Even though municipal water is regulated by the EPA, miles of piping may lie between the regulated water supply and your water glass. A lot can happen along the way; get your water tested by a state certified lab.
Unlike well water, which the EPA leaves to homeowners to test, the EPA regulates public drinking water systems and sets standards for safe levels of contaminates. Public water suppliers must report results of their tests annually. In addition, water suppliers have 24 hours to inform their customers of violations of EPA standards “that have the potential to have serious adverse effects on human health as a result of short-term exposure.”
However, according to a 2001 EPA report, 1 out of 4 community water systems did not conduct testing or report results for all the monitoring required to verify the safety of their drinking water. The EPA recommends checking with your state drinking water agency to determine if your water supplier is in compliance.
Your public drinking water report will help determine the level of contaminates in your water supply. Sometimes, a report will show elevated levels of contaminates, requiring filtration.
Regardless of the result, the report will show an incomplete picture. From the main water supply to your glass, water may travel miles of pipes. Along the way, water can pick up contaminates from a variety of sources while avoiding EPA regulated testing. For example, lead contamination can occur in homes with copper pipes and lead solder, or water lines using lead pipes, or even faucets and fittings with brass, which contains some lead.
Likewise, asbestos from cement water mains can be released in the water, or cadmium and copper can be released from plumbing.
Biofilm is another source of contamination. Biofilm is a colony of microorganisms that cling together in a sticky slime along the inside of pipes. Microbes can enter the distribution system through inadequate treatment, cross-connections, leaking pipes and appurtenances, as well as other means. Once becoming established as part of the biofilm, pathogens form a layer of protection that reduces the effectiveness of disinfection.
How to test my water?
The EPA recommends using a certified laboratory for testing water. Check out our handy guide to find out how to get your water tested.
What if my water is contaminated?
If contamination occurs at the municipal level, then you will have to communicate with your state health agency to resolve the problem. If the contamination occurs at the point of residence, such as the case with lead pipes or soldering, then you will have to address the plumbing issue.
Consider using a water filtration system that removes the offending contaminates for safe drinking water.
- Water On Tap: What You Need To Know: http://water.epa.gov/drink/guide/upload/book_waterontap_full.pdf
- Drinking Water Contaminates: http://water.epa.gov/drink/contaminants/index.cfm
- Health Risks from Microbial Growth and Biofilms in Drinking Water Distribution Systems: http://www.epa.gov/ogwdw/disinfection/tcr/pdfs/whitepaper_tcr_biofilms.pdf