City Water Contamination: Is Your Water As Clean As You Think?
City Water Health
Access to clean, safe water is not something to take for granted. There are thousands of potential contaminants threatening the quality of your city or municipal water, and the infrastructure may not always keep up. Incidents like the lead contamination in Flint, Michigan can happen anywhere.
Our basic health depends on clean water. Water is the world’s healthiest resource when it is clean! Certain organizations regulate contaminants but, oftentimes, that is not enough. It is each individual’s responsibility to ensure water is safe to drink.
Contaminants make their way into our drinking water in a number of ways. For example, they can exist in the pipes that connect to your home’s plumbing, so contaminated water flows to your faucets. They can also infiltrate water outside of your home in the form of industrial or agricultural run-off. The run-off gets into the water supply at the source and isn’t entirely removed during the treatment process. Finally, contaminants are naturally present in the environment prior to water even being collected causing issues with water quality.
While the Environmental Protection Agency’s Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) defines standards for public drinking water, a failing result may not be sufficient cause to notify users of potential danger. Even more, there are so many potential contaminants it’s difficult for water treatment plants to keep up.
Understanding city water contaminants and knowing where to find information about them is a great place to start. What is a water contaminant? Under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Safe Drinking Water Act, a water contaminant is “any physical, chemical, biological, or radiological substance or matter in water.” There are thousands of identified water contaminants; however, there are only approximately 90 contaminants that have established primary standards.
Testing Your Water
If you are concerned about your drinking water, and you should be, there are many ways to obtain information about city water quality and safety. Performing a water test is a great first step. Water testing options range from a simple at-home water analysis kit to state certified water testing laboratories.
At-home test kits can provide information about contaminants such as bacteria, chlorine, lead, nitrates, pesticides, and more. At-home kits are also available that test for specific contaminants. Most test kits are available at home improvement stores. Water Testing Labs of Maryland sells kits on their website to test city water. If you are unsure, contact your local water treatment company for more information about a water analysis.
You may determine a need for a more detailed water quality test at your home. In this case, consider hiring an independent lab. In Maryland, Environmental Testing Labs and Water Testing Labs of Maryland are good resources. Using a local water treatment company to facilitate testing may be a more efficient and informative method. Your local water treatment company has certified water treatment specialists who work with water testing labs.
If you use a lab to test the city water in your home, review the list below to ensure the test covers the most common concerns:
• Coliform bacteria
• Heavy metals
• pH levels
• Total dissolved solids
• Volatile organic compounds
Reporting A Problem
In general, city water sources should keep track of water quality and water infrastructure information. A local or state health department is a good place to start if you want to learn more about your water. You may also contact a local water utility that manages the information. They are required to issue an annual Consumer Confidence Report that addresses water quality. For example, the Washington Suburban Sanity Commission (WSSC) reports water health here.
If you identify a problem in your city water, contact your local government. If you are concerned about the results, it’s time to understand filtration solutions.
Water Treatment At Home
Filtration of water or water treatment products are the most direct way to improve the purity of your water and remove city water contaminants. Water filtration solutions give you peace of mind about your home’s water and remove any guesswork. There are many varieties of water filtration, from point of use to whole-home solutions.
Regardless of the type of filtration you select, it is good practice to select products that are certified and approved by the Water Quality Association (WQA), NSF and ANSI. These independent organizations develop the highest standards and test products and systems. To determine the best option for you, consult with a certified water specialist.
Proper maintenance of water filtration systems is required for optimum performance. Each system has specific care and maintenance instructions to follow in order to avoid further contamination of your water. Some homeowners choose to maintain systems on their own, but a water treatment provider is a good option for regular, professional maintenance. Replacement guidelines vary depending on the filter, so be sure to follow the care instructions for your specific model.
Get Started With Clean Water
When you first start to learn about all the city water contaminants that can make their way into our drinking water, it’s easy to think you’ll never drink water again. We rely on water to sustain our lives, and that means we need to figure out ways to drink safe water. Consult with a certified water specialist to get started on the path to clean, healthy water. You can take control of the water in your home!