Water, it’s quality a mystery to the average consumer. We’ve used it since we were born and here we are, alive, you might say. But alive and well? Or alive and I’m-hoping-for-the-best?
If you have trouble with bloating, skin rashes, digestive issues, gassy episodes or just irritated, contaminants in your water might be to blame.
As we have seen in the previous section, our water has made a long journey before it gets home. Starting from groundwater or surface-water sources, it is then treated and fed into a complex system of city pipes until it gets home.
Water quality problems arise from polluted groundwater by agricultural run-off, animal waste and industrial pollution to name a few culprits way up-stream.
It gets channeled to the water treatment plants where they remove some of the contaminants with the many chemicals added at the water treatment plant. However, some plants are not technologically up-to-date and cannot deal with all contaminants and pollutants.
Also, these contaminants are removed up to EPA standards, they are not completely removed. To make the whole water treatment system cost-effective the EPA sets guidelines, otherwise potable water would be cost prohibitive.
Water treatment plants are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that oversees the quality of the water at the plant, but they do not test the final product that comes out of your faucet.
After the water is treated, it then travels many miles of 40-80 year-old pipes throughout the city contaminating it with bacteria, viruses, sediments, heavy metals and the infamous lead.
It finally gets fed into your residential water line and runs through the pipes of your home to: your kitchen sink, refrigerator, washing machine, toilets, showers, bath tubs, etc.
Most notably, the city of Newark, New Jersey, is facing dangerously high levels of lead in its water. According to NJ.com, the city insists that lead in the water stems from lead service lines, not from the water itself.
Plans are already underway to replace more than 15,000 lead service lines which will cost the city US$60 million and will take at least 8 years.
Watch this brief (1min 49 secs) and informative animated video about lead in drinking water.
If your home was built after the 1980’s your chances of having lead service lines are slim, but if you live in an older home, you most probably have lead bearing water lines. Before using water out of your faucet, let it run for 30 seconds to decrease your exposure to lead. Cold water is best as lead dissolves easily in hot water (in 1986, the EPA banned the use of lead pipes and solder in plumbing systems nationwide).
Our water is also being impacted by the high volume of pesticides and fertilizers used in agriculture, substances that seep into the Earth and end up in our groundwater and other sources. The pharmaceutical industry also pours harmful chemicals into waterways and although some if it is treated, not all of it is cleaned.
Even the drugs that your neighbor is using and discarding through their urine is ending up in our waterways to some degree. And let’s not think about local businesses and all the chemicals they use and end up down the drain, ie: dry cleaners, restaurant, printers, car-wash, body-shops, hospitals, funeral homes, etc.
We all remember the water disaster in Flint, MI where dangerous levels of lead were found in the city’s drinking supply sparking a health crisis.
A 2015 report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) stated that about 25% of Americans where consuming water from systems that did not meet the Safe Drinking Water Act rules.
Water quality problems can be solved by purifying water at home, where you take it from the faucet, also called point-of-use. This is the best way to deal with water contaminants, right before you actually use the water.
Some of the contaminants that compromise the quality of your water are:
On top of the list, we usually have bad tasting and foul-smelling water.
Most of it is tap water filtered to get rid of the chlorine flavor and then bottled.
Bottled water is not purified water and it may contain harmful phtalates, more details in the next story.
As a side note, bottled water is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) as a packaged food item and its regulation is more lax than for municipal drinking water. Testing for bottled water is done once a week at most.
Approximately 15 million Americans are drinking water that is contaminated by PFC, a toxic substance used in many non-stick pans, and this has been linked to cancer and other disease.
You might gravitate towards bottled water without giving it a second thought because you think it is the best water quality out there. You night think it is cleaner or healthier than tap water.
But, I’m afraid, they have sold you an idea of purity and freshens that does not adequately portray the reality of the liquid you are buying.
Bottled water is a packaged good, a commodity that generates US$13 billion in revenue with little regard to water quality.
If you are a health-conscious person, if you want to reduce your environmental impact and if you want to stop being manipulated by the water industry, read on.
Natural Resource Defense Council Report, www.nrdc.org
Environmental Protection Agency, Regulatory Information topics, www.epa.gov
U.S. Food and Drug Administration, www.fda.gov
Environmental Protection Agency, Lead ban effective date and enforcement, https://nepis.epa.gov
Environmental Working Group, Mapping a contamination crisis, www.ewg.org
NJ.com, Getting lead out of Newark’s tap water?, www.nj.com