Carcinogens found in the Town of Ulysses water supply

Via Flickr/Shawn Carpenter
April 4, 2014

Health officials in Tompkins County are figuring out how to deal with carcinogens in local drinking water. The water supply for about 300 residents of the Town of Ulysses contain the carcinogen, known as THM.

The first traces of trihalomethanes, or THM, was found in Water District 3 in Ulysses back in 2012.  In 2013, the water contained almost 15 micrograms per liter more than the legal limit.

THM isn’t immediately harmful, but after many years of consumption, it can cause liver, kidney, or central nervous system problems, according to the EPA.

THM forms when chlorinated water gets too warm. And that’s Uylsses’ problem. The water district was originally designed to connect with and provide water to Trumansburg, which never happened.

Town Supervisor Liz Thomas says that means there’re not enough people using the water.

“We have a system that is too big and the water doesn’t flow through very fast. And that kind of situation allows the chlorine, that’s required in the water, to react to organic matter that’s in the water and creates these byproducts.”

She says a quick fix for residents now is to use a Brita or other home filter. Thomas is working with engineers from the Tompkins County Health Department to fix the problem.

“I wish there were a cheap option but there doesn’t seem to be an inexpensive one.”

Adding an aeration system to the pipes would fix the problem but costs about 100 thousand dollars.  The expense would be shared among the 300 residents who get their water through the system.

Thomas says the town recently had some good news when the latest test showed levels of THM under the legal limit.

“But we are going into the warmer season so we’re probably expecting it go back up again.”

The County Health Department has given the town until the end of the year to fix the issue.