NewsChannel 9 Investigates: What's in your water?
Have you ever stopped to think about what's in your water?
That question caused Rhea County resident, Kirk Bennett, to go out and buy a test to check the water quality in his home.
"The first test we did just on our faucet water," Bennett tells NewsChannel 9.
Bennett found the majority of contaminants in his water "failed within range," meaning none were above the legal limit defined by the Environmental Protection Agency's Safe Water Drinking Act.
However, when Bennett performed another test checking for Coliform, a bacteria that can cause dysentery and other intestinal issues, he was floored by the result.
"The Coliform didn't fall within range, it basically [blew] the range apart," he said.
That's when Bennett started to dig into the history of his public water supplier, the Dayton City Water Department.
"We just assumed when you turn the tap on, our city was sending you quality water," Bennett quickly learned that hasn't always been the case.
His investigation began with a trip to the nonprofit Environmental Working Group's website.
There, he found a list of five cancer causing contaminants above Tennessee and National Averages in the Dayton Water supply.
Bennett says, "that's when we got a little nervous, when we started reading the EWG website. Then we went to the EPA website and it kind of fell in line with it that the city water was not what it should be."
His concern wasn't just for himself, but for his most vulnerable house guests, six, soon to be seven, grandchildren.
"As a grandfather, I see it as my responsibility to make sure they're safe... I don't want it for me and I'm developed fully, they're growing," Bennett says.
What he found on the EPA website didn't ease his mind.
According to a Detailed Facility Report found in the EPA's Enforcement and Compliance History online database, Dayton Water was labeled in "violation" for 15 months from the beginning of October 2014 to the end of December 2015.
Then, from January 1, 2016 to June 30, 2016 the report labels Dayton Water a "serious violator."
A representative of the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation told NewsChannel 9:
The Dayton Water Department experienced violations for Stage 2 Disinfection Byproducts in the 4th quarter of 2015, the 1st quarter of 2016, and the 2nd quarter of 2016. These violations prompted a Director’s Order in September 2016. During the three quarters of violations, they worked to adjust their treatment processes and have remained in compliance ever since.
The state has inspection data readily available on it's website.
The ECHO Report identifies The Dayton Water Department as exceeding the Maximum Contaminant Level Violation for Trihalomethanes, a carcinogen, from October 1, 2015 to December 31, 2015; January 1, 2016 to March 31, 2016; and from April 1, 2016 to June 30, 2016.
Trihalomethanes, or TTHM's, are a group of contaminants which can be a consequence of chlorine.
Chief Operator for the City of Dayton Water Treatment Plant, David Vickers, explained them as "a chemical reaction between the bleach and the organics in the water."
Daphne Kirksey with The Tennessee American Water Department told NewsChannel 9 the longer chlorine sits in a tank, Trihalomethanes are a "byproduct that can be produced."
"Everybody's going to have them, you can't keep from it, but they do have a limit and we're well below the limit now," Vickers told NewsChannel 9.
Kirk Bennett still has his concerns and is now begrugdingly considering buying a home filtration system to protect himself and his family.
"I don't feel like I should have to run out and by a whole bunch of stuff to make sure that my water is healthy for me and my family and my grandkids when I should trust [the city] to do it," Bennett said.
Despite reassurances like this one from Vickers, "this water's safe, I think it's some of the best water in the state."
Bennett is avoiding the city supplied water coming out of his faucet until he can be sure it is safe for his family to drink, opting for filtered water from his fridge instead.