Mar 04, 2004

Nitrate Levels Still Questioned By Residents of Desert Hills

Desert Hills Accuses Arizona America Water of Not Providing Proper Notification to Residents

The chief of the Desert Hills Fire Department is concerned Arizona American Water Co. has not given proper notification to customers whose drinking water contains high levels of nitrates, reported an article in the News Herald. Kevin Tilden, spokesman for Arizona American Water, reported that the company planned on sending inserts with its bills to customers in order to update and educate them on the nitrate situation.

Nitrates and nitrites are nitrogen-oxygen chemical units which combines with various organic and inorganic compounds. Once taken into the body, nitrates are converted into nitrites. The greatest use of nitrates is as a fertilizer.

"As far as I know the water is still unsafe to drink," said Chief Mat Espinoza. "I don’t think Arizona American took this very seriously, but there are certain people it will still affect. I don’t feel Arizona American has met their obligation to notify people." He said didn’t receive an insert in the fire department’s water bill and the bill does not mention anything about nitrate levels, reported the article

Tilden said Tuesday that the bill inserts would begin with the next billing cycle and that there only poses a danger for small children, not adults. Short-term effects include xcessive levels of nitrate in drinking water have caused serious illness and sometimes death. The serious illness in infants is due to the conversion of nitrate to nitrite by the body, which can interfere with the oxygen-carrying capacity of the childs blood. This can be an acute condition in which health deteriorates rapidly over a period of days. Symptoms include shortness of breath and blueness of the skin. Long-term effects include nitrates and nitrites have the potential to cause the following effects from a lifetime exposure at levels above the MCL: diuresis, increased starchy deposits and hemorrhaging of the spleen.

Tilden said routine testing showed levels of 12 milligrams per liter, slightly exceeding the nitrate standard of 10 mg/L. According to the EPA, if the levels of nitrates/nitrites exceed their MCLs, the system must notify the public via newspapers, radio, TV and other means. Additional actions, such as providing alternative drinking water supplies, may be required to prevent serious risks to public health.

Ion exchange, reverse osmosis and electrodialysis treatments have been approved by the EPA for nitrate removal.

Tilden said the company is going to connect two wells via pipeline, mixing the contaminated water with safe water, creating a mixture that meets the MCL. However, the project could take up to six months.

Arizona American said it has limited bottled water available to customers. Customers with questions or concerns can call Arizona American Water at 800-383-0834.