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      Tuesday
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      Hannibal's water safe, even with trace chemicals

      ----Update 8p.m. Thursday---

      It *is* still *safe* to drink the water in Hannibal and Louisiana, despite traces of a heavy metal called hexavalent chromium, or Chromium 6 in the water supply.

      Officials with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources informed KHQA this evening the results of the latest tests of the finished drinking water taken on Tuesday. Click here to read a copy of the Missouri Department of Natural Resources' findings.

      You'll recall previous tests put Hannibal's drinking water levels at four tenths of a part per billion. That's the health-screening level set by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, in which D-N-R says more testing is needed.

      But now tests show a slightly higher level, at around six tenths of part per billion. That means even more tests will be done.

      To put that into perspective, one part per billion is like one drop of water into 440 barrels of oil.

      A D-N-R spokesperson says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services have ruled the public drinking water * safe* to drink.

      Keep in mind the raw river water Chromium 6 levels are barely measureable and lower than what's in the finished water supply.

      Testing also has shown where the hexavalent chromium is entering the water supply in the water treatment process.

      A D-N-R spokesperson told us today the discovery of the contaminants stemmed from an accidental release of the chemical into the Mississippi River at B-A-S-F back in May. That plant is located between Palmyra and Hannibal.

      Officials say the levels in both Hannibal and Louisiana are still safe for residents to drink. See press release from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

      Now that the spots where the hexavalent chromium is entering the drinking water through the treatment process have been identified, scientists will investigate how it is happening to resolve the situation.

      Hannibal Public Works provides water to around 20 thousand residents, including those in the Ralls County water district.

      ----Posted 6:15 p.m. Thursday----

      It *is* *safe* to drink the water in Hannibal and Louisiana, Missouri , despite small traces of a heavy metal in the water supply.

      Officials with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and Hannibal Board of Public Works say that chemical is called hexavalent chromium, or Chromium 6. It's the same chemical made infamous in the movie "Erin Brockovich".

      A D-N-R spokesperson told us today the discovery stemmed from an accidental release of the chemical into the Mississippi River at B-A-S-F back in May. That plant is located between Palmyra and Hannibal.

      The Department of Natural Resources began looking into the water supplies downstream of the BASF plant north of Hannibal after the company reported the accidental release of 5,100 parts per billion of hexavalent chromium into the Mississippi River last May.

      An acceptable level is about 309 parts per billion.

      To put that into perspective, one part per billion is like one drop of water into 440 barrels of oil. Hannibal's hexavalent chromium levels are smaller than that...at four-tenths of a part per billion. Basically, 4/10s of a drop of water into 440 barrels.

      D-N-R officials say those tiny trace amounts are barely detectable in water, even with the latest technology. But 4/10 of a part per billion is reason for more testing, according to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.

      Did residents of Hannibal or Louisiana ever drink unsafe drinking water since May?

      Judd Slivka, Missouri Department of Natural Resources spokesperson said, "Absolutely not. Both cities have been in complete compliance with state drinking water standards including for total chromium amounts. Additionally our scientists made the determination at the time of the BASF release that the water quality and the amount of Chromium 6 going into the intakes at Hannibal were below any sort of public risk level."

      You might wonder why you're just now hearing about this. After the accident, BASF immediately contacted the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. At that point, scientists and engineers there determined by the time the chemical dispersed into the large expanse of the Mississippi, it was already in too small amounts to be a health risk. However, a D-N-R spokesperson told us B-A-S-F was required to perform weekly samples and the plant was out of compliance for 16 of the 24 weeks between May and December. But due to dissolution into the river, at no time did the levels put drinking water at risk.

      If this happened in May, why wasn't there testing before December? It was reported to us on May 20 and our professional engineers and scientists made the evaluation that the disolution effect of the Chromium into the Mississippi River would be strong enough that there would not be any health risk. This was later confirmed by some models we did that showed that Chromium the day of the release was extremely low. BASF was doing weekly sampling and forwarding those results to us as they began to trying to get their incinerator back up and working. So we were monitoring them that way. We were also working with BASF to help them get their systems back up and working so it presented no danger to the public and was within their permanent discharge limits."

      Hannibal Board of Public Works General Manager Robert Stevenson says his office was notified of the accidental release in December when the Department of Natural Resources performed tests on the raw river water and treated water at the Hannibal plant.

      What are you doing at the DNR to protect the drinking water in Hannibal and Louisiana?

      Slivka said, "We are embarking on a aggresive sampling program that actually began December 17. The first set of samples that came back showed the finished drinking water in Hannibal and Louisiana had more Hexavalent Chromium in it than water coming in directly from the river. As a result of that we have done additional sampling. Just this past Tuesday we had crews in Hannibal and Louisiana at their drinking water plants, taking samples from every stage of the process so we can identify how this Chromium 6 is being added into the process."

      The Department of Natural Resources has done several tests on the water supply in December, finding trace amounts of the chemical. But D-N-R officials and the Hannibal Board of Public Works says the tiny trace amounts would have no impact on Hannibal's water supply. Traces of hexavalent chromium were almost non-existent in the raw river water, but were slightly higher in treated water from the Hannibal Water Treatment Plant. D-N-R and Stevenson both told us the levels weren't high enough for *concern*, but for more testing. That's what D-N-R is doing - trying to determine why levels are increasing as the water goes through the treatment process.

      Louisiana's water supply has even fewer traces of the chemical.

      Is the drinking water safe for the people of Hannibal?

      Stevenson said, "Yes it is. We base that answer on what we're being told by the Missouri Health Department and the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. They have both assured us that there is absolutely no public health threat to our water supply and there never was one."

      Should people be worried?

      Slivka said, "People shouldn't be worried. The levels of Chromium 6 that have been detected in Hannibal and Louisiana's drinking water are below the conservative guidelines for further investigation set by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and in consultation with the Environmental Protection Agency. DNR has made determintation that there is no acute near term risk, there is probably no long term risk because the levels were so low. People should not be worried about their drinking water. We are solving a scientific mystery and we are looking forward to sharing those results with the public."

      Hannibal checks its water and submits monthly reports to the Department of Natural Resources.

      Stevenson said, "Bare with us as we work with the DNR and Missouri Department of Health as they try to get to the bottom of this issue. We are cooperating with them. We will pass on information as we get it."

      Hannibal Public Works provides water to around 20 thousand residents, including those in the Ralls County water district.

      We've also learned that Hexavalent Chromium is a by product of stainless steel and actually occurs naturally in rivers and streams. That's according to the Department of Natural Resources.

      We also contacted folks with B-A-S-F. A spokesperson told us the company is firmly committed to protecting the community and the environment and that's why they acted swiftly to contact DNR after the accident. Since then a spokesperson said the company has been collecting samples for DNR for testing and are continually working in cooperation with the DNR. She told KHQA B-A-S-F's goal moving forward is to get to the bottom of what caused the release and come up with a complete permanent solution.

      It's important to note that the State Department of Health was told about the situation, and found that the very small amounts found were well below recommended public health screening levels.

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