KITTERY, Maine ó The Kittery Water District has announced it will not implement chloramines as a drinking water disinfectant, now or going forward.

The latest notice issued by the district comes after months of discussion and opposition from water users, who expressed health and environmental concerns over the proposed disinfectant. A citizens advocacy group, called "Kittery Citizens Concerned About Chloramines," led the resistance. The water districts serving York and Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Wells have used chloramines for years without issue, their superintendents claimed.

The Kittery Water District also serves a portion of Eliot.

A quarter of a million people from York to Portland currently ingest water treated with chloramines, Superintendent Mike Rogers has previously stated.

Despite the ongoing debate, there remained a "polarized division of public opinion," according to the Kittery Water District, but common ground seemed to be that free chlorine, the district's current disinfectant, is acceptable.

"In an effort to provide a mutually agreeable resolution to this debate, the district will continue to use free chlorine as the secondary disinfectant," the Kittery Water District recently announced. "At this time, chloraminated water will only be used in cases of emergencies or planned outages where the transfer of chloraminated water from neighboring districts becomes necessary. In these instances, the district will provide as much advance public notice as practicable and in such a manner that public safety and firefighting capabilities are not impacted."

Chloramines were originally scheduled to be implemented in April, but due to the outcry from water users, it was delayed. Though deemed a safe and effective drinking water disinfectant by the Environmental Protection Agency, and consumed regularly by one in five Americans, water district users raised issue with the possibility of exacerbated health conditions, release of lead from old pipes, and lack of research and conclusion of the byproducts of chloramines. Through their own research, several residents identified and contacted communities around the country that had issues with chloramine implementation, and ultimately discontinued use.

The change from chlorine to chloramines, according to Rogers, was necessary in order for the Kittery Water District to complete its $3 million water treatment plant renovation, which will require two periods of shutdown during construction at points this summer and in 2020, warranting purchase of water from the York Water District and the Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Wells Water District, which both use chloramines. Rogers said water incompatibility would result in poor taste, odors and color issues. Itís also good emergency preparedness moving forward, he said.

"The change to chloramines was a recommendation of studies and planning to upgrade the water treatment plant," the district's latest release said. "This change would improve water quality and facilitate the mutual exchange of water between Kittery and neighboring water districts in cases of emergency.

Several community dialogues were held on the issue, which featured experts on both sides, including the York Water District,† Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Wells Water District, director of the Environmental Research Group at UNH Dr. Jim Malley, and later, Erin Brockovich's water specialist Bob Bowcock. Eliot residents also expressed concern about the switch to chloramines.

Meanwhile, Kittery Citizens Concerned About Chloramines have presented a several-hundred signature petition to the Kittery Town Council to get a nonbinding referendum question on November's ballot to cement the public opinion on chlomarines, although the Kittery Water District is an entirely separate entity from the town.

The question would ask, "Do you oppose the addition of ammonia or chloramine to our water supply by the Kittery Water District?"

The Town Council on Monday is likely to schedule a public hearing regarding the placement of the nonbinding referendum at its Aug. 12 meeting.

Water report available online

The Kittery Water Districtís Consumer Confidence Report is available for 2018. A direct link to download the report can be found at http://bit.ly/2xuoRmM and at the districtís website.

The annual water quality report to all customers is in accordance with the 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act and provides general information regarding district activities. During 2018, drinking water produced by the district met or exceeded all federal and state health safety requirements.

Copies of the annual report can also be received by mail by calling the district at (207) 439-1128.