Database shows contaminants detected in public water systems
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of pollutants set by regulatory agencies that are often the result of political and economic compromises or based on outdated studies, the nonprofit said it’s better to look at the database the group aggregated based on information submitted to state and federal agencies by utility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.