On Monday, Erin Brockovich, the legal clerk and environmental activist known for taking on Pacific Gas and Electric Company in 1993, showed up at a Stockton, Cali. town hall meeting where 1,200 citizens were gathering. The topic of the night: chloramine.
Stockton recently made the chlorine to chloramine switch, and there's been public outcry. The switch is made when there's large amounts of organic elements in the water supply. Because of those elements, authories have to use more chlorine, and excess chlorine can actually bind with organic particles and create carcinogenic disinfectant byproducts, writes Nick Stockton (no relation to the city) for Wired. That's how Stockton has gotten in trouble with the EPA before - twice. Chloramine is chlorine loaded with ammonia, so the water authorities can use less of it, which means less cancerous byproduct.
In the early 2000s, Washington, D.C. switched from chlorine to chloramine to disinfect the water supply, but the chloramine corroded the city's aging lead and copper pips. An investigation found negligence and obfuscation from regional authorities up to the EPA and CDC.
Stockton officials announced the switch from chlorine to chloramine back in 2014, and almost immediately, people called in complaining of allergic reactions and medical needs. The funny part, writes Wired, the switch didn't actually happen until January 13, 2016.
The EPA says chloramines are safe. So for now, Stockton has the option of staying with chloramine against the public's will, or switch back to chlorine and potentially violate the EPA's rules again, let alone expose citizens to known cancer risks, notes Wired.
The politically astute but practically expensive choice would be to go back to chlorine but also install expensive things like UV lights or carbon filters to remove organic material from the water so the chlorine can’t do its dirty work.