How Safe Is Your Drinking Water?

Before you buy a car, you take it on a test drive and ask the dealer about its safety record.  Before you undergo surgery, you get a second opinion from an independent specialist.  And before you grill up a steak, you smell it to make sure it hasn’t gone bad.  Every day, you take hundreds of measures to protect your health and the health of your family.  But have you given any thought to the water pouring out of your faucet? So let’s ask the question right now: how safe is your drinking water?

Water may look clear, but a single glass can contain thousands of pollutants.  Some pollutants occur naturally in environment; nitrates and arsenic, for instance, enter the water supply as natural deposits erode.  Fertilizers and pesticides applied to farm fields and backyard gardens can also find their way into the water supply.  Chemicals from manufacturing and industrial activities can also pollute your drinking water.

Gasoline from gas stations and marinas, perc from dry cleaners, and cleaning products from around your own home can all swirl down drains and grates and into the water supply.  Lastly, human and animal waste can foul a city’s drinking water, turning a clean glass of H2O into a test tube of bacteria and viruses.

These pollutants all have the potential to cause serious health problems.  Selenium, a discharge from petroleum refineries, can cause circulatory problems and fingernail loss.  Mercury, which enters the water supply as runoff from landfills and farms, can cause kidney damage.  And viruses found in human waste can cause gastrointestinal illnesses.

Yet not everyone will have the same reaction to a pollutant; people with weakened immune systems have a greater risk of developing health complications from drinking contaminated water.  Transplant recipients, cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, the elderly, pregnant women, and young children should never drink polluted water.

Fortunately, most of the water flowing into kitchen sinks is safe, thanks to water treatment plants, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Safe Drinking Water Act.  Water treatment plants eliminate pollutants from the water supply, providing Americans with clean and safe drinking water.

The EPA monitors treatment plants and sets safe drinking water standards, which all water suppliers must meet.  And the Safe Drinking Water Act, passed by Congress in 1974, requires all water suppliers to notify the public of any contaminants found in the water supply.  If a hazardous chemical or virus is ever found in your town’s water supply, the water supplier must notify you and your neighbors within 24 hours.

Yet these measures are not foolproof.  According to the EPA, in 2001, one out of every four community water systems either failed to conduct tests on the water supply or failed to report the results of those tests to the EPA.  According to the 2006 National Public Water Systems Compliance Report, over 11,000 water systems reported health-based violations; over 26 million Americans were exposed to pollutants that could affect their health.  And transporting all that water from the source to the tap is a difficult task.

It requires a massive infrastructure of underground pipes and treatment plants.  Unfortunately, that infrastructure is aging.  The EPA estimates that it will cost over $150 billion, spent over a 20-year period, to overhaul the country’s water infrastructure.  If there is a funding shortfall, the water supply could be in danger.

So what can you do to ensure your town’s water supply is safe from contamination?  Contact your state drinking water agency and ask if they are complying with EPA regulations.  Read the Consumer Confidence Report, which your water supplier should send to you every year.  Ask to see your public officials’ environmental impact statements.

You can protect yourself against gastrointestinal illnesses and kidney damage – and all the other side effects of drinking polluted water – by staying informed.  According to the EPA, the average American uses 90 gallons of water a day; make sure the 90 gallons you use are clean and pollutant-free.

In order to ensure that you and your family are drinking clean, safe water at home, you may want to consider the different types of water filtration devices that are available.

Pros and Cons of Water Filtration Devices

Contaminated or just bad-tasting drinking water is a rising concern in the country, and many people cope with it by supporting the huge industry of bottled water. However, there are concerns with the growing use of bottled water as more and more plastic covers landfills. One of the solutions to this is to filter water at home. Filtering water can help the water taste better, remove contaminants and cut down on the purchase of bottled water. Here are some different ways of filtering water at home and their pros and cons:

Faucet Filters

Faucet filters are filters mounted on to a faucet, usually the kitchen faucet. It attaches to the faucet where the aerator would normally go. The pros of this filter style are that it is relatively inexpensive, easy to install and the filter replacements are also inexpensive. The cons of this method are that it can interfere with the faucet action and, because of the small size, the filters need to be replaced every two to three months.

Pitcher Filters

Pitcher filters are large pitchers with a built-in filter. The filter is located on top of the pitcher and filters the regular tap water as it is poured into a glass or other container. The pros of this method are that pitcher filters are inexpensive and easy to use. The cons are that the filters need to be changed as often as faucet filters and supply is limited by the size of the pitcher.

Water Coolers

Water coolers are large cooled dispensers that take a large jug of filtered water on top. This jug is usually plastic and is supplied by a bottled water company. The dispenser is usually supplied by the water company as well, and the jugs are delivered on a regular basis. The pros of this method are the convenience of delivery and automatic cold water. The cons are that it can be expensive, and the five-gallon jugs can be difficult to lift for some people.

Whole House Filters

The last option is to get a whole house filter. This involves putting a filter between the water supply of the house and where it comes out. The pros of this include having the whole house supply filtered water, which means even showers can be filtered of chlorine. The downside is that this is an expensive option and replacement filters are also expensive.

A whole house filter will provide the widest amount of filtration, but it is also the most expensive and typically requires a professional to install. The other types of filters are less expensive, easy to set up yourself, but they do not provide maximum filtration. Deciding which of these options to choose depends mostly on how much you want to spend, convenience and whether you want to be able to do it all yourself.