Archive for December, 2011

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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Ground to Glass

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

Each morning in many houses besides your own, a daily routine begins. You brush your teeth, shower, flush the toilet, make a family-sized batch of oatmeal and remind your children to brush their teeth too. Though morning routines are not identical, life’s basic necessities and cleanliness norms suggest that “getting ready” always requires one thing: water. When you turn the faucet’s handle, you expect water to readily flow from it. But how does it get there, from start to finish?

As we explained in a previous blog post about the water cycle, initially the water is supplied through precipitation, and is collected as surface water or groundwater in a river, local lake or a well. Water is then pumped from one of these sources to a water treatment plant, for the town’s use. Once it reaches the plant, the water goes through a series of treatment processes, to make it safe to drink and use in your home. A typical water treatment plant includes the following processes: coagulation, sedimentation, filtration, disinfection and storage.

After sediment is removed from the water through coagulation, sedimentation and filtration, the water needs to be disinfected to remove illness-causing pathogens. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets contamination limits for drinking water according to the Safe Drinking Water Act, which are all based on a minimal, healthy level.  Arsenic, lead, viruses and mercury are just a few of the contaminants regulated by the EPA, and reduced by water treatment plants.

Public water systems disinfect water through one or more processes, including chlorine treatment, ultraviolet radiation (UV), and less common alternatives including ozonation, boiling and pasteurization. Gaseous forms of chlorine treat public water, reducing disease-causing bacteria and organisms, and removes minerals like iron and hydrogen sulfide. After primary disinfection occurs and the water leaves the municipality, some disinfectant remains to continuously keep water safe. Some utilities have switched from free chlorine to chloramines for maintaining a disinfectant residual in the distribution system. The secondary or residual disinfectant can, and often times does, affect the taste and odor of your tap water, though is not harmful. Alternatively, ultraviolet treatment kills contaminants through radiation, and safely improves water quality. This type of process does not affect the taste or odor after the fact, albeit nor does it have a disinfectant residual.

The filtered and disinfected water is stored and then used when it is needed. Tanks, aquifers and water towers, are all types of reservoirs used for water storage.  Water towers typically hold enough of a water supply for one day of the population’s use. Water towers are usually elevated by structure and location, providing sufficient pressure to deliver water to the homes and businesses within the town. After the water volume in the tower is reduced from a day’s use, more water is pumped in at night when usage is minimal from the municipal source.  By the time you awake in the morning, the tower is filled with clean water – ready for you, your family and your town’s use.

What is the initial source of your drinking water? Do you know how it’s treated?