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?