A motion that would set an April 7th start date for the city’s new chloramine water disinfection system is on the Ketchikan City Council agenda for Thursday.
The city has been planning the new treatment system, which also incorporates ultraviolet light, for about 10 years. There were some construction delays, and then the city had to wait for a state permit to operate the system. That was issued last October, but the city decided to wait until spring to turn on the chloramine part of the treatment.
Because it will be a new system, and because water treated with chloramine – a mixture of chlorine and ammonia – should not be used in aquariums or in dialysis machines, the city restarted a public information campaign to let people know about the change.
Some people who say they weren’t aware that the switch was going to take place oppose the city’s plan. A group called United Citizens for Better Water is collecting signatures for a ballot initiative that, if approved, would prohibit the city from using chloramine disinfection. Group members say that chloramine is potentially more dangerous than chlorine, and can cause numerous health problems, including skin irritation and digestive issues.
The city is required to make some kind of change to its water treatment system, because the level of federally regulated byproducts in city water is too high. The city chose chloramine as a less-expensive solution, especially compared to filtration.
Byproducts form when chlorine comes in contact with organic material. Chloramine also forms byproducts, but not as many, at least not of those that are regulated. The United Citizens group says that there are numerous unregulated byproducts formed through chloramine disinfection.
Thursday’s Council meeting starts at 7 p.m. in City Council chambers. Public comment will be heard at the start of the meeting.