What to do about your drinking water in Greater Morristown

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If you live in Greater Morristown and recently got a scary-looking notice about your water, here’s what you need to do:

Nothing.

That’s the word from Laura Cummings, executive director of the Southeast Morris County Municipal Utilities Authority.

“There is nothing (customers) need to do right now. There is no cause right now for great concern,” Cummings said.

The mailing — sent to about 17,500 customers in 10 towns, including Morristown, Morris Township and Morris Plains — noted elevated levels of TTHM, short for “total trihalomethanes.”

These are byproducts of chlorine-based disinfection of the water supply. The federal Environmental Protection Agency says high levels might damage your liver, kidney or central nervous system, or cause cancer.

If you are exposed to them for many years, Cummings said.

Here’s what happened.

The utility takes water samples every quarter, at eight locations.  At one of those locations–the post office at Convent Station in Morris Township–TTHM readings of 86.4 parts per billion and 80.9 ppb were detected over the last two quarters, exceeding the EPA standard of 80 ppb.

Cummings blamed these readings on standing water in a 1,000-foot pipe that only serves the post office, and on that water’s source, from the Wanaque Reservoir system, which had some TTHM spikes during warm weather.

An automated flushing system was added to the pipe. The water source also temporarily was switched. With colder weather here, TTHM levels should dip below the EPA threshold, said Cummings, who is an engineer.

TTHMs result when disinfectants that kill bacteria and pathogens react with organic matter in water. Warmer temperatures can drive this reaction, Cummings explained.

She said the next reading is scheduled for late January 2019.  There is no need to boil water in the interim, Cummings said.

However, the elderly, or people who are pregnant, have infants, or have seriously compromised immune systems, should consult with their health care providers, she recommended.

So if the general public has nothing to fear, why is the utility spooking people with these mailings?

The EPA and state Department of Environmental Protection require such notification whenever the TTHM level, averaged over the last four quarters, exceeds the federal standard, she said.

“It’s frustrating. We feel there are much better ways to address this,” Cummings said.

In coming months, the SMCMUA will become part of a Morris County network enabling electronic alerts, she said.

In the meantime, anyone with questions is invited to call the utility at 973-326-6880, or email here, or visit its office at 19 Saddle Road, Cedar Knolls.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Despite these issues with SMCMUA, they have proposed another rate hike in the water services they provide. See the proposal at:
    https://www.morristwp.com/DocumentCenter/View/5271/SMCMUA-notice-of-hearing-12-20-18-and-revised-rates
    Most of us will see a 5.5% increase in our rate. But those smaller households who don’t use a lot of water will bear the brunt of this proposed rate hike, with a 16% increase!
    If you object to this as I do, attend the SMCMUA public meeting on December 20, 7pm, at the SMCMUA office at 19 Saddlebrook Road in Cedar Knolls.

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