Chrisman water dangerous for babies

City warns children under six months should not consume until further notice


CHRISMAN – The ongoing saga of Chrisman’s problems with its municipal water supply entered new ground earlier this week.

Water sample test results received Tuesday, Feb. 5, showed a spike in nitrites. The water had a nitrite level of 2.4 milligrams per liter as compared to the maximum allowable level of 1 milligram per liter.

As a result, a warning appeared on the city’s Facebook page cautioning parents to not give city water, in any form, to infants younger than six months old. The water is safe for everyone older than six months, but the younger babies cannot process nitrites the same way older children and adults can.

Consumption of the water at this time poses a risk of illness, and possibly death, for the infants. Symptoms that nitrite consumption has occurred include shortness of breath and blue baby syndrome. Left untreated a child’s health can deteriorate rapidly.

The posting cautions that more is involved than simply avoiding giving water to drink. Until further notice, Chrisman’s tap water should not be used for mixing juice or formula an infant will consume. Parents and caregivers are urged to use bottled water, or water from another source that does not pose a nitrite risk, for those tasks.

It is important to note boiling, freezing, filtering or letting water stand does not remove the nitrites and make it safe for babies. Some activities like boiling and letting water stand will actually increase the level of concentration because of evaporation.

The posting from city water superintendent Matt Shelato emphasizes nitrites are not a normal problem in Chrisman’s water and steps are underway to address the problem. Some nitrites are normal in ground water, and it is possible recent heavy rains did something to exacerbate the problem.

This is the second time the city’s water has tested above the allowable limits for nitrites. Andy Keiser of Fehr-Grahm Engineering & Environmental, the city’s engineering firm, attended the Nov. 5, 2018, city meeting at which time he noted in addition to ongoing arsenic problems the water was high for nitrites.

Kiser found that concerning and possibly indicating an unknown source of contamination, but he said it could also be a one-time issue and was something the city needed to monitor.

When asked for an opinion if it was better to address the problems with Chrisman’s water or to buy water from Paris, Keifer was quite clear about the best route from a professional engineering viewpoint.

“I’d get out of the water business,” he said. “This crazy nitrite thing is the straw that broke the camel’s back as far as I’m concerned. We would spend as much, if not more, on this plant.”

Chrisman and Paris have since entered an agreement in principle to build a pipeline between the two communities for the sale of water to Chrisman, but the cost details are yet to be determined.