Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Safe Drinking Water: Testing Your Water by Aisha Ikramuddin

Even if your water is purified by your water company, by the time it comes through your faucet, it may have accumulated bacteria and lead from the pipes through which it is carried.

Some cities, like Boston, still have lead pipes in service lines. Some PVC pipes made before 1977 may leach vinyl chloride, a carcinogen, into water as well, as was discovered in Troy, Kansas in 1998.

Within your own home, you may have lead pipes or pipes soldered with lead.

Bacteria can grow in your hot water tank, the water tank on the roof of apartment buildings or reservoirs between the water treatment plant and your home.

After you obtain your Consumer Confidence Report, you can test the water coming from your faucet to be sure. If you have a private well, you should test your water at least yearly.

Water testing can get expensive, though, since there are so many substances you could test for. Here are a few suggestions to help you narrow down the list:

Everyone should test their tap water for lead, regardless of the age of your house. Some older homes may have lead pipes within the home, and some cities, including Washington D.C., Boston and New York, still have lead pipes in their system.

If your water company is not testing for some substances that you are concerned about, you may want to have your water tested for those substances.

If your water company is using chlorine for disinfection, but does not check THM levels, test for them yourself. (Chlorine reacts with organic chemicals left in the water by soil and decaying vegetation, forming a group of chemicals called trihalomethanes (THMs), which may cause miscarriages.)

If you live in an agricultural area, test for pesticides. Some laboratories have pesticide package deals.

If you live in a heavily industrialized area or near a waste dump, look up your region on U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) HUD E-Maps. Also search the Environmental Defense Fund’s website, Chemical Scorecard, by zip code for data on toxic releases from 17,000 sites in all 50 states.

Private well owners should test for nitrates and bacteria. For more information, see EPA's website for private well owners.
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