Guest Column (4/8/10)

Be careful with chloramine

April 8, 2010

By Joanne Davis

As a member of the citizens’ group People Concerned About Chloramine, or PCAC, I am writing to the Observer and the residents of Williston to express my concerns about some misleading statements in your recent article, “Tap, filter or bottle: Choosing the best drinking water” (March 4).

Chloramine is a disinfectant, made up of chlorine and ammonia with its effects unstudied on humans, which was added to the Champlain Water District water in April 2006. My concerns are the following:

• Dr. Swartz of the Vermont Department of Health expressed skepticism about chloramine’s causing ill health effects. However, since the Champlain Water District added it to the tap water of 10 towns and cities in Chittenden County, including Williston, PCAC has heard from 300 people suffering from digestive, respiratory or skin problems — or all of those problems — from using the water for drinking, showering and bathing, cleaning and other uses. The symptoms disappear when the sufferers leave the water district for locations where chloramine is not used, only to return when they are back home using the water again. Some even shower at the YMCA in Burlington, which is free of chloramine. The Champlain Water District, Vermont Department of Health, staff from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation and state legislators have heard testimony to this effect at various hearings and meetings since April 2006. The water district, health department and some at the Department of Environmental Conservation remain deaf to and ignore this testimony.

• Gary Schultz of the Department of Environmental Conservation commented that chloramine kills pathogens better than chlorine. On the contrary, it is generally known that chloramine is less effective. For example, the World Health Organization states that chloramine is 2,000 and 100,000 times less effective than chlorine at killing e-coli and rotaviruses, respectively, according to the WHO Guidelines for Drinking Water Quality, Vol. 2, 1996, Chapter 16.

• Mr. Schultz also stated that chloramine has been used in major cities across the country for decades without health problems. Yet since the creation of its Web site in 2006, Citizens Concerned about Chloramine in California has heard from hundreds of people from 30 states, as well as Scotland, Australia and Canada, reporting the same symptoms from using chloraminated tap water. Citizen groups in several states are fighting to have it removed from their water or to prevent its addition to their water where that is being proposed.

• The article gives the impression that chloramine can be removed by a filter. Not so. Some filters can reduce it but none remove it completely. Even after purchasing and trying them, including Vitamin C filters, people have reported to PCAC that they still suffer the ill effects.

The people within the Champlain Water District, including Williston, need to be aware of the facts about chloramine, including more recent studies that show them to have far more toxic disinfectant byproducts than chlorine.

To report symptoms or to learn more, contact PCAC at 802-651-8753 or go to or the Citizens Concerned about Chloramine Web site at


Joanne Davis is a member of People Concerned about Chloramine. She lives in South Burlington.