Data­base shows con­tam­i­nants de­tected in pub­lic wa­ter sys­tems

Maryland Independent - - News - By DANDAN ZOU dzou@somd­news.com Twitter: @Dan­danEn­tNews

Res­i­dents can now see the qual­ity of their wa­ter on­line sim­ply by en­ter­ing a ZIP code.

A tap wa­ter data­base re­leased by the En­vi­ron­men­tal Work­ing Group last week showed con­tam­i­nants ex­ist in al­most all pub­lic wa­ter sys­tems na­tion­wide.

The Lex­ing­ton Park area, for ex­am­ple, has one cancer-caus­ing con­tam­i­nant, to­tal tri­halomethanes, de­tected above the health guide­line. The level of TTHMs in Lex­ing­ton Park’s wa­ter is be­low the le­gal limit and also state and na­tional av­er­ages.

Dif­fer­ent from the le­gal lim­its set by reg­u­la­tory agen­cies, most of the health guide­lines used in the data­base are de­fined by the state of Cal­i­for­nia’s of­fice of en­vi­ron­men­tal health haz­ard as­sess­ment.

The rea­son be­hind set­ting a dif­fer­ent stan­dard for mea­sur­ing con­tam­i­nants in wa­ter sys­tems is be­cause the le­gal lim­its set by fed­eral reg­u­la­tions are too weak to be truly health pro­tec­tive, ac­cord­ing to the group. Set by sci­en­tists, the guide­lines sug­gest the lev­els of drink­ing wa­ter con­tam­i­nants that do not pose a sig­nif­i­cant health risk.

“Most util­i­ties are in com­pli­ance with fed­eral laws,” said Sonya Lun­der, a se­nior re­search an­a­lyst with the group. But that is not the whole story.

The an­nual re­port cus­tomers re­ceive from util­i­ties may say they are meet­ing all the stan­dards, but Lun­der said that does not fully an­swer res­i­dents’ ques­tions, such as if the wa­ter is safe and if there are any health risks as­so­ci­ated with the wa­ter.

“Just be­cause your tap wa­ter gets a pass­ing grade from the gov­ern­ment doesn’t al­ways mean it’s safe,” EWG’s Pres­i­dent Ken Cook said in a re­lease. “Amer­i­cans de­serve the fullest pic­ture pos­si­ble of what’s in their tap wa­ter.”

In­stead of ex­am­in­ing the lev­els of pol­lu­tants set by reg­u­la­tory agen­cies that are of­ten the re­sult of po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic com­pro­mises or based on out­dated stud­ies, the non­profit said it’s bet­ter to look at the data­base the group ag­gre­gated based on in­for­ma­tion submitted to state and fed­eral agen­cies by util­ity fa­cil­i­ties who tested the wa­ter.

Wal­dorf has two con­tam­i­nants above the health guide­lines, and seven con­tam­i­nants de­tected.

The town of North Beach in Calvert County has four con­tam­i­nants de­tected above health guide­lines, one of the high­est in South­ern Mary­land. All of the four pol­lu­tants fall un­der le­gal lim­its, na­tional and state lev­els.

Lun­der said in com­par­i­son, North Beach fares bet­ter than some other towns she saw in Mar yland.

With Lex­ing­ton Park hav­ing just one con­tam­i­nant above the health guide­lines, “it is al­most as good as it gets,” she said.

The goal of the project is to make peo­ple aware of what’s in their wa­ter and to push for greater qual­ity and higher pro­tec­tion of peo­ples’ drink­ing wa­ter, she said. Across the board, pu­ri­fy­ing wa­ter at the wa­ter treat­ment fa­cil­i­ties is go­ing to be a lot cheaper than the com­bined cost of res­i­dents’ buy­ing in­di­vid­ual wa­ter fil­ters.

To find out more about tap wa­ter in the area, go to www.ewg.org/tap­wa­ter/state.php?stab=MD#.WYCEgNPyvVo.

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