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Our Chunky Fracking Water

Our Chunky Fracking Water - Part 2
Our Radioactive Fracking Water - Part 3
Our switch from Chlorine to Chloramine - Part 4
Our Chloramine Tap Water - Part 5


Chlorine to Chloramine

What the switch from chlorine to chloramine can mean to you and your tapwater

April 15, 2012 - During the week of March 19th, 2012, our tapwater south of Pittsburgh changed. That’s right, instead of the Monongahela River source water being disinfected with chlorine, our water supplier switched to chloramine. Why you ask? My short answer would be because of Marcellus shale natural gas drilling and ‘fracking’ (HVSWHF—high volume slick water hydraulic fracturing).

Now my long answer: This shale gas extraction process uses huge quantities of water (averaging 4 million gallons per well) and about 20% to 40% of that water flows back out of the well contaminated. One specific contaminant is causing this tapwater switch, since it continues to create high levels of ‘total dissolved solids’ (aka: TDS) in local rivers: Bromides. Something that commonly appears in ocean water.

Fracture pumps, frac tanks and other equipment on a drilling pad during hydraulic fracturing of gas wells. Plastic-lined production pit contains orange-colored flowback fluids.

Did you know Marcellus shale is an ancient ocean? So there is your link: the flowback and produced water from these Marcellus wells can easily be 10-times saltier than ocean water. So how are these bromides getting into Pittsburgh rivers? Over recent years, drillers have been dumping this ‘wastewater’ (labeled ‘Residual Waste’ on tanker trucks) all over Pennsylvania, legally and illegally, onto our land and roadways; into streams, rivers, and abandoned mines; and storing it in huge rectangular pits called impoundments. Unfortunately, it has made its way into the source of our tapwater, the Mon River. It’s not just the saltiness that worries many, it is also the soluble radium, heavy metals and BTEX (benzene, toluene, ethyl benzene, xylene) that can accompany this wastewater. Oh, and let’s not forget the ‘frack chemicals’ which can easily amount to well over 20,000 gallons of chemicals per Marcellus well.

Drilling companies used to dilute this stuff with treated sewage and dump it into the rivers around Pittsburgh until the E.P.A. began seeing serious problems and intervened. Some river dumping still occurs.

Back to the chloramine. Treating this ‘salty’ or ‘chunky’ river water has created unsafe trihalomethane (THM) levels at various points over the past few years. One of the trihalomethanes is chloroform. The hazard is considered greater from the gas-off and dermal exposure in your shower than from drinking the water. By switching to chloramine, the water company hopes to reduce these levels, but this change has important ramifications for fish tank owners and those on dialysis, just to name a couple.


The National Academy of Sciences has shown that volatile chemicals present in many municipal drinking water supplies are especially toxic to people when they are exposed to them when bathing or showering.

". . . the major health threat posed by these water pollutants is far more likely to be from their inhalation as air pollutants in the home, according to preliminary data from a study Andelman and his colleagues have just reported.”

"In the past, he says, inhalation exposure to water pollutants has largely been ignored.” His data indicates that hot showers can liberate between 50 to 80 percent of the dissolved chemicals into the air. Emissions from hot baths are half as high."

Researcher Julian Andelman of the University of Pittsburgh's Graduate School of Public Health

Link: Toxic showers and baths

One notice of our tapwater switch was mailed out just before Christmas 2011. You will find that notice posted below:

Click to enlarge our letter from PAWC about
our switch to chloramine on March 19, 2012

Beyond existing concerns are new ones about the switch to chloramine. Searching the internet for information on chloramine, you first come across a California website, "Concerned Citizens About Chloramine (CCAC)." The group points out that chloramine lacks the scientific studies that have been done on chlorine, and that it is less effective than chlorine at 'purifying' water.

Also that chloramine is a combination of chlorine and ammonia, a respiratory irritant, and it still forms two-thirds the trihalomethanes that chlorine does.

The part of CCAC's recommendation I want to focus on is the reduction of organic matter, or as they put it, the pre-cleaning of treated water being the best method for improvement. 


CCAC recommends that chloramine be removed from the water supply. The use of chloramine as a water disinfectant should be discontinued until the appropriate scientific studies are done to test the safety of chloramine as a water treatment option.

CCAC also strongly supports the prefiltration of organic matter before disinfection that the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends to control trihalomethanes (THMs). The use of prefiltration will allow us to continue to use chlorine (well tolerated for decades) as our water disinfectant thus eliminating all the harmful effects that chloramine is causing.

Link: Chloramine fact sheet & health risks

An alternative method to "prefiltration" would be not to put all the organic matter into the rivers in the first place, substances such as fracking wastewater. High bromide levels are a clear indication to most experts that Marcellus wastewater is still reaching our Pittsburgh rivers. No doubt. Latest research indicates the levels of bromides increase the most between Masontown and Elizabeth, Pa.


The AP found that 78 million gallons of oil and gas wastewater were still being taken to Pa. treatment plants in the last half of 2011 — about 33 percent less than the Marcellus quantity that was raising concerns in 2010, but still a substantial amount. If that rate continues, the conventional wells will send about 150 million gallons of the wastewater to treatment plants that discharge into rivers this year.

When will this shale industry start "getting it right?" I believe they would still be dumping their shale frack water into our rivers at a frenzied pace if it weren't for the US EPA finally stepping in to put pressure on the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

What will they do now if Ohio limits use of their deep injection wells due to associated earthquakes?

Two wastewater tankers on I-79 near Southpointe exit

Where will the thousands of millions of gallons of toxic fracking wastewater go?

Into more open pits like the one below, which was sickening neighbors with its toxic fumes until legal and neighborhood pressure finally got it removed?

This Range Resources wastewater pit was built close to homes in Washington County, Pa.

Even with reduced levels of frack water being dumped into Pittsburgh rivers, the bromide levels are still high. High enough to force this switch to chloramine. You really have to wonder what things will be like in Pennsylvania's drilling hotspots once this Marcellus drilling really accelerates. The multi-national companies and Big Oil are already here, while other companies arrive daily to set-up shop. Pennsylvania Governor "Tom Corporate" continues to give them the 'green light' everywhere he can. With methane prices dropping in early 2012, there will be an increased focus on the tri-state area around Pittsburgh for its more profitable 'wet gas' and oil.

We have only seen the tip of the iceberg with increased water and air pollution from Marcellus shale drilling so far. Think about that the next time you take a safer, colder shower. BRRrrr!


Fish can't live with it..
Why should we?!

Chloramine is a chemical compound of chlorine and ammonia.

Chloramine does not dissipate or evaporate into the air as chlorine does, even when left standing in an open container.

Hundreds of people in 20 states report respiratory, digestive and skin problems in areas using chloraminated water.

Chloramine is highly toxic and lethal to fish and aquatic life.

Chloramine creates toxic by-products 100-times more toxic than by-products of chlorine. Some of the know by-products are: Iodoacetic Acid, Hydrazine, N-Nitrosamines (NDMA) and DXAA.

Chloramine can cause Blue Baby Syndrome.

Chloramine is 2,000 times less effective in killing ecoli and 100,000 less effective against rotoviruses.

Use of chloramines will pour additional zinc, phosphates and nitrates into local watersheds.

Water filters and water bottling processes do not remove chloramine and its toxic by-products, so choose 'spring water' when purchasing your bottled drinking water.

If your water supplier has switched to chloramine, contact them to encourage better pre-filtration of your tapwater source, allowing a switch back to chlorine.

Chloramine can increase lead levels in tapwater from older plumbing.

SOURCE: Susan Pickford, Director
Chloramine Information Center
Phone: 717-731-5698


Fracking increases radionuclides

Photos of gas drilling in Pennsylvania

Landscaping on a budget



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