Tap Water Testing
Many people are concerned about the quality of their tap water, especially people who are new to an area and are not used to the taste of the water there. Tap water tastes different everywhere, and the difference is usually not a result of one area’s water being more pure than another’s, but rather of the fact that the contaminants they contain are different.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) allows every source of tap water to contain no more than 90 contaminants in low levels that vary, based on the properties of the particular contaminant. This number may sound high, but water companies are now required to do tap water testing and submit annual reports to their customers about the quality of their water; these contaminants are carefully monitored, and it is unanimously agreed that tap water is as safe to drink as bottled water, if not safer.
Nonetheless, many people are not satisfied with EPA standards, and insist that their drinking water is undrinkable. Probably for this reason, the EPA has created a set of secondary standards, which expand tap water testing criteria to include aesthetic properties like taste and odor. Whether or not to adopt the EPA’s secondary standards is up to individual states.
If you are concerned about the water in your area, you can either check out the available information about it at the EPA’s website (www.epa.gov) or you can contact your water company with inquiries. If you are not satisfied with the information you get from these sources, it is possible to have tests done on your tap water in private labs, but doing so can be very expensive.
In fact, it can cost up to $15 for each contaminant that you test for. Considering both the fact that the quality of your tap water could change at any time and the fact that a set of tests proving that a single glass of water is safe to drink could cost you hundreds of dollars, tap water testing is not a realistic way to protect yourself from contaminants.
Simply boiling and filtering your water is much more efficient. This will remove some of the flavors caused by contaminants. If your water tastes heavily of chlorine, simply letting it sit out for a day or two after pouring it from your tap will reduce the amount of chlorine and improve your water’s taste.
If you have your own private water supply from a well or any other means, tap water testing is not done for you by the EPA or any other organization; guaranteeing the safety of your drinking water is your responsibility. You should test at least once a year for bacteria, parasites, and nitrates, and you should test more frequently for organic and non-organic contaminants like pesticides and radon.
Surveys by the EPA indicate that around 90% of water systems provide water that is safe to drink. Water that comes from any company that is regulated by the EPA should not be considered a health risk if you have a healthy immune system. If your immune system is weakened, it is advised that you research the water you are drinking and take extra measures to treat it if your doctor recommends doing so.