There’s a Good Chance Your Drinking Water is Contaminated
A report by the The Natural Resources Defense Council says nearly one in four Americans get their drinking water from untested or contaminated community water systems
If you thought Flint was the only city with unsafe water, you thought wrong. A study from the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) found that nearly one out of four Americans drink water from untested or improperly tested municipal water systems.
That means there’s a 25% chance you are one of the 77 million people affected. If that’s not bad enough, a proposed 23% cut to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 2018 budget will likely make the problem worse.
An untested or contaminated water system is one that violates at least one rule set forth by the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). In order for a system to be considered properly tested, it must have no violations.
Violations included everything from failing to properly test water for contaminants, failing to report contamination to state-based authorities, exceeding health-based standards, and more.
Health-based violations, which accounted for 12,000 of the total violations, are considered more severe and usually involve water systems exceeding the EPA’s maximum limits on contaminants.
It’s worth noting that the EPA sets regulations for only about 100 of the 75,000 known contaminants. Not on the list are pharmaceuticals, percolates, and even gasoline additives MTBE — contaminants that are often found in water supplies.
Since 1996, the EPA has yet to adopt any new standards for regulating chemicals in drinking water.
Let’s take a look at some of the contaminants that are regulated by the EPA and a few of their potential dangerous effects.
1. Lead and Copper Rule
Lead has received a lot of attention lately due to the water crisis in Flint. Service pipes containing lead corrode are a major source of lead pollution in water.
Lead exposure can be highly toxic especially to young children because it can cause serious, irreversible damage to their developing brains and nervous systems. Likewise, exposure to lead is particularly problematic for pregnant women as it can cause stillbirths and miscarriages.
Even for healthy adults as well as cognitive dysfunction, fertility issues, cardiovascular and kidney effects, and elevated blood pressure in healthy adults.
Though no amount of lead in drinking water is safe, the EPA’s action level for lead is set at 15 parts per billion (ppb). This means if lead amounts meet or exceed this level, water systems must undertake a number of additional actions to control corrosion.
In 2015, there were 8,044 violations of the lead rule, affecting 18,350,633 Americans — only 12% of these violations saw formal enforcement action.
2. Arsenic Rule
Arsenic is a naturally occurring element that can be lethal if ingested in large amounts. Used in industrial applications — mainly as a wood preservative — arsenic can enter the body via contaminated food, water, and air.
A main ingredient in pesticides, arsenic can accumulate in ground soil. Municipal water systems located in farming areas that rely primarily on well water tend to be the worst violators of the EPA’s Arsenic Rule.
Kern County, CA is a prime example of this concept. With 144 violations, most for violating the arsenic rule, Kern is one of the worst violators of SDWA regulations and standards.
Drawing from wells that are often times polluted by agricultural runoff and other forms of industrial waste, some of the arsenic contaminating Kern’s water systems originates from pesticides used in farming. It’s worth mentioning that the EPA has restricted or cancelled some uses of arsenic for pest control applications.
Several studies have shown that ingestion of arsenic can increase the risk of skin cancer and cancer in the liver, bladder, and lungs. In addition to being a carcinogen, exposure could also lead to a host of other cardiovascular and pulmonary diseases.
The maximum contaminant level of arsenic in drinking water is 0.01 parts per million (ppm). In 2015, 1,537 violations of the arsenic rule at community water systems serving 1,842,594 people occurred. Formal enforcement was taken in 28.9 percent of cases.
3. Disinfectant and Disinfectant Byproducts
Almost all modern water systems use chlorine or chloramine to disinfect and treat drinking water. For over a hundred years, no better way of killing deadly viruses, bacteria, and pathogens in drinking water on a large scale has been invented.
Chlorine in drinking water is such an important subject that it deserves its own article. Along with the many indisputable benefits of water chlorination, there is also the bad. Spend enough time in a swimming pool and some of chlorine’s negative effects become apparent.
Speaking of swimming pools: Did you know the chlorine level in your pool water could be the same — or even higher — than the water you drink your tap? Yes, you read that right! The EPA’s maximum contaminant level for chlorine in your tap is 4 ppm — most swimming pools have no more than 1 to 3 ppm of chlorine.
Fresno County, with 128 health violations in total (most for Disinfection and Disinfection Byproduct Rule violations), appears to be one the worst violators of the DBP Rule we’ve seen. Though it’s not a hard and fast rule, areas struggling with organic contaminant issues also struggle with DBP rule violations.
Generally, the more organic contaminants found in water, the more disinfectants are needed to sanitize. In the case of Fresno, coliform (disease-causing organisms which usually indicate the presence of fecal matter or sewage waste) are often found in water samples. This creates a higher than usual need for disinfectants which results in DBP rule violations.
Short term health effects of chlorine exposure include irritated skin and eyes, and nausea. Prolonged exposure to chlorine may be linked to the development of asthma, miscarriages, birth defects, and cancer.
In 2015, community water systems serving 25,173,431 people in the United States were cited for 11,311 DBP Rule violations. Formal enforcement measures were taken in 12.4 percent of all cases and 23 percent of health-based cases.
Let’s wrap it up
This report teaches us that even though most community water systems take appropriate measures to ensure our drinking water is safe, not all of them pass the test. In fact, there’s a 25 percent chance they get it wrong.
When they do get it wrong, the EPA rarely takes enforcement action. As noted earlier, with severe cuts to their budget, you can expect the EPA’s ability to enforce rules to be even further diminished.
Considering the potential health effects of contaminants discussed in this article — and many more that are not — the consequences of systems violating SWDA rules can be disastrous for public health.
The good news is you can take safety into your own hands and take steps to ensure that the water from your tap is safe for you and your family.
Nuvia Water Technologies makes high-performance water filtration systems for your home.
Nuvia systems use 5-stage filtration technology to reduce the presence of chlorine, chloramine, fluoride, pesticides, herbicides, and a wide spectrum of organic as well as inorganic contaminants from your water.
By reducing the presence of thousands of contaminants not regulated by the EPA, Nuvia systems go well beyond EPA standards for safety.
Along with making your water safer, Nuvia’s systems significantly improve the taste and softness of your water to a quality that rivals bottled water.
All Nuvia products are manufactured in the United States and are Gold Seal Certified by the Water Quality Association (WQA). This means Nuvia systems are built using only the best manufacturing practices and highest quality components available.
Concerned about the safety of your water? Don’t like how your water tastes, smells, or feels on your skin?
Call Nuvia at 951–734–7400 today to schedule a free professional water test and analysis!