The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the task of keeping the public safe from pollution in our drinking water supplies. As such, they have established a set of mandatory National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (NPDWRs) to maintain quality standards for a number of contaminants that may be in our drinking water. These are legally enforceable regulations Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCLs) that are set to protect us from the most dangerous contaminants. Then there are National Secondary Drinking Water Regulations, which we will examine in more detail here.

National Secondary Drinking Water Regulations (NSDWRs)

The NSDWRs are non-mandatory; they cover the water standards for fifteen contaminants that are not covered by the NPDWRs. These secondary regulations cover issues that can be grouped into three categories.

  • Aesthetic Effects: these can include drinking water characteristics, such as unpalatable tastes and/or foul odors.
  • Cosmetic Effects: these water qualities are typically not harmful to health, but would still be regarded as undesirable.
  • Technical Effects: these are water characteristics that could damage or reduce the effectiveness of water using appliances and equipment, including water treatment.

Let’s take a closer look at these three groups in more detail.

The Aesthetic Effects

A bad taste or foul odor can be an indicator that our water quality is poor. It’s important to remember that this isn’t a hard and fast rule and many contaminants are tasteless and odorless. Certain contaminant odors can be detected in very small amounts, and the EPA has set some water standards for taste and odor. There are a number of contaminants that can affect water taste and odor, such as total dissolved solids (TDS), chloride, copper, manganese, iron, sulfate, zinc, and foaming agents. Foul odors can also be caused by organic material that has dissolved in the water. Water that is foamy when it comes out of the faucet could contain elevated levels of detergent.

The Cosmetic Effects

The most common cosmetic effect found in our water supplies is caused by naturally occurring fluoride deposits. Exposure to large quantities of fluoride can cause discoloration and pitting in teeth. This is especially true for babies and smaller children during the early development of their teeth.

The Technical Effects

Stains and corrosion affect the aesthetic appeal of drinking water, but they can also damage your plumbing fixtures and water using appliances. When drinking water is corrosive, it may taste metallic, and there could be an accompanying blue/green or red color. A build up of scale or sedimentation can also damage your water heater, heat exchanger and hot water pipes. The flow of water will be restricted, blockages will follow, and an expensive repair or replacement will be the final result.

Treating Secondary Water Contaminant Problems

The EPA doesn’t legally enforce NSDWRs; they recommend that the homeowner tests and treats their own water supply. There are many water treatment systems available to address secondary water problems. Activated carbon can remove contaminants that cause the color, odor, taste and foaming problems mentioned earlier. Another filtration method is Reverse Osmosis (RO), which is effective at removing TDS, chloride and inorganic materials.

By EcoWater Systems.
EcoWater Systems of Nebraska is the largest water treatment company in the state and is a member of Water Quality Association.