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Report Shows Spike In Cancerous Compound Found In EBMUD Drinking Water

OAKLAND (CBS SF) -- A new concern about drinking water in the East Bay Tuesday after a report finds a spike in a compound that could cause cancer.

At their meeting Tuesday, East Bay MUD board members were told about rising levels of a contaminant in the drinking water it supplies.

"There's no current, present danger," said Brett Kawakami, EBMUD Manager of Water Treatment and Distribution. "It would just happen if -- danger would occur -- if you were exposed over a long period of time. Many years."

The contaminants are called trihalomethanes or THMs. They are a potentially cancer-causing byproduct created when organic material mixes with the chlorine used to sanitize water.

EBMUD says it's a delayed consequence of the drought.

"Imagine all the organic matter -- the trees, the leaves, all that stuff has been on the hillsides, said EBMUD spokesperson Andrea Pook. "And now with all the rain we've had, they've all washed into reservoirs."

Also, because people are using less water now, it sits in pipes and tanks longer, adding to the problem.  THM levels have been at or near federal limits several times since last year at the Walnut Creek, Lafayette and Orinda treatment plants.

East Bay MUD officials say it's been hard to adapt to such extreme swings in the weather.

"From the worse drought in history to all that rain, you know, the system has to be able to respond to all those changing conditions, changing consumption to changing nature. All of that," said Pook.

One short term solution involves injecting carbon dioxide into the water to lower its Ph and retard formation of THMs.

But if the problem continues -- and with projections of more droughts in the future -- EBMUD may have to add new filtration systems. They warn those systems could cost millions and take years to complete.

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