We often take the purity of our tap water for granted — and we shouldn’t. The National Research Defense Council – NRDC – produced a document in 2001 called What’s on Tap?, a carefully researched, documented and peer-reviewed study of the drinking water systems of 19
U.S. cities. Among other things it found that pollution and deteriorating, out-of-date plumbing are sometimes delivering drinking water that might pose health risks to some residents. It also found that at times cities are not very straightforward about what is in the water and that some water sources are now well protected. Many cities around the country rely on pre-World War I-era water delivery systems and treatment technology. Aging pipes can break, leach contaminants into the water they carry and breed bacteria — all potential prescriptions for illness. And old-fashioned water treatment — built to filterout particles in the water and kill some parasites and bacteria — generally fails to remove 21st-century contaminants like pesticides, industrial chemicals and arsenic. What’s on Tap? found one overarching truth: If steps are not taken now, our drinking water will get worse. Is the situation better today than 6 years ago? Actions taken seem to be more in lline with protecting corporate polluters than protecting public healthGovernment — whether city, state or federal — should be doing all it can to ensure that citizens get clean, safe drinking water every time they turn on a faucet or stop at a public water fountain. And an informed, involved citizenry is the key to the process. Everyone should be encouraged to look into the quality of their city’s water supply, and to demand that our elected officials do what’s necessary to provide safe tap water.Citizens have a right to know about : water quality, right-to-know reports, and about protection of water sources, at least Good drinking water depends on cities getting three things right:According to the NRDC, four cities 1n 2001 were found to have fair-to-substandard drinking water:
- Atlanta, which maintains its distribution system poorly
- Albuquerque and
San Francisco, which have poor treatment systems
- Fresno, which has no real source water protection
So what does all this mean in terms of what’s actually in your water glass? If your city has a water quality problem, your tap water may at times carry a worrisome collection of contaminants. A handful of these showed up repeatedly in the water of the cities studied:
- Lead, which enters drinking water supplies from the corrosion of pipes and plumbing fixtures and can cause brain damage in infants and children
- Pathogens (germs) that can make people sick, especially those with weakened immune systems, the frail elderly and the very young
- By-products of chlorine treatment such as trihalomethanes and haloacetic acids, which may cause cancer and reproductive problems
- Arsenic, radon, the rocket fuel perchlorate and other carcinogens or otherwise toxic chemicals
Contaminants like these get into our water from many different sources. A few examples: runoff from sewage systems that overflow after a heavy storm; runoff from contaminant-laden sites like roads, pesticide and fertilizer-rich farms and lawns, and mining sites; wastes from huge animal feedlots; and industrial pollution that leaches into groundwater or is released into surface water.NRDC’s study found that relatively few cities are in outright violation of national standards for contamination of drinking water, but this is more a result of weak standards than it is of low contaminant levels. For example, cancer-causing arsenic is currently present in the drinking water of 22 million Americans at average levels of 5 ppb, well below a new EPA standard for arsenic of 10 ppb that will go into effect in 2006. Yet scientists now know that there is no safe level of arsenic in drinking water. (The EPA found that a standard of 3 ppb would have been feasible, but industry lobbying and concerns over treatment costs prevailed over public safety.) Bottom line: : the tap water in some cities might pose health risks to vulnerable consumers – people who have serious immune system problems, pregnant women, parents of infants, those with chronic illnesses and the elderly should consult with their health care providers about the safety of tap water. Your Right to Know What’s in Your Tap WaterThe first question that one would logically ask on reading the above is, “How do I find out what’s in my water glass?” And according to
U.S. law, every citizen is entitled to a straight answer. Every city is required to publish reports about the safety and quality of its drinking water system.
- The problem, as NRDC found, is that while some cities do a good job with their right-to-know reports, others publish information that is incomplete or misleading, or omitted it entirely, or failed to report on the health effects
These right-to-know reports hold enormous promise. In addition to informing citizens about the state of their city’s water system, they can also build support for investment and encourage citizens to participate in fixing local problems. The NRDC has included a set of recommendations that cities might adopt in setting goals for their right-to-know publications. Protecting the SourceThe first line of defense in ensuring the safety and quality of drinking water is to ensure that water sources — lakes, rivers, streams and aquifers (porous underground formations that hold water) — are protected from pollution. There are many ways that contaminants get into source water, among them:
- Municipal sewage
- Polluted runoff from stormwater or snowmelt in urban and suburban areas
- Pesticides and fertilizers from agricultural fields
- Animal waste from feedlots and farms
- Industrial pollution from factories
- Mining waste
- Hazardous waste sites
- Spills and leaks of petroleum products and industrial chemicals
- “Natural” contamination such as arsenic or radon that occurs in water as a result of leaching or release of the contaminant from rock
Some cities are doing a fine job of protecting their drinking water supply. Seattle is doing an excellent job of protecting source water; Boston, San Francisco and
Denver also get high marks. But many other cities have a long way to go:
- Albuquerque‘s groundwater is becoming seriously depleted;
Fresno‘s groundwater is highly susceptible to contamination;
- In Atlanta, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Newark, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Diego and Washington, D.C., source water is threatened by runoff and industrial or sewage contamination;
- Water supplies in Baltimore, Fresno, Los Angeles, New Orleans, San Diego and several other cities are vulnerable to agricultural pollution containing nitrogen, pesticides or sediment;
- Denver‘s source water faces an additional challenge from debris from wildfires and sediments from floods;
- Manchester‘s problems apparently come from recreational boating activity in its reservoir.
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on the NRDC study and for information on water filters.
REMEMBER – You can either GET A FILTER or BE A FILTER
Here are some suggestions below on those I use and promote. To guard the integrity and purity of the water, filters need to be replaced; frequency depends on the quality of water in your area.
Countertop system (dual system filter cartridge sold separately. (http://snipurl.com/1hho4) The countertop filtration system can also be installed under the counter with purchase of filtration kit.
Shower head (with shower wand purchased separately http://snipurl.com/1hhnt), the skin being the largest organ, absorbs the most water daily.
See Muriella’s Corner on Chlorine and Asthma and Chlorine and Cancer and Fluoride and Boy’s health