Monday, February 25, 2008

Chloramine Records Show DEC, VDH Focus on CWD Costs, Not Public Health

PRESS RELEASE CONTACT: Annette Smith, VCE Exec. Dir.
DATE: Feb. 25, 2008 PHONE: 802-446-2094

Chloramine Records Show DEC, VDH Focus on CWD Costs, Not Public Health

Governor’s Intervention Requested

Today People Concerned About Chloramine (PCAC) and Vermonters for a Clean Environment (VCE) posted on the VCE website copies of records suggesting that state officials are more focused on defending the Champlain Water District than addressing customers’ concerns about their health since the CWD switched to using chloramine. The records were found during a recent public documents request.

“What we have found is evidence of a coordinated attempt to use state agencies to ignore the health impacts people are suffering and instead be the mouthpiece for the CWD,” said Ellen Powell, co-coordinator of PCAC. “The records show few if any discussions about how to get to the bottom of the hundreds of complaints that have come in, but instead discussions about how to ‘win’ the fight to defend chloramine. We’re not trying to ‘win’ anything, just help people be able to drink the water in their own homes,” she concluded.

The documents reveal a high level of coordination between VDH, DEC, and CWD staff and consultants. The communications focus on how to produce documents that would defend the CWD’s decision and “resolve” the issues raised by sufferers by providing them access to an information telephone line. They also showed the beginnings of an effort to shift the focus to the cost to the CWD if they could not use chloramine in the short or long term, something currently being considered by legislators.

“There was no evidence that any of the health concerns raised are being taken seriously,” said VCE Executive Director Annette Smith. “For the past two years we have been seeking a partner in government to get to the bottom of the health issues. Today we’ve made a formal request for a meeting with the Governor to share our concerns, review these documents, and ask for his direct intervention to ensure that the health issues get addressed. That is what he did in the suit against the EPA regarding auto emissions – he needs to do the same thing here.”

“While we continue to work with legislators on possible action, we need to bring the Governor into the discussion as well. These are his appointees – they need to be held accountable,” she concluded.

A copy of the letter to the Governor asking for a meeting is below.

The CWD switched to using chloramine in April 2006. Since then PCAC has received complaints from over 270 customers who suffer from skin, breathing, and digestive issues when exposed to the water.

For excerpts from the documents referenced, please go to

Letter sent via FAX to Governor Jim Douglas:
Vermonters for a Clean Environment
789 Baker Brook Road, Danby, Vermont 05739 (802) 446-2094

February 25, 2008

Gov. James Douglas
109 State Street
Montpelier, VT 05609-0101

Dear Governor Douglas,

Citizens of Vermont who receive their drinking water from the Champlain Water District (approximately 68,000 people in Chittenden County) have been complaining for nearly two years about health problems since the change to the drinking water disinfectant known as chloramine. Since April 2006, more than 270 people have reported breathing problems, skin rashes, burning eyes, dry skin, stomach problems and worse to the citizens group People Concerned about Chloramine. When people stop using the water, they get better. This fact is especially important given that despite EPA approval there have never been any studies to demonstrate the safety of chloramine for humans.

Something has gone terribly wrong with the chloramine chemistry experiment, and it needs to stop. Unfortunately, your administration’s response to this serious public health problem has been slow and inadequate. We have patiently attempted to work in a cordial and collaborative manner with the Vermont Department of Health, the Agency of Natural Resources Department of Environmental Conservation and the Champlain Water District. All of our efforts have been rebuffed or ignored.

We have been working with legislators for the past year on possible legislative initiatives to address these critical problems. Now we are turning to you to join us in these discussions.

In an effort to understand how our state government is attempting to solve the chloramine problem, we recently filed a FOIA with DEC. We are dismayed, disappointed and alarmed by what we found has been taking place. E-mail exchanges between your appointees and their staff, from the highest level on down, reveal a complete failure to grapple with the public health issues many CWD customers are facing.

If there had been communications among your staff to address the problems being experienced by the people who are suffering, we would have found records of discussions about health studies, water testing, protocols, methodologies, alternative technologies, mitigation, and possible causes for people’s health problems. That is what we would like to focus on – trying to help sick people.

Instead, your appointees and staff are intent on changing the focus away from health risks to cost, and to win-lose scenarios. When the state of Vermont’s Department of Health’s Director of Public Policy writes,

"If we don't discuss costs as well as risk, we won't shift the conversation. We are not going to win this on health science or 2-1-1 lines." --February 7, 2008 email from JoEllen Warner to Brad Ferland, Nancy Erickson, cc: Jim Fay, Sabina Haskell

we ask “what does ‘win’ mean?”

Governor Douglas, people are sick and we need to work together to help them. Most people would agree that you cannot put a price on good health, yet that is precisely what your administration is attempting to do.

I am writing to request a meeting with you at your earliest possible convenience to ask for your direct participation in this issue, and to discuss how we can work together in a more productive fashion to solve the issues presented by the use of chloramine by the CWD. I will make myself available at any time you choose. The one thing we cannot do is sit back and let people continue to suffer. To review the e-mail correspondence about which I write, please see:

I especially recommend that, after you read the e-mails, you read the three letters from sufferers and ANR Sec. George Crombie’s totally inadequate responses:

People in many states have experienced the same problems with chloramine that Vermonters are complaining about. As with auto emissions, when it comes to water disinfection federal regulators have made decisions that are not necessarily in the best interests of our people or our environment. We appreciated your willingness to take a stand in defense of stricter emissions standards and we now ask you to stand up to EPA in their well-intentioned but poorly-implemented regulation of drinking water.

There is nothing more important than clean, safe drinking water. People’s health and welfare depend on you taking immediate action and holding your appointees accountable.

We look forward to your response.


Annette Smith
Executive Director

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