Now that the Kittery Water District trustees have voted to continue to use free chlorine as a disinfectant in their water following a public outcry there, the York and Kittery district water is incompatible, as York uses the other commonly used disinfectant, monochloramines.
But the Kittery district has worked out a solution. If York needs its water in case of emergency, Kittery is installing equipment at a new pumping station that will allow a switchover from chlorine to chloramines.
It’s all part of discussions that were held by the Kittery Water District board of trustees when it unanimously voted in early June to permanently drop plans to add monochloramines to its water. That board vote came after a group of Kittery residents raised health-related issues related to monochloramines, including the assertion that it can’t be used in kidney dialysis machines and can be toxic to aquatic organisms.
York Water District officials strongly dispute the health risks, saying that quite the contrary, monochloramines reduce levels trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids, “disinfectant byproducts” which have links to cancer. Further, they say, it has been deemed safe by the Environmental Protection Agency.
The KWD announced plans to switch to monochloramines last March, following the recommendations in a 2016 study underwritten by the Kittery, York and Kennebunk, Kennebunkport and Wells water districts. Its purpose, among other things, was to determine how the three districts could freely use each other’s water in times of emergency.
Following the study, the districts signed a memorandum of agreement to work to chloraminate the water in all three districts. York has been using chloraminated water for 36 years.
Kittery is in the midst of a $3 million renovation of its existing plant. KWD Superintendent Mike Rogers said as part of that work, a $100,000 system to chloraminate its water is “95 percent installed. The system will be there but now it won’t be used,” he said.
Another part of the KWD plan is to build a new pumping station near Interstate 95, with costs to be shared between York and Kittery as long agreed to in the MOU. This station will function to bring water from York to Kittery or from Kittery to York.
Faced with the fact that they signed an MOU with York and KKWWD to provide compatible water, the KWD agreed in June to install equipment at the pumping station that will take Kittery’s free chlorine water and add ammonia (chloramine is comprised of chlorine and ammonia) before it goes into York. Rogers estimated the cost of the equipment at around $10,000.
As for water from York to Kittery, York had already agreed to supply water during critical times during the Kittery plant’s renovations, and that will continue under terms of the Kittery trustees June vote. York will supply water for one month this year and four months next year in a planned switchover.
With regard to any emergencies such as an algae bloom or lighting strike at Kittery’s three ponds, Kittery will need to take York’s water, said Rogers. But it will flush its system to take free chlorine out and bring the monochloraminated water in.
“We can accept it without flushing if it’s a short-term event like five or six hours. But when we need to take it for more than a couple of days we have to do some systemwide flushing because the two don’t mix well together,” he said.
York Water District Superintendent Don Neumann said it will be business as usual for York residents. He said he thinks it’s important for people to know how well the three districts have been working together since 2016 – and in many ways that won’t change. The three districts, for instance, just jointly bought an $80,000 generator on wheels that can be used in case of power outages at any of their facilities.
“The spirit of cooperation has been really wonderful. We work so well together,” he said.
“I wish our people would have given it a chance,” said Rogers of chloramination. “But I understand. That’s not going to happen.”