A recent article in the New York Times reported that one in four Americans are drinking water that fails to meet the EPA water safety standards as are listed in the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). The headline in the story draws a serious conclusion: “America’s Tap Water: Too Much Contamination, Not Enough Reporting Study Finds.” This begs the question, “Is tap water really safe?”
Quoted directly from the news story, “In 2015, nearly 77 million Americans lived in places where the water systems were in some violation of safety regulations, including the 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act, according to the report that was released on Tuesday from the Natural Resources Defense Council, a New York-based environmental advocacy group. It’s not only that some tap water has high levels of lead, nitrates, arsenic or other pollutants, said Mae Wu, a senior attorney with the council’s health program. It is that too often, a lack of reporting means residents cannot be sure whether their drinking water is contaminated or not. The issue is not new; tap water safety violations across the United States have been reported again and again and again. The new study is an attempt to tell the big-picture story, Ms. Wu said, as a backdrop to the piecemeal reports coming out of towns and cities across the country.”
Further on in the news article, the report, which relied on data collected by the E.P.A. itself, is included in a list of 12 states with the most water safety violations based on population; it is topped by Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. That does not, however, release other states from responsibility since even water municipalities with few safety violations still have problems with the water delivery system itself! Very little is being done in the way of monitoring the safety of the water at the water faucet.
While the contamination problems related to the nations water supply have previously been reported on numerous times, for most people these warnings seem to fall on deaf ears. While more people buy bottled water than ever before, many are doing so for reasons other than safety, including taste or portable convenience.
One of the most obvious problems with getting safe water from its source to your home is the chemical make-up of the material used to make the aqueducts and pipes. Materials used in decades past (lead, copper etc.) pose serious health dangers. They have largely been replaced with PVC, PEX and various other types of plastic…many of which add undesirable tastes, odors and health risks. Color itself is a contaminant!
Another important aspect of the water contamination issue that is often overlooked is the fact that our water reaches our homes through miles and miles of out dated infrastructure…more simply aqueducts and pipes. To really understand the seriousness of this problem, one needs to look back at the history of water treatment.
Some of you, myself included, can remember when your family first enjoyed running water in your home. I can well remember the deep ditches that ran across our farmyard from our windmill to our house. These ditches were several feet deep. In order to keep the water from freezing in the winter time, the pipes that delivered the water had to be placed below the freeze line. That only made good sense. This same practice was followed all over the country, in cities as well as in the rural areas.
What happened shortly after is the cause of many of the water problems now being experienced due to our infrastructure. Once homes and other buildings were plumbed to get water into them for all its various uses, they then had to be plumbed to get the used water out. This included the grey water resulting from laundry and bathing, as well as the waste water from newly installed indoor toilets. In most cases, the wastewater was not as easily frozen in the winter, so for convenience and unnecessary disruption of the surrounding landscape, the same ditches that initially delivered the fresh water could be reopened to lay the wastewater lines directly above the water delivery lines at least for part of the waste removal! It turns out that this was not a very good idea. Here’s why.
Decaying infrastructure caused water delivery lines and wastewater removal lines to develop leaks and breaks. Naturally the older lines will usually be the first to develop these problems. We are often notified of this via the media, maybe even experienced this personally. This wastage is an economic loss as well as an inconvenience for many. This can be a very serious and expensive problem in areas like Chicago, New York City and various other large cities, where a large percentage of water (up to 40%) reportedly does not make it to its destination!
As these aging waste water lines develop leaks over time, gravity causes waste from the waste water lines to go DOWN. If there are any holes in the water delivery lines below…we have the real probability of cross-contamination…that is wastewater seeping in to breaks in the “good” water lines below! The wastewater is usually contaminated with bacteria, viruses and many other undesirable biological and chemical impurities. This can be a real big problem and one not so easily solved. This means time and money.
What is the answer? People need to assume the safety of their water as a personal responsibility. Don’t wait for the government to have a quick solution. Here is where having your own water treatment equipment comes into play. A home water distiller for your consumptive water, and softeners and activated carbon filters for utility water. While a laboratory water test is useful in solving hardness and pH problems, it is really of very little use when it comes to a complete test for the safety of drinking water. There are simply too many possible contaminants to be concerned about. In an event, a water distiller is your best bet. A water distillation system that includes activated carbon filtration will produce water that is virtually 99.9% pure fresh and great tasting drinking water – way better than bottled water. Even one contaminant in your water is one too many! Drink vapor distilled water, the best and safest drinking water on Earth.
By Eldon Meuhling (Dr. Water)