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U.S. EPA orders federal contractor, U.S. Navy to reduce drinking water chemical levels at El Centro Naval Air Facility

Release Date: 12/05/2006
Contact Information: Margot Perez-Sullivan, 415.947.4149 perezsullivan.margot@epa.gov

LOS ANGELES - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently ordered KBR Inc. and the U.S. Department of the Navy to reduce the levels of total trihalomethanes - byproducts of water disinfection - from drinking water available at the Naval Air Facility El Centro, Calif.

Located at 1605 Third Street, the Naval Air Facility provides drinking water for approximately 4,000 persons. The water plant is operated by KBR Inc., a federal government contractor.

“Chemical byproducts in treated drinking water must meet federal guidelines to protect public health,” said Alexis Strauss, water director for the EPA Pacific Southwest. “The EPA will ensure this system returns promptly to compliance and keeps the public well-informed.”

Byproducts such as trihalomethanes are formed when disinfectants used in water treatment plants react with bromide and/or natural organic matter such as decaying vegetation present in source water. After years of consumption, trihalomethanes may cause liver, kidney or central nervous system problems and may increase the risk of cancer.

The U.S. Department of the Navy is required to notify the public when levels are above health-based standards. Between 2004 and 2006, the drinking water at the Naval Air Facility in
El Centro averaged 116 parts-per-billion of total trihalomethanes, violating federal drinking water standards of 80 parts-per-billion.

By Jan. 31, the U.S. Department of the Navy must provide a written compliance plan describing how it will meet EPA water regulations. By Dec. 31, 2007, the Navy must reduce its total trihalomethane levels to below federal standards. (Failure to comply with the EPA order could result in fines up to $32,500 per day per violation.)

The EPA established new disinfection byproduct regulations in 1998 to protect public health from potentially harmful byproduct chemicals that form when chlorine reacts with natural organic compounds during the treatment process.

For more information on the EPA’s drinking water programs, please visit: http://www.epa.gov/region09/water/drinking/index.html
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