Tuesday, December 21, 2010

pointing fingers

KTVZ reports tonight that the water tested by EWG was from a private water company, Avion Water, rather than the City of Bend.  You can read the news report here.

I commend the local reporters for doing a good job with a scientific topic, but I hope they find a source who is not invested in the outcome of the testing.  Avion Water, the City, and the ACC aren't going to be able to persuade me of much, because each could be reasonably expected to want this little problem to just go away.  It's possible the EWG has some other complicating interest, too, beyond public health. 

It's not time to panic, but we need to attend to this.  Preliminary experiments indicate we might have a problem.  That's all EWG has shown us.  There is a serious shortage of data and a compelling case for more testing, now.

Time to go back to the lab!  Water from all over town should be collected and tested, using EWG's more sensitive testing method, so that we can have an informed discussion.

Monday, December 20, 2010


The community of Bend is pretty darned proud of our wonderful tap water.  It really is amazing quality stuff, tasteless, odorless and about as wet as any water you could find anywhere.  Even more remarkable, to someone who doesn't come from this part of the world, is that such wonderful stuff could come tapped into our homes with very little processing.

There has been some local chatter about potential upgrades to our current water system, especially the part of the supply that comes from the Bridge Creek drainage.  That portion of our local water is surface water, which means that there is some potential for it to be contaminated from the surface.  With some pressure mounting, it looks like that system is going to have to undergo some upgrades in the near future.

And then comes this news:  the Environmental Working Group has tested water in 35 municipal supplies and has found chromium-6 in 31 of them, including in Bend (which tests at 0.78 ppb).  What does this mean for us?  It's too early to know, but it certainly is a call for more and better testing, and additional information for us locals about the sources and consequences of having it in our water at the current level.

The presence of chromium-6 from natural sources is a possibility, but I do find it a little concerning that this notice doesn't come with immediate access to the sort of maps of those deposits that we might want.  I wonder if anyone tracks this sort of thing?  It seems like it would be an easy thing to do, and that testing for natural contaminants of concern (like chromium, or arsenic, or fluoride in high concentrations) would be standard procedure when establishing new wells or other water supplies.

The statements from the ACC are also not very helpful, and also add to my discomfort with the lack of information flowing to us.

How do we compare to the other cities tested?  The graph about halfway down the page (titled "Chromium-6 levels in 25 cities’ tap water exceed safe limit proposed by California officials*"), in the original report, is pretty striking, and disturbing.