HAAs in Valdosta drinking water 2015-12-21

Valdosta has a water treatment byproduct over the recommended limit in its drinking water. Janet McMahan supplied the image below of part of a notice, which says there’s no cause for alarm at the moment:

HAA5 Warning

There is nothing you need do at this time. These violations do not pose a threat to the quality of the water supply. Residents should not be alarmed and do not need to seek alternative water supplies. The supplier is taking corrective actions to ensure that adequate monitoring and reporting will be maintained.

Some people who drink water containing HAA5 in excess of the MCL over many years may experience problems with their liver, kidneys or central nervous system, and they may have an increased risk of getting cancer. For more information, contact Water Treatment Plant Superintendent Jason Barnes at (229) 333-1832.

Please share this information with other people who drink this water, especially those who may not have received this notice directly (for example, people in apartments, nursing homes, schools and businesses) by posting this notice in a public place or distributing copies by hand or mail.

WSID#: 1850002, Violation IDs: 2015-12526. Date distributed: Dec. 21, 2015

Speaking of schools, if I’m not mistaken Pine Grove Elementary and Middle Schools use Valdosta water.

I called the number in the notice, and was told Jason Barnes is out today, and they didn’t know of any version of this notice online. I will follow up in a few days, but meanwhile they confirmed this is a real notice that was mailed on paper to Valdosta water customers.

The notice itself is quite similar to EPA’s template for notification about haloacetic acides (HAA5) violations for exceeding maximum contaminant level (MCL).

Apparently this is not the first such notification. Noelani Mathews, WCTV, 2 December 2015, Valdosta’s Water Contamination: What is HAA5?

Valdosta residents receiving their water bill will also find another notification this month—something your body might be paying for, instead of your wallet.

Inside the bill is information about a state violation and what that might mean to you.

According to the City, haloacetic acids (HAA5) have exceeded the system’s maximum contaminant level (MCL) over the course of three quarters.

“Haloacetic acid is a disinfecting byproduct of using chlorine to disinfect the water,” says Jason Barnes, Valdosta’s Water Treatment Plant Superintendent.

The EPA says with long-term exposure, HAA5 could cause cancer, or eye and skin irritation.

Barnes says citizens haven’t been exposed long enough, and that the increase in levels aren’t a reflection of their work.

Valdosta’s 2014 Water Quality Report, Water System ID No. 1850002 says on page 3 that Haloacetic Acids (HAAs) are regulated volatile organic contaminants that are byproducts of drinking water chlorination. The MCL is 60 ppb and Valdosta measured 3-74 ppb, so there were violations.


The testing results from the 4th quarter sampling indicated that our system exceeded the standard or MCL for HAA, which is 60 ppb averaged at an individual monitoring location over the year. During the 4th quarter, only one location measured 67 ppb. HAAs are one of five volatile organic chemicals formed when disinfectants react with natural organic matter in the water. In 2015, a new chlorine booster station will be constructed to improve chlorine residuals in the southern extremities of the city’s water distribution system, while lowering chlorine residuals elsewhere to address the HAA issue.

What’s the difference between HAAs in general and HAA5? The latter are:

five regulated haloacetic acids (HAA5): chloro-, dichloro-, and trichloro-acetic acid (CAA, DCAA, and TCAA); bromo-, and dibromo-acetic acid (BAA, and DBAA)

Source: Removal of haloacetic acids by nanofiltration, by Chalatip R1, Chawalit R, Nopawan R., J Environ Sci (China). 2009;21(1):96-100. Apparently there are also HAA3, HAA6, and HAA9, but HAA5 appears to be what EPA requires regulating int he U.S. Going to Labrador, Canada, for an explanation of where HAAs come from:

Haloacetic acids (HAAs) are a type of chlorination disinfection by-product (CDBP) that are formed when the chlorine used to disinfect drinking water reacts with naturally occurring organic matter (NOM) in water. Haloacetic acids are a relatively new disinfection by-product.

Why would Valdosta have naturally occuring organic matter in its water wells? Well, the Withlacoochee River leaks into the water table at Shadrick Sink near Cherry Creek, and Valdosta already sunk its wells twice as deep to get under that river water. Maybe they didn’t get under all of it. Or maybe there’s some other source.

After all, in the same Floridan Aquifer various organic solids are coming up in wells, including salt, most likely sea salt, right up to the state line. All of south Georgia and Florida is on top of permeable limestone, with cracks vertical and horizontal, so surface water interchanges with groundwater.