Everything you need to know to determine if your municipal or well water is at risk of contamination.
Is your drinking water safe? You may ask yourself that question if you are on a private well, as private wells are unregulated and untreated. However, what if you are on a municipal water supply? You may assume your water is safe and contaminant-free, but that may not be the case.
The non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG) has created a water database and identified more than 250 contaminants found in municipal water supplies across the U.S. One EWG report reveals that a “toxic cocktail” of chemicals in the U.S. drinking water supply may result in as many as 100,000 cancer cases in a lifetime across the country.
Regulations Do Not Guarantee Good Health
The critical difference when it comes to water quality is between “safe” and “legal.” The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the regulatory agency that sets the standards and regulations for public water systems.
However, the EPA measures contaminants one at a time, something EWG argues, does not paint the whole picture because exposure to multiple pollutants can have a cumulative effect:
“Most of the water systems examined to comply with federal legal limits on more than 90 contaminants. Most public water systems meet EPA standards because the agency evaluates chemicals one at a time instead of the full cocktail of contaminants. But research shows that the levels of chemicals allowed in drinking water can still harm human health. That means the 100,000-lifetime cases of cancer the study predicted are perfectly legal.”
For example, groundwater pumping for farming leeches arsenic into the water supply in the Central Valley of California. The level of arsenic found in the water is well below the EPA limit of 10 parts per billion (ppb). Yet, that level may potentially result in up to 600 cancer cases in 1 million people who drink arsenic-contaminated water during their lifetimes.
Many of us are familiar with the water contamination issue in Flint, Michigan, but there are many more polluted water supplies. One study estimated that nearly one-fifth of the population of the United States—some 63 million people—were exposed to potentially unsafe water more than once during the past decade.
Many are in small, poor, and minority communities, where resources and funding are not available to fix the water problems, and communities whose water supplies rely on groundwater.
In small communities, the most common contaminant is arsenic. However, hexavalent chromium, radioactive uranium, and radium can also be found.
Other contaminants that may be found in drinking water include:
- Lead from old pipes and plumbing
- Pathogens such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites
- Chlorine treatment byproducts
- Nitrates used in fertilizer
How Do I Know if My Water is Contaminated?
There are several indicators that your water is not safe to drink. Whether you have public or well water, ask yourself the following questions, as the answers may indicate your water is contaminated:
1) Does your water appear cloudy?
- Drinking water should always be clear.
- The cloudiness may be due to harmless minerals.
- If the water does not clear up, there may be bacteria in the water, so get your water tested.
2) Do your hands feel slimy after washing with soap and water?
- It could be a sign of hard water, which has a high level of calcium or magnesium.
- It could also signal the presence of aluminum, manganese, or lead.
3) Does your water appear yellow, orange, brown, or has dirt or sediment?
- You may have rusty pipes or too much iron, lead, copper, or manganese.
- May signal the presence of chromium-6, a cancer-causing agent
4) Does your water have a blue or green tinge?
- You may have elevated levels of copper, which can cause health problems
- The copper may come from corroded pipes
5) Does your water have a rotten egg or sulfur smell?
- You may have hydrogen sulfide in your water.
- When the gas is exposed to certain bacteria, it converts to sulfate, which can cause dehydration and bacteria.
6) Does your water smell like chlorine or bleach?
- You may have excess chlorine or chloramine commonly used in city/municipal water treatment processes.
- When mixed with other organic compounds, it can create harmful byproducts, including trihalomethanes (THMs) and haloacetic acids (HAAs)
7) Does your water taste metallic?
- There may be excess metals in your water, including iron, zinc, copper, or the water pipes are older or rusty.
8) Does your water smell like natural gas additive, mercaptan?
- It could indicate iron-eating bacteria and iron in the water.
- There may be contamination of the water supply from a leak or run-off. If you suspect that is the cause, stop drinking the water and get your water tested.
What to Do to Ensure Your Tap Water is Safe
If you are concerned about your water quality, the first thing is to test your water. Aqualite offers free water testing for both municipal and well water. Our experts will identify potential health risks and recommend ways to improve your home’s water quality.
If your soap does not lather well when you bathe, your clothes do not seem to get clean, or you find spots on dishes coming out of the dishwasher, it may be that you have hard water caused by excess calcium and manganese.
The fix is simple: Aqualite can install a whole-home water softener that reduces calcium and magnesium ions from the water and replaces them with sodium ions. These systems treat the whole house and are placed where the water enters the home.
If your water problems are caused by microorganisms, heavy metals, PFAs, and other contaminants, you may need a water softener, treatment, and purification systems. We offer several Puronics® models that can meet the specific needs of your home and family.
If you want to treat only the drinking water at your tap, an under-sink reverse osmosis (RO) system may fit the bill. It filters your drinking water through a reverse osmosis membrane, which rids it of minerals, replacing the minerals with sodium or potassium to soften the water.
The RO systems also have multiple stages of filtration to reduce particles and contaminants from your drinking water, including chlorine, chloride, lead, sodium, sulfate, calcium, mercury, arsenic, and fluoride, in addition to parasites like Giardia and Cryptosporidium, and many viruses.
No matter your need, we can put together a system that provides clean water to help keep your family safe and healthy. Contact us today for your free water test!