Fairmont's drinking water is safe is to frequently and completely test raw household tap water. The chlorine and fluorine added to our water are poisonous halogens, and in high concentrations are detrimental to human health. Testing for additional contaminates is undoubtedly forthcoming from the EPA. In 2009, the EPA listed 89 drinking water contaminates, at least 28 of which can cause cancer. Unfortunately, there is still no test requirement for cyanotoxins.
In a current publication, Phillipe Cecchi, Montpellier University, et. al., believes there is no recognized methods to effectively eliminate blue-green algae from lakes, and that chronic exposure to low concentration of cyanotoxins can promote cancer. They have made a number of revealing recommendations concerning algal contaminated water:
1. Avoid all direct contact with the water, e.g., swimming and aquatic activities.
2. Do not drink the water.
3. Do not use it to prepare or cook food (boiling the water will not eliminate the toxins).
4. Avoid consuming fish or other aquatic species taken from the affected area.
5. Do not let animals drink or bathe in the water.
6. Do not use algicides to destroy cyanobacteria (toxins are released more massively when cells die).
7. Be informed that toxins can persist after cyanobacteria have disappeared.
The people of Fairmont deserve resolution concerning the quality and safety of their drinking water. A well-informed public that is aware of the presence of cyanotoxins and other contaminants can take the necessary steps to eliminate the problems.
Many people remain convinced that the water in Budd Lake is a cesspool of physical, chemical and biological hazards.
Henry W. Roehler