Spotlight: Publicly owned water company makes sense
By Cynthia Hsieh
Peoria Journal Star Letter to the Edior
Mar 18, 2017
For the past several years, Illinois-American Water Co. has added ammonia to chlorine, forming chloramines, as our water disinfectant.
On Illinois-American’s website, it states that water with chloramines is safe to drink, though it is not to be used in fish tanks or for dialysis patients. If chloramines kill fish, would people ingest it knowingly, even at very low levels?
Without getting into which is more mutagenic, unlike chlorine, chloramines are significantly harder to remove by the consumer. Chloramines in water cannot be removed by boiling, aerating or reverse osmosis alone, but rather need sufficient contact time with a high-quality granular activated carbon filter. Some may choose to neutralize chloramines with Vitamin C tablets for bathing or citrus fruits for drinking water.
Obed & Issac’s, for example, has cited removing chloramines as a “major hurdle” in tailoring its beer brewing to Peoria, requiring a triple-stage process of activated charcoal filter, softener and reverse osmosis to strip the water clean, then adding back the salts and minerals afterward and adjusting the pH, in order to make beers to their standard. This process is in stark contrast to Obed & Issac’s brewery in Springfield, which utilizes city water from the tap and simply adjusts the pH for beer-making. By the way, Springfield’s publicly owned water system charges rates about half of Peoria’s.
When a water utility is privately owned, changes to water chemistry, etc. can be made with most consumers unaware. Moreover, IAWC could bottle water from our Sankoty aquifer and sell it — anywhere in the world — without the City Council having any say. In Michigan, the Swiss conglomerate Nestle has been pumping aquifer water at the rate of an Olympic swimming pool every two days to bottle under Ice Mountain and Pure Life brands for a mere $200 yearly fee. Nestle touts having created some 20 new jobs, makes billions in profits, while in the same state, Flint residents have to pay for poisoned water. Where does one draw the line?
Please wake up, Peoria. If the “numbers” for purchasing the water company work out, it means roughly $10 million in yearly profits (2017 figure) from our water bills can stay here going forward.
The water utility should pay for itself over a generation and maybe even help defray the costs of the combined sewer overflow project. Two birds with one stone? It is worth a look, if only to rightly put our aquifer back in public hands.
Cynthia Hsieh has a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering and an MBA and is a member of the Water Study Committee of the League of Women Voters. She lives in Peoria.
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