Coweta County says small amount of people at risk after carcinogen found in drinking water

COWETA COUNTY, Ga. — Thousands of neighbors of a metro Atlanta community received notices that for months their water contained amounts of a dangerous carcinogen above the legal limit.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Justin Gray learned the chemical tends to build up in less frequently used or older water lines.

While the notice went out to every customer, water officials in Coweta County told Gray they do not believe all those customers are at risk.

But they are taking steps to flush the lines and installing new equipment to try to reduce the potentially dangerous chemical.

John Metz said he’s been trying to drink more water on doctor’s orders, but now he’s not so sure.

“I’m more cautious every time I go. Am I bringing a risk on myself that I don’t need?” Metz said.

Metz is one of more than 29,000 households who received official notice from the Coweta County Water Authority in recent days informing them that in the last quarter of 2021, water tested above the federal limit for a chemical called TTHM and the county was in violation of the state and federal drinking water standard.

TTHM has been found to increase the risk of bladder cancer and other health problems.

“We’re talking about the maximum that it can have and we’re over the maximum in this and they act like it’s no big deal,” Metz said.

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The advice for residents in the letter is to do nothing. But it also warns of possible long term cancer risk and more immediate risks for those with compromised immune systems, pregnant mothers or young children.

Gray contacted the Environmental Working Group, who warns that even low levels of TTHM can be concerning.

“With higher concentration comes higher risk, and so the more that increases, the more worrisome it is,” said Sydney Evans with the Environmental Working Group.

The Coweta Water Authority told Gray while they were legally required to send notices to all 29,000 customers, they believe the problem is limited to a small number of customers on one line.

No matter where you live, you can go get information on the quality of your water yourself. Municipalities are required to test for contaminants annually and post online or mail customers those results.

If you go online and look at Coweta’s annual water report, they report the water quality violation and say they are installing new equipment to reduce or eliminate TTHMs in the system going forward.

“Just because they are at legal levels does not mean they are at safe levels. All of these chemicals come with risk,” Evans said.

The federal government requires quarterly water testing.

Coweta officials told Gray they are now testing monthly and while they were above the limit for TTHM of 80, they are now seeing levels back down below the violation line in the 20s.

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