Is purple-pink tap water safe to drink? NJ officials say yes!
TRENTON — Trenton Water Works customers who got water that was a clear hue of purple were not in any danger, utility and state environmental officials said Wednesday.
The utility provides water to the city as well as Hamilton, Ewing, Lawrence and Hopewell Township.
Although authorities insisted that the unnatural-looking water was safe to consume, neither the state nor the city was able to provide New Jersey 101.5 with water testing results or even show that any testing had been conducted.
Larry Hajna, a spokesman for the state Department of Environmental Protection, said the agency got several calls on Saturday from customers noting a "pinkish tint to their water." Hajna said the discoloration was attributed to the chemical potassium permanganate, which is used in the initial phases of water treatment.
The chemical, according to Hajna, is used "to control odor and taste and to remove iron and manganese."
"What we're doing now is identifying what the problem was that caused this," he said. "We're focusing on the calibration of the pump that controls the injection of potassium promanganate into the water."
According to the World Health Organization, "there is no evidence that potassium levels in municipally treated drinking water, even water treated with potassium permanganate, are likely to pose any risk for the health of consumers."
Hajna said the chemical is not regulated.
Ingesting high concentrations of the chemical, however, can cause burning sensations, abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, shock or collapse.
Hajna could not provide test results Wednesday, but said the DEP did not believe it was a health risk because the issue was resolved quickly and the coloration was light. He said while unusual, it is not an unheard of problem across North America.
According to a story in the U.K. Independent, high levels of the chemical turned the water in Onoway, Alberta, a bright pink.
A Canadian reporter shared photos of the water on Twitter:
A statement from Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson on Saturday said that the city-owned utility took action on Saturday.
"Trenton Water Works adjusted the point of entry treatment method at its water filtration plant to correct the discoloration of water supplied to parts of South Trenton."
The statement also said that Trenton Water Works had flushed hydrants in the affected area and "since taking these steps, there have been no reports of discolored water reported by TWW customers."
According to Jackson, the city's water comes from the Delaware River and the local utility "uses methods that meet and even exceed industry standards to enhance the quality of the water supplied to its 64,000 customers."
Michael Walker, a spokesman for the city, told New Jersey 101.5 on Wednesday that "we continue to invest millions in plant and pipe upgrades and are preparing to solve staffing issues."
Walker did not provide further information when pressed for results of any tests done on the water on Saturday or since then.
A report in the Trentonian noted that Trenton Water Works has had other issues in recent months, including high levels of lead in August and a boil water advisory in June for quality control issues.
"We've had a number of issues with them, and we've been working with them to make sure that their treatment system works as seamlessly as possible and provides the highest quality drinking water to its customers," Hajna told New Jersey 101.5.
Jeff Tittel, senior chapter director of the New Jersey Sierra Club, said Wednesday that he was not surprised after his organization was notified that their office in Trenton might be affected by the discoloration issue.
"I think Trenton's water system has a lot of problems," he said. "To me, the color of the water is more a symbol of a bigger problem that they're not adequately upgrading and protecting their water supply. They spend all their time on treatment and not actually cleaning up and protecting their water sources."
Tittel said the most recent issue should be a "wake-up call that Trenton needs to do more to protect their water and upgrade their water system."
Hajna said people who have issues with their water can either call their water utility or the DEP hotline at 877-927-6337.
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Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com