Archive for May, 2012

Clean it Up

Filed Under Category Water Contaminant by Annie Barbour

In restaurants, water is quickly on the rise as the preferred drink – perhaps because of the price, for health reasons, or for the palate’s sake – as water has a way of simply pairing with a meal. Clean water hydrates, keeps us active, clears up our skin and does so many more things for our bodies – it’s amazing! But what about when the water isn’t clean? What happens when people drink contaminated water, and what can be done about it?

Contamination in water comes from a whole slew of man-made and naturally occurring things: industrial waste, hazardous sediments, household chemicals, bacteria, viruses and parasites to name a few. We’ve previously discussed some ground and surface water contaminants, but what do parasites have to do with water?

The most notable parasitic water outbreak in the United States occurred in Milwaukee in 1993. Cryptosporidium, a parasite, had unknowingly contaminated Milwaukee Water Works’ (MWW) source water: Lake Michigan. The source water flowed to MWW as it always did, and after being treated, was provided to the homes of Milwaukee residents.

Although the turbidity readings had been unusually high, which can signal microbial contamination, the MWW employees did not catch the problem until after the fact, as all of the water quality standards were met. The municipality became alerted of the problem when people throughout the city began calling about diarrhea, and increased absences from school and work were reported. A boil alert was put into effect, the water plant was shut down, and in a week’s time, the incidence of sickness tapered off. When all was said and done, this specific parasite, in a single occurrence, caused 400,000 people in Milwaukee to become sick, and resulted in 100 deaths of people with weak immune systems.

So how did this happen? For starters, cryptosporidium contaminated the water source through infected stools of animals or people. Secondly, Cryptosporidium cysts have tough walls that can withstand many environmental stresses and are resistant to chlorine which many municipalities use to disinfect water.

Of course since the 1993 outbreak, more measures to keep water safe are being taken. The EPA’s Interim Enhanced Surface Water Treatment Rule regulates that 99% of Cryptosporidium be removed if a municipality serves 10,000 people or more.  Since then, no more large-scale outbreaks have occurred. However, if you are served by a smaller scale source for your water or looking for an added factor of safety, consider a home filtration system like the Zuvo Water Filtration System. The Zuvo system is tested to NSF/ANSI standards for the reduction of protozoan cysts including Cryptosporidium.

We’d like to hear from you, what potential drinking water contaminants are of most concern to you?

You Have a Right to Know

Filed Under Category Health, Water, Water Contaminant, Water Supply by Annie Barbour

Lead, arsenic and unpronounceable words like Cryptosporidium (also known as “Crypto”) aren’t your everyday vocabulary words. We understand that. However, these specific words are important in determining everyday health for you, your family and your neighborhood.  Water is an incredible ingredient for your well-being, and the quality can and should be guaranteed. Today, community water systems ensure drinking water quality through compliance with primary standards for approximately 90 contaminants. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is charged with setting the standards and regulating the levels of contaminants and indicators in drinking water. What may be surprising is these public drinking water standards have only been in place since 1974 when the Safe Drinking Water Act became law.

Drinking water, as well as bottled water, may reasonably be expected to contain at least small amounts of some contaminants. The presence of contaminants doesn’t necessarily indicate that water poses a health risk.[1] Annual drinking water reports, also known as Consumer Confidence Reports (CCRs), are provided each year by water utilities, detailing local water quality to customers. The EPA requires community water systems to supply these reports by July 1st each year to the people it serves including home-owners, apartment building landlords and mobile home park residents.

CCRs are required to include several key points about the water it delivers. What source does the water come from? What are the contaminant levels in the local water as compared to the EPA maximum contaminant level (MCLs)?  What is the probable cause of the delineated contaminants? If contaminants exceed the maximum level, what are the potential health effects? The community water system must also provide a plan of action to bring the contamination level below the MCL. The dangers of lead, nitrates, arsenic and illness-causing Cryptosporidium are also entailed in the report.

Each summer, a report is distributed to community members via newspaper, direct mail and/or the Internet. Some reports are also available for download from the EPA’s website.  If a contaminant does surpass the maximum EPA level, consider having your drinking water tested. In addition to the yearly report, pay attention to changes in the color, odor and taste of your water. Changes in these characteristics can indicate that something is not right in your water; a home water-quality test will inform you of specific contamination concentration levels such as lead, iron and coliform bacteria. With this information, if a contaminant, such as lead, exceeds the MCL, consider installing a home water treatment system like the Zuvo Water Filtration System to reduce the concentration to below the MCL.

The United States government amended the Safe Drinking Water Act in 1999 to include the vital, public information the CCR provides. Take advantage of it. Check your water quality. If necessary, improve your water quality with a home water filtration system.

Have you read your annual Consumer Confidence Report provided by your local water utility? Do any contaminants in your drinking water exceed the MCL? If so, what have you done to mitigate the risk?


[1]EPA Water: Basic Information about Regulated Drinking Water Contaminants http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/basicinformation/index.cfm
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