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City of Torrington (Wyo.) agrees to pay $4,500 to settle alleged violations of EPA Administrative Order

Release Date: 05/31/2006
Contact Information: Tom Sitz 303 312-6918; Diane Sipe 303 312-6391; Kathelene Brainich 303-312-6481

(05/31/2006) Denver – The City of Torrington has agreed to settle alleged violations of an Administrative Order issued by the Environmental Protection Agency addressing the City’s drinking water system by paying a $4,500 penalty.

    In January 2001, EPA ordered the City to implement short-term and long-term solutions to nitrate and bacterial contamination problems plaguing the City’s drinking water system. EPA’s Order required continuous disinfection on all raw water source wells and collection of samples every two weeks to determine compliance with the maximum contaminant level (MCL) for nitrate for all drinking water wells currently in use, or that will be in use within the next month. In addition, the Order required that any wells with samples exceeding the nitrate MCL be immediately removed from service and follow a sampling regimen prior to reuse of the well. Due to fluctuating nitrate levels in the underlying aquifer and lack of nitrate treatment units on some City wells, current biweekly nitrate sampling is key to ensuring safe drinking water for the City. The Order remains in effect.
      In June 2004, water sampled from well #5 exceeded the nitrate MCL. The City removed the well from the drinking water system and did some sampling through August 31, 2004, but no sampling was performed at well #5 from September 2004 to August 2, 2005. In addition, sometime prior to July 21, 2005 the disinfecting chlorinator had been removed from well #5.

      For approximately 12 hours on July 21-22, 2005, the City allowed water from well #5 to enter the drinking water system. EPA alleged that this event violated its Order since well #5 was a raw water source that was added to the Torrington drinking water distribution system without providing continuous disinfection or following required pre-use nitrate sampling. The City has confirmed that all six drinking water source wells now have chlorinators installed.
      Studies confirm that the high levels of nitrates in the City’s drinking-water source aquifer are due to local agricultural activities, such as crop fertilization, and urban lawn fertilization. Nitrates in drinking water present an acute health risk for infants. High levels of nitrate are known to cause “blue-baby syndrome,” a well-known human health risk.

      Any potential health risk associated with the violations would primarily have been from using infant formula prepared with City water during the time of the violations. However, due to the short 12 hour exposure time, the historical levels of nitrate in this well typically being below the MCL, and lack of bacteriological MCL violations since issuance of the Order, the human health risk likely was low.