Q: How can I find out if my tap water is safe?
A: Because of water's different sources and the different ways in which water is treated, the taste and quality of drinking water varies from place to place. Over 90 percent of water systems meet EPA's standards for tap water quality.
The best source of specific information about your drinking water is your water supplier. (We will talk about private wells in another post). Water suppliers that serve the same people year-round are required to send their customers an annual water quality report (sometimes called a consumer confidence report). Contact your water supplier to get a copy or see if your report is posted on-line.
Q. How will I know if my water isn't safe to drink?
A: Your water supplier must notify you by newspaper, mail, radio, TV, or hand-delivery if your water doesn't meet EPA or state standards or if there is a waterborne disease emergency. The notice will describe any precautions you need to take, such as boiling your water.
Follow the advice of your water supplier if you ever receive such a notice. The most common drinking water emergency is contamination by disease-causing germs. Boiling your water for one minute will kill these germs. You can also use common household bleach or iodine to disinfect your drinking water at home in an emergency, such as a flood.
See EPA's emergency disinfection fact sheet for specific directions on how to disinfect your drinking water in an emergency.
Q. Who's at risk?
A: Even minor levels of water contaminants can pose a health threat to those with severely compromised autoimmune systems. These include the following:
* People undergoing chemo-therapy
* People who have had organ transplants
* People with HIV/AIDS
* The elderly
* People with other auto-immune disorders
It’s important that people in these categories consult with and obtain guidance from a medical professional familiar with their particular condition and then pay special attention to water quality.
Q. What are drinking water quality reports?
A. Water suppliers must deliver to their customers annual drinking water quality reports (or consumer confidence reports). These reports will tell consumers what contaminants have been detected in their drinking water, how these detection levels compare to drinking water standards, and where their water comes from.
The reports must be provided annually before July 1, and, in most cases, are mailed directly to customers' homes.
Contact your water supplier to get a copy of your report, or see if your report is posted on-line.
Q. How can I get my water tested?
A: If your home is served by a water system, get a copy of your annual water quality report before you test your water. This report will tell you what contaminants have been found in your drinking water and at what level.
After you've read this report, you may wish to test for specific contaminants (such as lead) that can vary from house to house, or any other contaminant you're concerned about. You may call your state certification officer to get a list of certified laboratories in your state. Depending on how many contaminants you test for, a water test can cost from $15 to hundreds of dollars.