ALTUS AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. – The 97th Medical Operations Squadron bioenvironmental engineering flight is required to run tests every quarter for two sets of disinfection byproducts called haloacetic acids and total Trihalomethanes (TTHM) in the base water to ensure the water is not a health risk to personnel.
The level of TTHMs at the base water system for Feb. 1 through Aug. 13 averaged 182.55 parts per billion. Although this exceeds the 80 parts per billion standard set by the Environmental Protection Agency, it is not an immediate risk to human health.
“There are four specific TTHM chemicals that we have to look at; there’s chloroform, bromoform, dibromochloromethane and dichlromobromomethane,” said Capt. Megan Batten, 97th MDOS bioenvironmental engineering element chief. “The reason why we restrict them is because there have been studies that show there is a slightly higher occurrence of bladder cancer in populations that drink chlorinated water.”
Although not required, there are steps you can take to reduce these levels in your own drinking water. The easiest and most cost-effective way is to treat it with an activated charcoal filter that is labeled to remove volatile organic carbons known as VOC’s.
The EPA has found that non-chlorinated water based on color or water borne illnesses are a much greater risk to the population than the risk caused by TTHM or any of the disinfection byproducts.
“During warmer months there is going to be more organic matter in the water and as [Tom Steed Reservoir] gets lower we are going to be getting higher percentages of organic materials in the water as well,” said Batten. “Basically the organic material interacts with the chlorine that we use to decontaminate the water and the product of that reaction is disinfection byproducts.”
The base receives treated water directly from the City of Altus treatment center. The City of Altus is working to complete renovations to the current water treatment system, which will provide Altus AFB with reduced levels of TTHMs. The city hopes to complete these renovations by the summer of 2014.