Blue Mountain Hospital officials said Monday they believe Blanding City's water supply meets federal EPA and State of Utah health and safety standards and poses no threat to the safety of the hospital's dialysis patients.
Due to the dry, drought-like conditions in the area, and the lack of water in the city's reservoirs, earlier this summer the city switched its water supply from its reservoirs to its three deep-water wells. In making the switch to the wells, the city's water supply automatically saw a spike in the amount of mineral content found in the water. This is a natural consequence when using well water instead of reservoir water. The Federal Environmental Protection Agency dictates that arsenic levels must average less than 10 ppb (parts per billion), measured over a 12-month period. Currently, the city's 12-month average is well below the EPA standard.
As per mandated requirements of the Food and Drug Administration, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the Association for the Advancement of Medical Instrumentation, and other federal guidelines, when the city's water source, or the 'public source' of water coming into the hospital for dialysis use changes, the Dialysis Manager is required to do a water analysis. This analysis tests the quality of the water supply coming into the hospital and the quality of the water after it passes through the Dialysis Unit's reverse osmosis purification system. With the new source being the city's wells, the analysis showed increased mineral content, including increased arsenic levels. However, the water quality after it passed through the reverse osmosis system was pure, free of any arsenic or mineral content, and posed no safety concerns for dialysis patients.
According to Laurie Okkema, Dialysis Manager for Blue Mountain Hospital, the results of these water analyses are tested by Nationwide Laboratory Services, the nation's largest independent, non-aligned, specialty laboratory in the dialysis industry. The test results from 9-26-13 showed arsenic levels at 16.5 ppb. The latest test results, from 10-1-13, showed arsenic levels at 15.5 ppb. Okkema said she has discussed this matter with Blanding City Officials, who told her the arsenic levels must average less than 10 ppb over a 12-month period, according to federal guidelines. The City's water supply currently conforms to federal guidelines, and the City continues to perform regular testing of the well water to make sure it continues to conform to these guidelines.
Okkema explained that short-term exposure to elevated arsenic levels is not considered to be a health risk, but could become a health concern after long-term exposure. She said it is her obligation to monitor the water quality coming into the hospital, particularly when there is a change in the water supply. She must also analyze the water quality after it passes through the dialysis unit's reverse osmosis purification system. She said all those who work in the dialysis unit are also aware of the water quality because it is part of their job to know.
Another part of the dialysis unit's water purification system uses a water softener. The water softener regeneration has been increased from two to three times per week to address the increased levels of magnesium and calcium in the well water. Okkema said these measures ensure the purification of the water used in dialysis and the safety of dialysis patients.
Blanding City Officials invested millions of dollars in the city's three deep-water wells several years ago, planning for a time like now (when the reservoir levels are so low). They feel it is a benefit to the residents of Blanding to be able to offer this well water, without any extra charge for pumping it into the city's system. Blanding City officials say that the city is diligent in monitoring the quality of all water it provides for its residents and will continue to do so.
Blue Mountain Hospital supports the City's efforts to provide safe water to the residents of Blanding, and trusts the City will continue to monitor its water to ensure it meets all required federal and state guidelines for arsenic and mineral content.