Water Education - Water and Health

Sources of our drinking water (Continued)

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City Water Systems

Approximately 86 percent of the U.S. population receives its water from city water systems. City water systems are required to meet the standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the authority of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).

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The SDWA was passed by Congress in 1974 to establish nationally consistent drinking water standards. A standard is the maximum level of a substance that the EPA has deemed acceptable in drinking water. In 1986 the SDWA was amended to require the EPA to publish standards for 83 specific contaminants and additional standards thereafter. To date, the EPA has issued or proposed limits for 87 substances. City water systems are currently revising their drinking water programs to meet the more stringent requirements of the amendments.

City water systems must ensure that the drinking water they supply does not have contaminant levels higher than the standards of the SDWA, the SDWA amendments, or state regulations.

In order to set a standard for a drinking water contaminant, the EPA first reviews the data concerning the health effects the substance may cause. The EPA then proposes nonmandatory Maximum Contaminant Level Goals (MCLGs). MCLGs are set at zero for contaminants that are known or probable human carcinogens. For noncarcinogens, MCLGs are set at a level where no adverse health effects would occur with a margin of safety.

At the same time, the EPA also proposes a Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL), the enforceable drinking water standard, which is set as close to the MCLG as possible, taking into account technological and economic considerations.

After a time for public comment and review of the MCL and MCLG, the EPA enacts a final regulation. States are expected to adopt the standard within 18 months of enactment.

The SDWA requires utilities to conduct routine monitoring and testing of public water supplies. Two types of sampling are required. Routine Sampling takes place on a regular basis and ensures that a treatment plant is running properly for delivering a consistent quality of drinking water. It also determines whether water quality meets the MCLs.

When a routine sample analysis indicates elevated levels of a particular contaminant that may exceed EPA or state standards, states may require systems to take a check sample. Check samples are used to confirm the results of a problem discovered during routine sampling.

In summary, the EPA generally delegates to the states the authority to enforce all federal drinking water standards. However; how well they are enforced is very questionable. (See the other news articles on some latest findings of our tap water). In addition, the national standards for contaminants were developed more than fifteen years ago by EPA. Today, there are many new industrial contaminants that was not even known to us back then. Plus, the standards for what is considered healthy and acceptable sure have changed. To combat the unknown health threats to our family, we need to raise the standards of our drinking water.

Point of Use Water Filter Solutions

Whether consumers receive their water from a private well or a city water system, they may wish to treat it at its point-of-use (POU). Consumers do have the option to choose the higher quality of water that POU technologies can provide.

POU technologies treat water at single or multiple taps or for the whole house, and improve water quality in a variety of ways. Unusual taste, color, and odor or water may be corrected by POU technologies, and some POU devices also reduce harmful contaminants.

A variety of POU equipment is available for improving drinking water and other special purposes. Each technology is designed to solve one or several different water quality problems. In order to choose the right equipment, it is important to define the nature and extent of their water quality problems.

The first step in correcting a water quality problem is often to have the water tested. When the safety of the water is in question, it should always be tested by a state-certified or other reputable laboratory. Testing for aesthetic concerns such as taste, odor, color, and hardness may be performed in the home by a professional water treatment dealer.

Testing the water will help determine the proper treatment necessary. We suggest you before purchasing a product, first become an educated consumer.

Read Next: Source water assessment programs (S.W.A.P)

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