Columbia water safety

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COLUMBIA - Columbia Water and Light won the Missouri section of the 2018 Water Works Association Drinking Water Taste Contest. 

However, some residents want Columbia Water and Light to shift its focus from taste to safety. The COMO Safe Water Coalition said the city needs to update the water treatment plant, as well as discard its secondary disinfection method, chloramine. 

Julie Ryan, co-founder of the coalition, said Columbia Water and Light is skipping a step in its process of cleaning the water. 

"The issue is the plant is not taking out organic matter. The very bottom line of water treatment is to take out organic matter before you add chlorine or chlorine and ammonia to disinfect," Ryan said. 

Lucia Bourgeois, a spokesman for Columbia Water and Light, said they city's water is safe for residents to drink.

"Columbia’s drinking water meets or exceeds all quality standards set by the Federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

Even so, Ryan said there are still some steps the city needs to take.

She said the city started using chloramine, a secondary disinfecting agent, as a fast and easy way to decrease a cancer-causing chemical in the water. She said levels of the chemical was so high because chlorine was reacting with the organic matter being left in the water. 

She said the city should take action now to focus on the health of its residents. 

"We can't wait any longer. We need this to be done now," Ryan said. "The operators are doing their best to provide us with what they can, but their hands are tied in the sense that they can only do so much without new equipment and without repaired equipment." 

She said residents should remember their health isn't affected just by the water they drink, but what they inhale or absorb through their skin as well.

"Wouldn't it be great, instead of just saying we got an award for the way our water tastes, we got an award because we put in a treatment system that takes care of our citizens for decades to come," she said. 

Bourgeois said the award matters.

Winning the Missouri section of the American Works Water Association (AWWA) is a huge win for our staff that works hard everyday to make sure we maintain a high quality of drinking water that is also safe and affordable," she said.