The quality of our water supply is a rather hot topic around the country right now. If you want to obtain your water utility’s drinking water quality report, the method will depend on where you live. Some areas will mail the water quality report to you, and other areas will post the information publicly online. Most reports will have a short guide to explain how to read them. However, if they do not, here are a few of the high points that might be useful to know.
First and foremost, any community water system that provides for more than 5 households is regulated by the EPA. The EPA sets certain acceptable levels of contaminants that the water system has to adhere to, which is called the MCL, or maximum contaminant level. This is the upper limit of a particular material that the water is allowed to have. (The MCL will be different for each substance that is being tested for.) The water must be tested regularly to ensure that it is safe to use.
There are a couple of acronyms that you’ll need to understand: PPM and PPB. PPM stands for parts per million, and PPB stands for parts per billion. To put that into perspective, four drops of ink in a 55 gallon drum of water would produce a concentration of 1 PPM. One drop of ink in a huge gasoline tanker truck would produce a concentration of 1 PPB. It’s a very minuscule, almost unfathomably tiny measurement.
When you look through the report, it will list the MCL (maximum contaminant level) that’s allowed for each substance that was tested. It will also probably show whether or not they were in violation. As you go item by item through each regulated substance, you’ll see substances like fluoride, nitrate, organic carbon, and turbidity. You’ll also see radioactive contaminants like gross alpha, gross beta, and radium. Lead and copper are widely discussed nowadays—lead is normally going to be measured in parts per billion, with the maximum contaminant level being 15 parts per billion. Anything below that maximum level is going to be deemed acceptable by the EPA.
Another important item to understand on the report is the amount of chlorine in your water. The EPA’s maximum contaminant level is 4 parts per million. But consider this: The Pool Association recommends a maximum chlorine content of 2 parts per million. That means that the EPA allows a higher amount of chlorine in your potable water than what is recommended for a swimming pool. (In our area, the quality report says we have 1 1/2 ppm of chlorine, which is 1/2 ppm below the recommendation for a swimming pool.) To remove the chlorine from your drinking water, carbon filters in the refrigerator or Brita filters attached to faucets will do a good job as long as they are replaced regularly.
Next are secondary substances like iron, manganese, pH, zinc, hardness, and alkalinity. Although they are measured in the report, they are substances that are not regulated by the EPA. If there is not an MCL listed for these secondary standards, they do not have to fall within a certain criteria. It’s left to the homeowner to deal with these substances if they wish. Although we are able to provide a comprehensive water test that shows all the items that would be found on a water report, we usually test for secondary substances when we go to someone’s home. The municipality/community water system is already regulated to make sure the primary regulations are already met. However, if homeowners want a second option, we can get an independent laboratory to produce a full report.
If you have any questions about interpreting your water utility’s drinking water quality report, or you want to find out how to take corrective action to remove these substances from your water, reach out to the team at Wisler Plumbing and Air today. or give us a call at 540-483-9382.