One of the freedoms we enjoy in America is having access to clean and safe water. Legislation, such as the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Clean Water Act, claims our water is monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
However, even with these protections in place, millions of Americans drink potentially unsafe water every year.
According to The Guardian, “Millions of people continue to face serious water quality problems because of contamination, deteriorating infrastructure, and inadequate treatment at water plants.” Multiple studies have found public water systems put Americans in jeopardy.
While we are all familiar with major water crises like the one in Flint, Michigan, many Americans do not realize that their water may be contaminated until they receive a “boil water advisory.”
Unfortunately, this happens all too often, which is why we must take proactive steps to protect ourselves today.
PFAS, Arsenic, and Lead in Our Water
Some of the most common contaminants found in water are the toxic “forever” chemicals PFAS and PFOS (found in fire extinguisher foam), arsenic, and lead.
A nine-month investigation by the Guardian and Consumer Reports found alarming levels of all of these chemicals in samples taken across the US. Here is a summary of what they found (see a more complete report here).
- More than 35% of the samples had PFAS at levels above CR’s recommended maximum.
- About 8% of samples had arsenic, at levels above CR’s recommended maximum.
- In total, 118 out of 120 samples had detectable levels of lead.
Outside of their investigation, there are numerous other reports of similar findings, especially regarding PFAS and PFOS.
As just a couple of many examples:
- The city of Airway Heights, Washington, is currently seeking funding to replace its water source, which has been contaminated by these chemicals.
- Dover City Schools in New York is currently under a “Do Not Drink” water advisory after tests in February found potentially toxic concentrations of PFOA and PFOS.
To find out which chemicals are in your drinking water, visit the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Tap Water Database.
Natural and Man-Made Water Disasters
Where do contaminations like the ones in Flint, Airway Heights, and Dover come from? Typically they’re either man made or the result of environmental disasters.
Man-Made Contaminations - The Center for Disease Control and Prevention provides this list of the most common man-made causes of water contamination:
- Naturally occurring chemicals and minerals (for example, arsenic, radon, and uranium)
- Chemical spills
- Local land-use practices (fertilizers, pesticides, livestock, concentrated animal feeding operations)
- Manufacturing processes
- Sewer overflows
- Malfunctioning wastewater treatment systems (for example, nearby septic systems)
- Pet waste (for example, dog poop not being scooped)
Disaster Contaminations - Even with protections in place, disasters occur that affect our water. For instance, the storms in Texas this winter left millions without safe drinking water. 8.8 million people remained under boil water advisories days and even weeks after the storm passed.
Plus, anytime a community suffers from flooding, hurricanes, or earthquakes, their water is at risk.
The EPA explains, “Natural disasters such as floods, drought, hurricanes, winter storms, and earthquakes can disrupt access to clean drinking water. These events can result in any number of types of water service disruptions including pipe breaks and leaks; power outages; infrastructure failure; reduced water quality; loss of access to facilities and supplies; as well as financial, social, environmental and health consequences.”
Hacking Our Water Supply
Sadly, natural and man-made disasters are not the only cause for concern. Recently, there have been incidents where ill-intentioned hackers tried to poison public water systems.
As recently as February 2021, a computer hacker gained access to the computer system for the public water supply in Pinellas County, Florida.
CBS News correspondent Jeff Pegues explained, “The hacker was controlling the computer system's mouse — opening various functions on the screen and changing the sodium hydroxide in the water supply from about 100 parts per million to more than 11,100 parts per million.” Sodium hydroxide is also known as lye, which is found in drain cleaners.
Why Water Contamination is a Serious Issue
We need water every single day, but contaminated water is more harmful than helpful. When people unknowingly drink unsafe water for extended periods of time, they put their health at risk.
For example, the forever chemicals PFAS have been linked to learning delays, cancer, and other serious health issues. Contaminants, such as E. Coli, can cause severe diarrhea and even death.
How to Tell If Your Water is Unsafe to Drink
When it comes to determining if your water is safe to drink, trust your senses. If it has a weird smell or looks funny, don’t drink it!
Here are some other signs that your water may be contaminated:
- Cloudy water
- Difficulty getting clothes cleaned while washing them, forcing you to use more detergent
- Weird feel on the skin after bathing
- Dirty, colored water (such as yellow, brown, or orange)
- Green or blue-tinted water
- Strong smell (bleach may mean too much chlorine, rotten eggs could mean hydrogen sulfide, and fish could mean barium or cadmium)
- A metallic taste
Unfortunately, many contaminants are not detected using our senses. This is why it is imperative to take heed of your local water system’s warnings.
Instead of waiting for signs of contamination, you can purchase a home water testing kit.
Or, you can do a simple DIY water quality test using basic soap, such as Castille. Simply fill a clean, empty water bottle with tap water and add a few drops of basic soap (free of dyes, perfumes, or deodorants) and shake the bottle. If there are not many bubbles and the water is cloudy, it is contaminated.
Where to Find Water You Can Trust
If you face a disaster, it is critical to find clean drinking water. Fortunately, there are a number of ways you can purify drinking water, such as by boiling or germicidal tablets. Learn more in 5 Ways to Purify Drinking Water in the Event of an Emergency.
But, as you’ve seen today, it’s not just disasters that we need to worry about. There is a very real possibility that the water coming out of our faucet could become unsafe. Rather than hoping for the best and waiting for a boil water advisory, invest in an Alexapure Pro Water Filter System.
The Alexapure Pro is our most powerful gravity-propelled water filtration system. It reduces up to 99.9999% of 206 contaminants, targeting heavy metals, lead, fluoride, chlorine, viruses, bacteria, pesticides & pharmaceuticals.
In addition to the stand-alone models, we also offer Alexapure Home Under Counter Water Filtration System so you can enjoy clean, safe water straight from the tap.
Invest in water safety today, friends.
Preparedness Advisor, My Patriot Supply