Municipalities want first dibs on chlorine stock
CA, NM, NY & UT argue to EPA that chlorine is essential disinfectant for drinking water
Amidst a nation-wide chlorine shortage, for the first time in the history of the Safe Drinking Water Act, local water systems are asking the Environmental Protection Agency for help in obtaining chlorine-based watertreatment chemicals. Water authorities say they believe chlorine suppliers are prioritizing distributions to swimming pools rather than water utilities.
Chlorine has been in short supply for months now, in the wake of last year’s fire at the Westlake, Louisiana, Biolab plant, as well as the pandemic-related boom in new pool construction.
According to Goldman Sachs, pool construction increased by 23% in 2020, with 96,000 pools being built across the United States. Meanwhile, the loss of the Biolab plant, which produced an estimated one-third of the country’s chlorine, has put a massive strain on the availability of disinfection products. And although Biolab is currently working to repair the plant, at an estimated cost of $170 million, the Chlorine Institute has said that reports suggest repairs won’t be complete until sometime in 2022.
With major competition for this now crippled supply of disinfectant, safe public drinking water has become threatened in numerous locations.
Three water utilities in Oceanside, California, were scant days away from
The pool industry is not alone in its dependence on chlorine to sanitize water. There is new competition for this precious disinfectant coming from 4 states’ water utilities. Given the current shortage, service techs may have a bigger supply challenge in the coming months. running out of bleach for their wasteand drinking-water treatment plants, according to an article appearing in Bloomberg Law on August 16. If adequate chemical supplies could not be found in time, the water supply for 170,000 people would be at risk.
But Oceanside was just one of ten water utilities requesting help from the EPA in obtaining chlorine.
According to a Federal Register notice published by the EPAonAugust 13, seven public water systems and three publicly owned treatment works submitted Certifications of Need applications pursuant to the Safe Drinking Water Act.
Water utilities in California, Utah, New Mexico, and New York all submitted nearly identical applications requesting assistance from the EPA in acquiring the necessary chlorine for providing sanitary drinking water.
Each applicant stated receipt of notices of force majeure, or unavailability of treatment chemical from chemical producers that normally supply drinkingwater utilities with the chlorine-based chemicals.
The notices from the chlorine suppliers explained that a significant reduction in their ability to produce and deliver sodium hypochlorite, due to chemical material shortages, packaging, and delivery difficulties, have necessitated a need to either reduce allocations of chlorine or outright cancel their contractual agreements to the water districts.
In their applications to the EPA, the water utilities further explained that they have tried with no success to find alternate sources of water-treatment chemicals. Furthermore, if they cannot obtain a sufficient and reliable supply of the required water-treatment chemicals, they will be compelled to issue Boil Water notices and Tier 1 public notifications or shut down the treatment system until the supply of the required treatment chemical is restored.
According to EPA Spokesperson Cathy Milbourn, the EPA has never before processed such requests for help under this section of the law, which was established in 1974.
Under Section 1441, the EPA is authorized to either approve or deny the Certifications of Need which, if approved, they will then forward to the United States Department of Commerce for implementation.
The DOC will then issue an order to the chemical manufacturers, producers, processors, and distributors of the chlorine, requiring them to supply the chemical in the amount and form needed by water utilities.If the DOC issues these orders, it is likely that a great number of the country’s swimming pools will simply have to go without.
“Unfortunately, there may be times when retailers do not have adequate supply on the shelves,” BioLab President Jon Viner said in a statement.
The following water utilities submitted Certificates of Need to the EPA:
• California: City of Oceanside— Mission Basin Groundwater Purification Facility; City of Oceanside—Weese Filtration Plant; City of Oceanside—San Luis Rey Water Reclamation Facility; Western Municipal Water District— Western Water Recycling Facility; Western Municipal Water District— Western Riverside County Regional Wastewater Authority; City of Poway; Helix Water District.
• Utah: Jordan Valley River Water Conservancy District.
• New Mexico: City of Farmington Water and Wastewater Utility.
• New York: Niagara Falls Water Board Wastewater-treatment Plant.