Water standards met

By Talesha Herbert

The DeKalb Water Resources Division is working around the clock to remove contaminants from the drinking water.

DeKalb uses groundwater from various wells drilled into the St. Peter and Galesville sandstone aquifers. Water also is drawn from three wells in the Troy Valley aquifer. An aquifer is a geological formation that contains water.

The water in DeKalb is tested quarterly for contaminants. It also is tested annually for contaminants that usually are found in surface water.

Gerald Bever, assistant director of public works for 17 years, tests DeKalb’s water for impurities.

“We test for over 130 different potential contaminants in the drinking water,” Bever said.

According to DeKalb’s Annual Water Quality Report from 2001, there was a level of 12.6 combined radium found in the drinking water.

This means that the level of radium found in the water was in violation of the standards set forth by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA). According to the Illinois Department of Public Health, some people who drink water with high levels of radium over many years may experience depression of the immune system, anemia, cataracts, fractured teeth and some types of cancer.

Radium is a radioactive element found in rocks and soil within the earth’s crust. Small quantities of radium from these sources also can be found in groundwater.

“I think the water quality is fine,” Bever said.

“We had the radium, which was an issue,” he said. “We exceeded the standards.”

All of the division’s treatment plants have been operating since June 2001.

All water provided to customers has to meet all state and federal requirements, as per the Safe Water Drinking Act.

The water resources division is trying to prevent any potential surface contamination.

“The water that we draw out of the ground is from deeper areas,” Bever said.

These underground areas are not as susceptible to contamination as surface water.

Other contaminants found in DeKalb’s drinking water are at very low levels.

At a level of 1.1, the fluoride found was very low compared to other parts of the U.S.

“Fluoride additives are put into the water, to maintain a satisfactory level of fluoride in the drinking water,” Bever said.

The fluoride additives are optimum for prevention of tooth decay.

A blended phosphate solution is used to keep the iron in the distribution system from rusting. Chlorine also is added, for disinfection.

“We test for those chemicals every single day to make sure that we are putting in the proper levels, and maintaining a proper amount in the water,” Bever said.

Although DeKalb’s drinking water appears to be safe, some residents prefer drinking bottled water.

DeKalb resident Tina Priester, also an employee at Burger King, said the restaurant uses filtered water for its customers instead of DeKalb’s faucet water, a requirement by the health department. Priester, a big fan of bottled water, said she has heard too many stories about DeKalb’s faucet water.

“Too many contaminations,” she said. “I drink Evian, which is supposed to be the best.”

Although many people choose to stick with bottled water, contaminants are also found there too.

“We are governed much more strictly than bottled-water companies because we are governed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA),” Bever said.

“Bottled-water companies are governed by the Food and Drug Administration, and they do not have the types of requirements placed on them that we have placed on us as a public water supply,” Bever said.

Annual water-quality reports are mailed to postal patrons who live in the city on July 1 of every year, for the previous year.

In a report issued in May, the Water Resources Division reported that all of the drinking water was being treated for removal of the radium and that “customers are now receiving water with less hardness, less iron and radium levels lower than the federal standard.”

Removing the hardness of the water is the same process that removes radium from the water.