Trenton Water Works: Water is safe to drink


Although the Trenton Water Works has missed one deadline to correct a violation of drinking water standards and will miss the deadline to correct another violation, the water is safe to drink, according to the city-owned utility that provides drinking water to some Lawrence Township households.

In a Feb. 4 letter sent to all Trenton Water Works customers, the water utility acknowledged that it had failed to remediate maximum contaminant levels for two drinking water contaminants – haloacetic acids and total trihalomenthanes – within one year of their initial exceedances. Both are disinfectant by-products.

Lawrence Township officials, meanwhile, continue to be concerned about the operations at the Trenton Water Works, Municipal Manager Kevin Nerwinski said. He added that he “shares in the frustration with all of the Lawrence Township customers” regarding the city water utility.

The Feb. 4 letter states that the Trenton Water Works routinely monitors for the presence of drinking water contaminants, and discovered that it had exceeded the maximum contaminant level of 60 parts per billion for haloacetic acids during the fourth quarter of 2017. It exceeded the maximum contaminant level during the first, second and third quarters of 2018.

“Our water system is required to take any action necessary to bring the water system into compliance with the applicable maximum contaminant level within one year from the initial exceedance. Our water system failed to remediate the haloacetic acids maximum contaminant level by the one-year deadline of Dec. 8, 2018,” the letter said.

The Trenton Water Works also exceeded the maximum contaminant level for total trihalomethanes, which is 80 parts per billion, during the first, third and fourth quarters of 2018, the letter said. Based on the fourth quarter 2018 exceedance, the water utility will not comply with the requirement to remediate the issue by the one-year deadline of March 5, 2019.

Trenton Water Works officials stressed that although it had missed the deadlines, it is not an emergency and there is no need to boil the water. If it had been an emergency, customers would have been notified immediately.

The two chemicals – haloacetic acids and total trihalomethanes – are formed when disinfectants (chlorine) react with natural organic matter in the water.

The letter said that some people who drink water that contains excessive amounts of haloacetic acids and total trihalomethanes may have an increased risk of getting cancer – but only if they have been drinking it for many years.

Excessive amounts of total trihalomethanes also may cause problems for some people with their liver, kidneys or central nervous system, but only if they have been drinking the water for many years, the letter said.

Meanwhile, Trenton Water Works officials are taking steps to reduce the disinfectant by-products in the water system, including adding a second permanganate feed line and repairing a blocked carbon feed line at the water filtration plant, the letter said.

The chlorine contact basins are being repaired, which will result in better removal of organic matter which is the source of disinfectant by-products. The turbidity of water throughout the plant is being monitored on a regular basis. Turbidity is a measure of organic matter in the water.

The Trenton Water Works is conducting more frequent sampling for disinfectant by-products in the distribution system. All lines have been flushed in the water distribution system, and all storage tanks have been cleaned and disinfected.

And the Trenton Water Works is hiring an independent engineering consultant to provide a thorough evaluation to determine how to further reduce disinfectant by-products.

Larwrence Township Municipal Manager Kevin Nerwinski said he confident that that the framework for an improved water utility is in place and is moving in a positive direction.

“(But) the issuance of these notices reminds me that there is still a long way to go,” Nerwinski said.

“Township officials will continue to be vigilant in advocating for the residents, with the hope one day we simply don’t have to think twice about the water we use each day,” Nerwinski said.