Parents and students voice concerns about UI drinking water

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IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG-TV9) - Some University of Iowa students and their parents are concerned about drinking water on campus.

The university sent out a notice to people last week telling them the water exceeded the maximum recommended level of the contaminant, trihalomethanes. The standard for total trihalomethanes is 0.080 mg/L. The average level of total trihalomethanes over the last year in the system was 0.081 to 0.110 mg/L.

Cole Cooper, a student at the University of Iowa noticed his water looked different a few weeks ago. He sent his mother a video of the white, cloudy water.

"Everyone freaking out and talking about it it's just like "oh my gosh the waters disgusting it's like a very popular topic around campus,” Cole Cooper said.

He sent the video to her mom who then posted it to her own Facebook page. Her post about the water has gotten hundreds of shares and comments.

"If I look in that water, I personally would not drink and honestly I wouldn't let my dog drink that water,” Terri Cooper said.

The university says it's never had this problem before, and says it might be because of an unseasonably warm year.

"We have a lot more organic material in the Iowa river than we've ever seen before in the wintertime and so that organic material then reacts with the chlorine we use to disinfect the water and so it's the combination of organic material and chlorine that produces these trihalomethanes,” Associate Director of Utilities Ben Fish said.

The university says the water is safe, according to EPA guidelines, but it does acknowledge that exposure over many years to the chemical could cause some serious health risks like liver and kidney problems or even cancer.

“Disease prevention specialists with University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics say special precautions are not necessary. However, if you have specific health concerns, consult your doctor,” a letter sent to students and staff said.

Cooper and many other students in his dorm say they aren't taking any chances.

"I know at least like four or five guys that just aren't using any other water and other guys across the hall have like three Brita filters that they are constantly just running water through,” Cole Cooper said.

His mom doesn’t think showering is safe either.

"It's not only about what you drink but it's what goes onto your skin as well because your skin absorbs everything,” Terri Cooper said.

The university says it's working on fixing the water by flushing fire hydrants.

“We are also investigating carbon filtration at the water plant so we are looking at renting a very large carbon filtration unit that will also remove the organics that are responsible for the trihalomethanes, and then long term in the next year and a half we will be installing a reverse osmosis filtration unit and that will be the permanent solution,” Fish said.