Is your Municipal Water safe?
The Clean Water Act was originally conceived to guarantee the purity and safety of our drinking water. While these regulations have definitively had a positive impact across the country in improving our water standards, the CWA is by no means a flawless system. The potential flaws were brought to light recently in the highly publicized Flint Michigan lead water debacle and a few years earlier in the less known 2014, Freedom Industries West Virginia chemical spill, where 10,000 gallons of toxic chemicals were released into the water supply. Similarly to the State and local government authorities in Michigan, the company in West Virginia failed to immediately report the leak and thousands of homes and residents were exposed to tainted water. Not only was the drinking water supply seriously compromised before the information was made public, but the water was ultimately so badly polluted, that residents were unable to come into contact with it.
The initial problem was exacerbated by the fact that a second, unidentified, chemical was actually in the initial spill. This information was not admitted by Freedom Industries until almost two weeks later. What was particularly alarming was the fact that, in spite of exhaustive water testing, the second chemical went totally undetected. This revealed a significant “hole” in the approach used by water companies in testing the quality of drinking water.
EPA’s current requirements dictate that municipal water companies test for only 90 different contaminants in the drinking water supplies. To make matters worse, it does not require testing on a daily, weekly or monthly basis for many of these contaminants. Some tests are required at only six month or 12 month intervals. To put it plainly, if contamination occurs at any time between these testing cycles, residents could be drinking tainted water for anywhere between 6 and 12 months without even knowing it.
The real dilemma in the current system is that while testing for 90 contaminants is mandated law, there are in actuality tens of thousands of chemicals in use in the United States. Municipal water companies can basically only identify pollutants, toxins or chemical contaminants that they are, in effect, looking for. There is no comprehensive screening methodology for ALL potentially harmful contaminants. This is the main reason why the West Virginia American Water Company was not able to detect the second chemical involved in the Freedom Industries spill. The fact is, the water company was not actually required, by law, to test for the chemical, so they didn’t identify it until the polluter admitted that it was part of the spill.
The situation in Flint, while somewhat different in the nature of its cover up, was far more catastrophic. It is by now well known now that the corrosive Flint River water caused lead from aging pipes to leach into the water supply, causing exceptionally high levels of toxic lead. What is less known is that officials failed to apply corrosion inhibitors to the water supply when they could have. As a result of this negligence, between 6,000 to 12,000 children were ultimately exposed to drinking water with high levels of heavy metal. So although both city and State government knew full well that there was lead leaching into the water supplies, due to the corrosiveness of the water on old pipe infrastructure, it was an independent research team from Virginia Tech (VT) volunteering its time, resources and expertise that brought the disaster to the light of day. Four government officials from the City of Flint and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the Environmental Protection Agency eventually resigned over the crisis, but the damage was done.
Both these incidents have raised serious concerns about the safety of the water we all drink. Most of us have always automatically assumed that municipal water was, contaminant free, safe drinking water. And for the most part, municipal water treatment facilities do a good job, but this incident has made many consumers question whether this is actually ALWAYS the case. While consumers who get their drinking water from a well are fully aware of the significance of filtration and continuous water testing, many of us take it for granted that our water supplies are safe every time we open our taps.
For this reason, it is now even more prudent to consider having a second line of water defense in the form of a FINAL BARRIER water filter system. Water filtration in your home can remove many harmful chemicals which often go undetected by municipal water treatment companies. In addition to removing potentially harmful chemicals used to kill bacteria and viruses, final barrier protection allows consumers to have greater control over the quality of their drinking water and have the confidence that they have a safe contaminant free supply coming out of their tap.
About The Author, Terry Reeh, EcoWater Systems of Nebraska:
With more than 25 years experience in the residential and commercial water treatment space, Terry is a WQA (Water Quality Association) certified water specialist, LEVEL 3, as well as a WQA certified sales representative. Terry currently sits on EcoWater Systems (a Berkshire Hathaway Company) national Peers committee, as a water treatment expert advising other water professionals with less experience on best trade and technology practices. EcoWater Systems of Nebraska is one of the biggest water treatment and water delivery businesses in the state.