Buckley taking steps to fix water woes

In the meantime, city says don't worry about quality

By Shawn Skager

The Courier-Herald

Buckley City Council members voted unanimously June 27 to spend $10,650 on a plan to clean up the city's water system.

The bid went to Gray and Osborne Inc., which will be charged with reducing haleacetic acids in the municipal supply.

Buckley water system users were notified by mail the city was in violation of the Environmental Protection Agency's standards for haloacetic acids (HAA).

The flyer, sent by the city, notified water customers of the violation, but stressed that the violation did not constitute an emergency and no immediate action was required by water users.

The violation issued by the EPA cites the city for having excess amounts of HAA, a disinfection byproduct of the cholorination process.

According to a memo from city administrator Dave Schmidt, Gray and Osborne will prepare a study that will look at the “dynamics behind the HAA's and their effect on our system.”

Parts of the study will include; reviewing water quality data to find a link between the increased levels and water quality parameters; evaluating operation strategies, including reducing chlorine levels introduced into the system and using groundwater to augment the city's slow sand filter production; reviewing communication protocols between treatment plant staff and distribution system personnel; and developing an action plan to implement any changes and possible increased water quality monitoring.

The Buckley water system is run jointly by the city, which controls distribution of water, and Rainier School, who provides treatment for the system.

The city and Rainier School will split the cost of Gray and Osborne's work, with Buckley taking care of 75 percent of the cost ($7,987.50) and Rainier School shouldering the remaining 25 percent ($2,662.50).

According to Mayor Pat Johnson the agreement between Rainier School and the city came from a June 5 meeting with representatives from the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, members of the administration from Rainier School and city representatives.

“We agreed to hire a consultant to come up with a solution we all can agree to and abide by,” she said.

The original violation was discovered by EPA testing, which sampled the last four quarters (May 6, 2005 to March 20, 2006). The cumulative levels were less than .001 miligrams per liter higher than the EPA's standard of 0.060, according to Buckley Public Works Supervisor John Dansby.

According to the May 12 letter, Buckley water users need not use bottle water, but should consult their doctors if they have specific health concerns.

The letter also stated that Buckley and Rainier School anticipate resolving the problem and meeting EPA standards by the next 12 month reporting period.

According to the EPA's water quality Web site at, “while disinfectants are effective in controlling many microorganisms, they react with natural organic and inorganic matter in source water and distribution systems to form potentially harmful DBPs (disinfection byproducts). Many of these DBPs have been shown to cause cancer and reproductive and developmental effects in laboratory animals.”

The letter states that “The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has not been able to link exposure to DBP's at low concentration levels and the health risks association with high concentration level exposure, but due to the large population of Americans potentially at-risk from low-level DBP exposure have cited this as impetus for regulation.”

An information sheet on Disinfection Byproduct Health Effects is available at the Buckley City Hall, 933 Main St.

Shawn Skager can be reached at

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