Should I have my drinking water tested?
We've all seen the occasional report detailing exactly what is in the water coming out of our kitchen faucet. These reports, which previously focused on chemicals and industrial contaminants, are now targeting prescription and over-the-counter medications. The headlines can be startling - most of us don't really want a cocktail of antibiotics, heart medication and the mystery drug of the week when we reach for a glass of water. Before you turn off the water supply, read the information below and learn how to determine whether your own drinking water is safe.
Public Water Systems
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulates public water systems, which supply drinking water to 90% of Americans. The EPA (www.epa.gov) requires that most water suppliers must provide their customers with an annual water quality report, or Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) before July 1. These reports, which are typically mailed with your bill, reveal what contaminants have been found in the drinking water and how the levels compare to national drinking water standards. Water systems serving more than 100,000 customers are required to post their reports at a publicly accessible website. Some of these reports can be found at http://safewater.tetratech-ffx.com/ccr/index.cfm, while others can be found on local government websites. You may also request a copy from your local water supplier.
Some obvious signs of potential water quality problems are family illnesses, taste, color or cloudiness, odor, and staining of clothes or fixtures. Another area of concern is the materials used in your plumbing system, which is the major source of lead contamination. While most water systems test for lead, these tests are for the water supply as a whole, not for your home and your faucets. If your plumbing system or water supply lines contain lead there is a chance that your water has lead contamination. The only way to know for sure is to have your water tested.
The 10% of Americans who rely on household wells for their water supply are responsible for their own testing, as the EPA doesn't regulate these private wells. State and local agencies may provide some oversight, but it is recommended that you routinely test your water at least once a year.
The EPA has provided a list of conditions or nearby activities that may warrant water testing for household wells:
The cost of testing your drinking water is determined by how many contaminants are tested. A simple lead test can cost $15, while a comprehensive test can soar into the hundreds of dollars. To minimize costs, start by reviewing your annual water quality report. Test only for those contaminants of particular concern - specifically those such as lead that can vary from house to house.To find a testing facility, contact your water utility or local health department. They may provide testing or will direct you to a certified water lab in your area.
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