Article courtesy of | June 12, 2015 | The Columbus Dispatch | Shared as educational material
Although the nitrate advisory continues this weekend in portions of Columbus, city and county health departments won’t hand out bottled water on Saturday or Sunday to pregnant women and families with infants younger than 6 months.
Columbus Public Health officials said on Friday that demand for bottled water at public health locations had been low and that bottled water was readily available elsewhere.
The city will continue to make bottled water available to people who participate in certain social services, including those who receive supplemental food through the federal Women, Infants and Children program, said Jose Rodriguez, spokesman for the health department.
“We feel the people that need the water are getting access to it — that’s our No. 1 concern,” he said.
Columbus Public Health plans to resume offering bottled water Monday at its office at 240 Parsons Ave. The agency estimated it handed out 1,680 cases of 24 bottles.
Franklin County Public Health, which had been offering bottled water at Westland Mall, said it would not continue after Friday. The county handed out 5,611 cases.
Meanwhile, city water department officials said they expect the advisory to continue into next week. The nitrate level at the Dublin Road Water Plant was 11.8 milligrams per liter on Friday — about what the department’s lab scientists expected.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires the nitrate level in drinking water to be below 10 milligrams per liter.
Matt Steele, the city’s water supply and treatment coordinator, said that the city will lift the advisory after the nitrate level drops to about 8 milligrams per liter.
Elevated levels of nitrates reached the Dublin Road plant on Monday, the day the advisory was issued.
The plant gets its water from the Scioto River, which is fed by streams that flow mainly through farmland north and northwest of Columbus. About 80 percent of the 1,000-square-mile Scioto River watershed is farmland.
City water officials kept an eye on the river after heavy rains fell on June 1 in counties including Wyandot, Hardin and Auglaize.
Nitrates are a key component in farm and lawn fertilizers and, during rain storms, can wash off fields and into waterways. They can cause health problems in infants younger than 6 months old and pregnant women by affecting oxygen flow in the blood.
People who are on nitrate-restricted diets because of medications or other health issues also should stick to bottled water, according to the Central Ohio Poison Center.
The water advisory affects people served by the Dublin Road plant, which provides water to about 350,000 people in Downtown Columbus and the southern and western parts of the city and suburbs.
A South Side homeless shelter for families, women and children has been affected by the water advisory.
This week, about 15 pregnant women and families with six infants younger than 6 months have been staying there, said John Bickley, CEO and president of the YMCA of Central Ohio, which operates the shelter.
The YMCA has sent out a plea for bottled water donations to help those families. Donations can be made at the Van Buren shelter, 595 Van Buren Drive.