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Stockton Holds Town-Hall Meeting To Discuss Chloramines In Water

Mayor Anthony Silva / Facebook

About 1,200 people attended the Mayor's forum on water in Stockton on Monday evening.

Mayor Anthony Silva / Facebook

Back in 2013 Stockton Mayor Anthony Silva voted to add chloramines to the city’s water treatment process. In January the chemical, a combination of chlorine and ammonia, became a part of the disinfection process.

The mayor's decision came under fire by celebrity environmental activist Erin Brockovich, who posted this to her facebook page shortly after the city added chloramines to the drinking water:

Congratulations to the City of Stockton, California... you're adding ammonia to your drinking water because you're too...

Posted by Erin Brockovich on Saturday, January 16, 2016

Silva responded by inviting Brockovich to a town-hall meeting. Around 1,200 people attended and the mayor is now reconsidering the chemical disinfectant.

Silva joined Beth Ruyak on Insight to talk about the meeting. He explained in 2013, fewer people paid attention to chemicals in the drinking water.

“People are getting involved with their city - they want more information. That’s what last night was about. We talked about what the city is doing and why,” Silva said.

Silva said when he voted to treat the water with chloramines he felt it was the best thing to do for the city, now he says he wants to take a step back and reconsider.

"Folks, they want to revisit this - they want to slow down a little bit and get more information," said Silva. "It's my job to get a pulse of where the community is at and figure out what chemical they want in their water and what they don't." 

Stockton Record Columnist Michael Fitzgerald is skeptical of the mayor’s about-face on chloramines.

“The mayor voted to put chloramines in the water... then a few days ago the Mayor flip-flopped, [saying] he had been educated by city officials and they said chloramine was the best option - so the implication was the Mayor voted blindly to put chloramines in the water in the first place. He didn't do his homework and he admitted as much,” Fitzgerald told Ruyak on Insight Tuesday morning. “But, he nevertheless cast the right vote. Chloramine is a standard disinfectant, it’s been used since 1917 it’s used world wide, one out of five Americans use it, there are no deaths linked to it… Let’s not forget what it’s disinfecting is cholera, typhoid fever, amoebic dysentery, diseases that killed millions of Americans before water was disinfected.”

The Environmental Protection Agency says The East Bay Municipal Utilities District switched to a chloraminated water system in 1998 and it hasn’t been able to substantiate any complaints about chloramines since then.

David Sedlak is a Malozemoff Professor in Mineral Engineering and Co-director of Berkeley Water Center and Director of Institute for Environmental Science and Engineering. He says there’s really no problem with chloramines.

“In the drinking water treatment process we have to make sure the water doesn’t contain pathogenic microorganisms, viruses and bacteria and other things that would make you sick. We do that by adding a disinfectant or disinfecting the water,” Sedlak said on Insight.

Sedlak explained for a long time water agencies treated outgoing water with chlorine, but sometimes create carcinogenic-disinfection byproducts in the pipes. Chloramines don’t have that problem and became the preferred disinfectant for many cities across the country.

“According to the Center for Disease Control and the EPA - it appears to be one of the safest options we have for maintaining water that won’t make us sick,” said Sedlak. “I’m not sure what Stockton will decide - but if they choose to go with chloramines they won’t be alone - they won’t be guinea pigs with an unproven technology.”

At this point, a least four votes from the City Council are needed to direct the City Manager to reopen the issue. So there might not be any changes in the near future. 


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