The national news coverage of the water crisis in Flint, Michigan has prompted many Central Ohioans to wonder about the safety of their tap water. How do you tell if your tap water is safe to drink?
Check with your water company
The US Environmental Protection Agency requires your water agency to provide you with an annual quality report that details any contaminants that may be present in your municipal water supply. This quality report is called a Consumer Confidence Report – it’s required to be distributed annually but is also available upon request, as well.
Have your water tested by an independent lab
The US Environmental Protection Agency has a Safe Drinking Water Hotline which can connect you with a local water testing agency that can test your tap water. Another good resource to locate a testing lab is by visiting the Water Quality Association’s website. Your municipal water company is also able to recommend local independent water testing labs.
DIY Testing with Testing Kits
You can also test your water yourself using a water test kit available online (amazon.com) or at your local home store. These kits usually come with a package of strips that contain reactants that change color in response to the presence of various contaminants in your water.
When using these kits, there are some things to be aware of:
- They test for a few specific contaminants, not all possible contaminants
- They aren’t very accurate
Here are some common contaminants that can be found in tap water:
Iron: Iron makes your water yellow or orange in color, tastes bitter, and leaves stains on laundry and bathroom fixtures.
Manganese: Manganese makes your water black or purple in color, tastes bitter, and leaves stains on laundry and bathroom fixtures.
Sulfur: If your water smells like rotten eggs, it’s because you have sulfur in your water.
Bacteria (not necessarily harmful): Not all bacteria in water are harmful to your health. But, harmless bacteria may release iron and sulfur into the water system during their lifecycle.
Disease-causing bacteria: The most common disease-causing bacteria found in the water supply is e coli, coliform, and streptococci. Obviously, this type of bacteria is harmful to your health.
Lead: This is the contaminant in the Flint, Michigan water supply. Lead is an extremely dangerous neurotoxin and can cause a host of health issues.