Health & Safety

June 27, 2014

2013 Drinking Water Quality Report Nellis Air Force Base

This report, although required by the Environmental Protection Agency, is distributed by Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., as our communication to you, the consumer.

The drinking water on the installation has been tested and certified as “safe to drink”. The information in this report is a snapshot of calendar year 2013 drinking water quality at Nellis AFB.

This effort is accomplished in accordance with the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Act which was passed by Congress in 1974. The purpose of the SDWA is to protect public health by regulating the nation’s public drinking water supply.

It was amended in 1996 to require states to develop and implement source water assessment programs for existing and potential threats to the quality of public drinking water and to include a summary of the assessment in the water system’s annual consumer confidence report. Specifically, states are required to delineate the sources of public drinking water, identify potential contamination sources within the delineated area, assess the water system’s susceptibility to contamination and inform the public of the results. These results are summarized below:

Drinking Water Sources

Most of the NAFB drinking water comes from Lake Mead and is supplied by the Southern Nevada Water Authority. The water in Lake Mead begins as snowmelt in the Rocky Mountains and arrives via the Colorado River. The Las Vegas Wash also carries storm water and treated wastewater into Lake Mead, which accounts for less than 2 percent of all the water in the lake. Additionally, the Virgin River and Muddy River combine to provide approximately 1.5 percent of the water in Lake Mead. Furthermore, the water NAFB receives from SNWA is supplemented by a small percentage of groundwater from wells on and near the base. The well water comes from the Las Vegas Valley Aquifer.

Monitoring and Analysis

Every month, technicians from SNWA collect and analyze water samples from the NAFB drinking water system and its water treatment facilities. In fact, the water is tested at a higher frequency and more extensively than the SDWA and the Nevada Administrative Code requires. The test results are shown in the table below. If you would like more information, contact the Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight at (702) 653-3316 or 99AMDSBio@nellis.af.mil .

NAFB routinely monitors for disinfectant residual in the distribution system. This measurement tells us whether the installation is effectively disinfecting the water supply. Disinfectant residual is the amount of chlorine present in the pipes of the distribution system. If the amount of disinfectant is too low (inadequately treated), disease-causing organisms, including bacteria, viruses, and parasites a have the potential of growing within the pipes. These organisms can cause symptoms such as nausea, cramps, diarrhea, and associated headaches. However, these symptoms are not caused solely by organisms in drinking water and can be attributed to other factors (environmental, food based illnesses or person to person interaction).

Why are there contaminants in my drinking water?

Drinking water, including bottled water, may reasonably be expected to contain at least small amounts of some contaminants. The presence of contaminants does not necessarily indicate the water poses a health risk. In order to ensure tap water is safe to drink, the EPA prescribes regulations to limit the amount of certain contaminants in the water provided by the public water systems. More information about contaminants and potential health effects can be obtained by calling the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791 or by visiting water.epa.gov/drink/hotline/index.cfm .

Common sources of drinking water (both tap water and bottled water) include rivers, lakes, streams, ponds, reservoirs, springs, and wells. Potential sources of contamination for lakes and reservoirs include wildlife and industrial activities (urban chemicals such as fertilizers and pesticides). Additionally, landfills, domestic septic systems, and leaking underground storage tanks are all potential sources of contamination for groundwater aquifers. Also, as water travels over the surface of the land or through the ground, it dissolves naturally occurring minerals, in some cases naturally occurring radioactive material, and can pick up substances resulting from the presence of animals or human activity.

Potentially present contaminants in untreated source water include:

• Microbial contaminants such as viruses and bacteria, which may come from sewage treatment plants, septic systems, and wildlife.

• Inorganic contaminants such as salts and metals, which can be naturally occurring or result from urban storm runoff and industrial or domestic wastewater discharges.

• Pesticides and herbicides which may come from a variety of sources such as agriculture, urban storm water runoff, and residential use.

• Organic chemical contaminants including synthetic or volatile organic chemicals, which are byproducts of industrial processes and can come from gas stations, urban storm water runoff, and septic systems.

• Radioactive contaminants which can be naturally occurring or the result of industrial activities.

Other Health Information

The following substances are monitored by SNWA but are not regulated under the SDWA. The BEF has included this information because consumers have a right to know about known contaminants potentially affecting the water.

Cryptosporidium

Cryptosporidium is a naturally occurring microscopic organism which is frequently found in surface water in the United States. If ingested, it can cause gastrointestinal distress and fever. Filtration, sedimentation, and disinfection using ultraviolet light and ozone are generally effective at removing Cryptosporidium. SNWA carefully monitors the water for the presence of this organism.

Perchlorate

Perchlorate, a man-made salt consisting of chloride and oxygen, has been detected at low levels in untreated and treated water. Scientists have traced the origin of the salt to shallow groundwater entering the Las Vegas Wash. Although there are no federal limits for perchlorate in drinking water, SNWA is closely monitoring the efforts by Nevada Division of Environmental Protection (NDEP) to intercept and remove perchlorates at the source.

Treatment Process

SNWA has advanced water treatment facilities designed to provide water meeting SDWA standards.

All the water drawn from Lake Mead is sent to the Alfred Merritt Smith or River Mountains water treatment facilities. As it arrives, the water is treated with chlorine and ozone to kill any potentially harmful microscopic organisms. A multistage filtration system is then used to remove particles from the water. As the water leaves the water treatment facility, additional chlorine is added to protect it on the way to the consumer. The water is also treated to prevent corrosion of the pipelines.

In addition to the SNWA supplied surface water, the NAFB public water system consists of eight active wells. Three of the eight wells are located off base and are currently in compliance with EPA’s revised arsenic maximum contaminant level (MCL) of 10 parts per billion (ppb). The remaining five active wells are located on NAFB. Four of these wells have arsenic concentrations exceeding the MCL, but are only used for irrigation. The remaining well is blended with off-base water; the resultant arsenic concentration is below the EPA standard for arsenic.

The EPA standard balances the current understandings of the possible health effects against the costs of removing arsenic from drinking water. The EPA continues to research the health effects of low levels of arsenic, which is a mineral known to cause cancer in humans at high concentrations and is linked to other health effects such as skin damage and circulatory problems.

Furthermore, the water from base wells are chlorinated by Civil Engineering (CE) Utilities and then mixed with the SNWA water. The CE Utilities department maintains a staff of well-trained professionals who operate and maintain the system daily.

2013 Maximum Contaminant Limit (MCL) Violations

NAFB has always been challenged with managing disinfection by-products (i.e. trihalomethanes), which are produced naturally through the reaction of chlorine and organic compounds in the water. Elevated levels of trihalomethanes (TTHM) can be attributed to low water usage and stagnant flow in a water distribution system. The base continually balances the disinfectant level in order to keep the system in equilibrium, much like chlorinating a swimming pool. People who drink water containing TTHM in excess of the MCL over many years may experience liver, kidneys, or central nervous system problems, and have an increased risk of cancer.

In August 2012, NAFB installed a new aeration system which has greatly reduced the buildup of TTHM. The MCL level for total TTHM count is 0.080 milligrams per liter (mg/L). The EPA requires an MCL based on a running annual average for TTHM of 0.080 mg/L. The running average level for the NAFB drinking water system was 0.014 mg/L for CY2013, well below the MCL.

As a consumer, please be assured the drinking water on NAFB is constantly being monitored (24 hours a day/7 days a week) by the water utilities department and tested regularly by SNWA.

Do I need to take special precautions?

Some people may be more vulnerable to contaminants in drinking water than the general population. Some elderly, infants, and Immuno-compromised persons undergoing chemotherapy, who have undergone organ transplants, who have HIV/AIDS or other immune system disorders can be particularly at risk from infections. These individuals should seek advice about drinking water from a health care provider. EPA and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines on appropriate means to lessen the risk of infection by Cryptosporidium and other microbial contaminants are available from the EPA Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791 or by visiting the EPA’s hotline website at water.epa.gov/drink/hotline/index.cfm .

Frequently Asked Questions

Is my tap water safe to drink?

Your tap water meets and surpasses all SDWA standards and is safe to drink. Also, the Alfred Merritt Smith Water Treatment Facility has been recognized by the National Partnership for Safe Water for its efforts to ensure the Southern Nevada’s municipal water meets these water quality standards. Water samples are taken from the NAFB water distribution system monthly and analyzed to ensure compliance with standards. Additionally, in 2013 the Nevada Department of Environmental Protection conducted a sanitary survey of NAFB and concluded the drinking water system and infrastructure met the state’s requirement for a Public Water System to adequately deliver safe drinking water to consumers.

 

If tap water is really of good quality, why does it taste the way it does?

The taste of the water is caused by naturally occurring minerals and chlorine. The chlorine is added to keep the water safe from bacteria. Water quality is best measured by the amount or concentration of contaminants. We have very few contaminants in our drinking water and those present are within SDWA limits.

 

Do I need to use a water treatment system or drink bottled water?

Not unless you want to improve the taste of your water or remove the minerals causing it to be considered “hard”. While many people prefer the taste of bottled water, tap water is subject to more stringent quality standards and is monitored and tested more frequently. Additionally, the cost of the average liter of bottled water is more than 1,000 times the same amount of tap water. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations establish limits for contaminants in bottled water and may adhere to EPA standards as well. For more information on bottled water quality, call the International Bottled Water Association at 1-800-WATER11 (1-800-92837-11) or by visiting www.bottledwater.org.

Pregnant women and people with medical conditions affecting their immune system should consult a physician to determine whether a supplemental treatment system is appropriate. For additional information on home water treatment systems, contact the SNWA at 702-862-3400 or by visiting www.snwa.com.

How will I be notified if a significant health risk associated with my water quality develops?

This report is considered the appropriate mechanism for notifying the consumer of routine and non-emergency compliance violations. Certain emergency situations may warrant more active notification efforts, including but not limited to: additional publications, postings in public places, mass-mailings, or working through other well-established mass-notification systems.

 

Why is Creech AFB or the NTTR not listed in the CCR? Is the water tested?

Since Creech AFB and the NTTR take their water solely from well water sources and are not considered as a Community Water System by the state, water quality monitoring and analysis results are not required to be published in a CCR. However, the drinking water systems for Creech AFB and the NTTR are monitored monthly by the Bioenvironmental Engineering Flight and meet and surpass all Safe Drinking Water Act standards. For results or further questions specific to these water systems, contact the Bioenvironmental Engineering office at (702) 653-3316 or via email at 99AMDSBio@us.af.mil .

Additional Information and Input

If you would like a copy of this report or have questions, contact the 99th ABW Public Affairs office at (702) 652-2750 or email 99ABW.PA2@us.af.mil. Questions and comments can also be mailed to the 99th ABW Public Affairs office at: 99 ABW/PA, 4430 Grissom Ave, Bldg. 11, Suite 107 Nellis AFB, NV 89191. The most current source water assessments are available at the BEF office for the Nellis AFB wells, and through SNWA for water provided by SNWA. If there are any future concerns about the quality of water at Nellis AFB, town hall meetings will be held at the base theater or the community center.

For additional information on the quality of your water, call SNWA at (702) 862-3400 or go to the SNWA website at www.snwa.com. Information on Nevada’s Safe Drinking Water Program is available from the NDEP at (775) 687-4670. General information for drinking water can be found in the EPA’s website at www.epa.gov/safewater.




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