Water warning for infants issued

June 28, 1994|By Traci A. Johnson | Traci A. Johnson,Sun Staff Writer

Union Bridge parents are being encouraged by town officials to "provide infants with an alternate source of drinking water" because nitrates found in the town's water supply exceed the limit set by the state.

"Excessive levels of nitrate in drinking water has caused serious illness and sometimes deaths, in infants under 6 months of age," according to a notice the town published in newspapers. "This is an acute disease in that symptoms can develop rapidly in infants."

Kathleen D. Kreimer, the town's clerk-treasurer, said the average nitrate level was only slightly higher than the 10 milligrams per liter standard set by the Environmental Protection Agency, but officials are working to solve the problem.

"What we have to do is develop a plan on how to keep the level below the standard," Mrs. Kreimer said yesterday. "We are working closely with MDE [Maryland Department of the Environment] on what has to be done. Right now, we are asking people with small children to buy bottled water."

Town government published the notice last week in newspapers so residents would know that the average amount of nitrate-nitrogen found in its water supply from May 10 through May 18 was 0.7 milligrams per liter above the EPA standard.

Nitrate is used in fertilizers and is found in sewage and waste from humans and farm animals. Once in the body, nitrate is converted into nitrite, which makes it difficult for blood to carry oxygen.

Symptoms of illness resulting from nitrite ingestion include shortness of breath and blueness of the skin, but they do not always occur, according to the notice.

The town published a similar notice in December, when Union Bridge's nitrate level was 10.2 milligrams per liter, slightly above the standard.

"A lot of it has to do with the weather and with how much rain you have," Mrs. Kreimer said. "It goes through the ground and gets into well water."

After the water was at normal levels for several months, the problem arose again in May.

Subsequent tests have shown that the nitrate level has fluctuated, but has not dropped enough to meet the standard. June 20, it was 12 milligrams per liter. Three days later, it had fallen to 10.2.

Mrs. Kreimer said officials are being cautious by asking residents with babies to purchase water. Adults and children over 6 months are not at risk, she said.

"It's just a precaution, especially with our averages just above the standard," Mrs. Kreimer said yesterday. "It's just a concern. Right now, we are monitoring it."

For additional information concerning nitrate in the water, contact the town of Union Bridge at (410) 775-2711.

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