The Annual Water Quality Report, Continued

We continue deciphering the Annual Water Quality Report today. You know, the report that was supposed to tell non-technical consumers that their water was safe to drink (or not) in a simple, easy-to-comprehend format — but has become the committee-mutated monster that we have discussed the past two blogs. We continue to use the Castaic Lake Water Agency’s AWQR as our example. Today’s photo is of Castaic Lake.
The AWQR is a two-sided 11 x 25.5 inch, multicolor brochure. One side is all fluff plus the mailing label. The other side is where all the — indecipherable — water quality information resides. This side has three panels, two taken up by the data table, and the third, which happens to be the worst — but most important — single page of the AWQR.
This page has a font size so small, I think its number is a fraction! Its intent is good: to convey basic information about what “water quality” really is. However, the “committee” has struck here, and the required script renders the reader unconscious in milliseconds. As a water quality professional, I am immune to such effects, so I like to scour these pages for typos. I am happy to report that I found none — and that I only needed one nap to get through the page.
In the fine print of this page are two very important items: affirmations of safe water and notices of violations. Most importantly, no E. coli, Cryposporidium, or Giardia were detected. (Actually, we do have minor typos here, as these terms are properly italicized, and the first word should be capitalized — but I’ll give CLWA a pass on these — at least they spelled them correctly!)
Deep in the fine print, CLWA admits a technical violation of the water quality regulations: it failed to analyze for tritium and strontium-90 in 2008 and 2009. These are rarely-found radioactive parameters, and none was detected before or after these missing tests. But that is hardly unexpected, since CLWA did conduct the standard routine screening tests for radiological parameters: gross alpha and gross beta emissions — and did not find elevated levels. That means no significant quantity of tritium or strontium-90 — or any other radioactive isotopes — could have been present.
But this minor omission points out how incredibly difficult it is to remain in constant compliance with a panoply of rules and regulations that rivals the IRS code in size and complexity (not really, but they are incredibly intimidating, even to a water quality professional.)
So, after three days of poring over the CLWA AWQR, we can finally conclude that the water we drank during calendar year 2009 was safe. Yes, I mean 2009. You see, the report that must reach consumers by July 1 is for the water quality from the previous year.
I feel so much better now.

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