Study: cancer causing chemicals in Ann Arbor drinking water

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They are words you never want to hear together - contaminated drinking water.

A recent study by a non-profit called the Environmental Working Group found toxic cancer causing chemicals in the drinking water of Ann Arbor.
But at the water treatment plant which filters every drop of drinking water in the city, they say there is no reason to panic.

"The message to our customers is the water is safe to drink we have no concerns or reservations about any of our customers drinking the water," said Brian Steglitz, plant manager.

That's because the chemicals found in this recent study are so minuscule, they only recently became able to test for such things.

"Ten, 15, 20  years ago we didn't have the instruments to find these chemicals," said Kristen Schweighoefer, Washtenaw County environmental health director.

"Only recently have we been able to detect things in parts per trillion level," Steglitz said.

And the chemicals the study is taking into account, come from firefighting foam, stain remover and Teflon pans. They are not even regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, so there is no standard - and that's saying something according to the experts.

"There are less regulations for bottled water than city water," Schweighoefer said.

According to the plant manager, you are more likely to be exposed to chemicals eating an egg off Teflon pan than you would be taking a drink. And in Ann Arbor the theory is, that's exactly where these toxins are coming from.

"You can imagine if you are washing your dishes with Teflon, maybe a little will come out and may be part of the waste water stream," Steglitz said. "What we think in our case is that it's possibly coming from waste water treatment plants because the levels are so low."

What can be taken from the study is that new chemicals need to be kept an eye on. The 10 to 43 parts per trillion that were found, will be used as a base to compare in recent years to make sure the levels aren't creeping higher, giving real cause for concern.