Experts agree that the U.S. has one of the safest drinking water supplies in the world, but that’s no guarantee that what comes out of your tap is absolutely contaminant-free. What’s more, you can’t see, smell or taste most serious water quality problems. Hydrogen sulfide may give off a rotten smell, algae produces offensive odor and taste, and iron, rust or leaf residues can turn water black, but these are all harmless compared with the more stealthy contaminants that could be lurking in your water.
Here are three simple steps to testing and treating residential water, and ensuring the day-to-day health and safety of your family.
Get information: The EPA has set standards for 80 contaminants, and since 1999 has required all public water suppliers to distribute consumer confidence reports detailing results of testing against these standards. If you haven’t received such a report, contact your water provider. Just keep in mind that this report covers the water’s quality when it left the provider’s facilities, and things may have changed by the time that water runs out of your faucet. If you use a well, call your health department and ask about any past, existing or potential groundwater problems in your area.
Test at the tap: You should periodically test your water through an independent, certified lab. Labs offer a variety of testing packages at prices ranging from $30 to $250, covering concerns including lead, minerals, volatile organic chemicals, pesticides, bacteria and radon. You can also purchase home drinking water test kits for various contaminants. To find a water-testing lab, contact your local health department, call the EPA’s Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791, or visit www.epa.gov/safewater. Also consult with the Water Quality Association for specific tips on troubleshooting drinking water problems in your home.
Find effective treatment: After you know what, if any, contamination exists in your drinking water, buy a water treatment unit to address the problem. There’s a wide range of solutions available, so focus your search by buying from a reputable dealer and watching for a seal of approval by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF), an independent evaluation organization. Also look for a “registered by the EPA” label, keeping in mind that this only means a water treatment device was tested to ensure it doesn’t cause contamination; it doesn’t guarantee that the unit will work well.