Nov 12, 2018

Rural Town Treated Drinking Water With Pool Disinfectant for 10 Years

One of the town’s wells has been treated with a substance not approved by the U.S. EPA for drinking water for more than 10 years

Drinking water contaminated by disinfectant in rural community
Drinking water contaminated by disinfectant in rural community

A Freedom of Information Act request revealed a well in Denmark, S.C., has been treated for more than 10 years with a chemical not approved by the U.S. EPA for drinking water treatment. The substance, known as HaloSan, typically is used as a disinfectant for pools and spas but was used to treat iron bacteria in the small town’s drinking water. Now, the state is facing a lawsuit from 40 residents who claim the water has damaged their health.

The contamination was discovered after a concerned resident, Paula Brown, asked Virginia Tech Researcher, Marc Edwards, the scientist who discovered the Flint, Mich., water crisis, to test the town’s water supply. While Edwards did not find abnormal lead levels at most homes tested, he petitioned the town’s mayor to test the wells. Denmark Mayor Gerald Wright then sent a team from the University of South Carolina to accompany state testers at the well sites, revealing HaloSan in one of the four wells.

“You have to make sure you don’t put too much of it in the water,” Edwards said of the substance. “And there was no way that they could prove that they weren’t exceeding the recommended dose.”

The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) believed HaloSan was approved by the EPA for drinking water based on how the system was advertised.

“The Berry Systems HaloSan treatment unit had been advertised as an effective treatment in the control of iron bacteria and was certified …” said Tommy Crosby, director of media relations for DHEC, to CNN.  

A 2007 risk assessment conducted by EPA found HaloSan can cause significant eye and skin irritation, as well as allergic type reactions such as burning, blistering or rashes.

In response, a group of 40 residents are considering litigation and have hired Attorney John Harrell to represent them. Harrell said that one of his clients had to have her gallbladder removed because she had 4,000 stones in it, and another had to have her bladder removed.

“There are so many residents that have been diagnosed with kidney dysfunction,” Harrell said. “I am convinced that there is some serious contamination.”