Common Contaminants Found in Drinking Water
Your drinking water is safe, right? Most people want to believe that it is, but there are a lot of contaminants that you might find in water, and some of them can be pretty dangerous for someone who drinks the water if a water treatment plant doesn’t have the right equipment or techniques to remove these contaminants before the water gets to your home. Public water systems are not all the same—some are privately owned, some are not—but they all have the same goal of getting safe water to customers.
Why Water Source Matters
Some water systems rely on groundwater, while other systems get their water from ground sources. Generally smaller water treatment systems come from ground sources, which service about one-third of the U.S. population. It’s pumped from wells that are anywhere from 50 to over 1,000 feet deep. The agency in charge of determining what treatments are necessary is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and they work to ensure that any contaminants are excluded. Groundwater systems are less susceptible to some of the contaminants that surface water might encounter, from things like wet weather runoff and atmosphere.
Balancing Natural and Artificial Contaminants
Water treatment is one of the most important health advances in modern times, and the number of deaths or sickness from contaminated water. Unfortunately there are still some risks, since the chemicals used to disinfect the water carries its own potential risks if they react with naturally-occurring minerals or things in the water. Water treatment plants, then, must balance risks from potential pathogens and disinfection tools and products.
Common Contaminants Filtered Out
Contaminants are broken down into several classes, which include:
The community water systems are responsible for monitoring water to exclude more than 80 different contaminants within these categories. The two most important are microbiologicals and nitrate because these things can cause immediate and acute public health problems. There are some items that have a maximum contaminant level (MCLG) of zero—things like cryptosporidium or giardia lamblia that can have significant negative health effects if ingested—while other items have been shown to have a safe level of exposure—including byproducts of drinking water disinfection, such as chlorite.
Creating Safe Drinking Water
Ensuring that public health systems have safe water for their consumer starts with having the right tools for monitoring and addressing any contaminants that are found, and implementing a “train” of treatment processes that provide the most effective elimination of any contaminants in the water.