City Rejects Claim That Water Is Harmful To Pregnant Women

AKRON, Ohio (AP) - City officials say an environmental group's warning to pregnant women that drinking Akron water could elevate the risk of birth defects is false.

The Environmental Working Group and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group say their study shows Akron has a high amount of chlorination byproducts in its water.

Their report contends those byproducts increasingly are being linked to birth defects, miscarriages and cancer.

The city's levels of total trihalomethames reached its highest point in August 2000. David Crandell, manager of Akron's Public Utilities Bureau, said even that elevation failed to exceed the amount allowed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

That high reading occurred when half the water treatment plant was out of commission for a $10.1 million upgrade. The city added chlorine to the water at that time to make certain the water was disinfected, he said.

The plant upgrade dramatically lowered the chlorine byproducts in the water, he said.

Rose Garr, spokeswoman for Ohio PIRG, said the group wants the EPA to reduce its permissible amount of chlorine byproducts.

The group also wants a tracking system put into place to chronicle birth defects and cancers. Infectious diseases are well tracked by the federal government, but nothing exists at this point to track other health problems, she said.

"While we know some communities are more at risk than others, we don't have the actual health data to say," Garr said.

Akron's water comes from reservoirs in Portage County. The city also supplies water to Fairlawn, Stow, Tallmadge and Mogadore, certain business areas of Copley, Springfield, Bath and Coventry townships and a small part of Cuyahoga Falls.

(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)