You’ve undoubtedly heard horror stories about the crisis in Flint Michigan where the public water supply was contaminated with dangerous levels of lead affecting 10’s of thousands of people for over a year before it was made public. And you’ve likely heard about rural water supplies becoming contaminated due to fracking, so much so that people have insisted they can light their tap water on fire. (F&*ing terrifying).
Many people assume the water they’re consuming from local water agencies or even their own wells is safe, but is that really true?
So the question becomes, do you know what’s in your water supply? And if you were ingesting dangerous chemicals from your drinking water, would you even know?
The only way to really know what exactly is in your water supply is to test it yourself! Fortunately there are relatively inexpensive DIY tests you can do on your homes water supply to make sure it’s safe for you and your family, which I’m going to outline below.
I recently had to replace a large section of old water line in my house due to a breakage in one of the pipes and when I looked at the pipe, the level of rust, corrosion, and sediment in the line was disturbing.
It’s not uncommon for old pipes to be in bad shape, and even though I have a reverse osmosis system installed that I use most of the time, it got me curious about what contaminants I might be consuming in my water supply.
If you live in a city or area on public water, those suppliers have to report to the EPA by law and are required to provide annual reports to their customers but as we saw in the case of Flint, Michigan, sometimes that’s not enough. And with the incoming administration changes with the EPA, who knows how information will be presented to the public. Even if your water supply itself is up to EPA standards from the supplier, it doesn’t necessarily mean that by the time it reaches your tap it hasn’t become contaminated. There’s no way to really test for every contaminant out there but you can test for a broad range of contaminants to give yourself some peace of mind.
I purchased this simple DIY water testing kit on Amazon. There are a ton of different options out there but this one is from First Alert and it costs under $15 and checks for all sorts of contaminants like bacteria, lead, pesticides, etc.
The instructions are pretty self explanatory and require you to take multiple water samples to test for lead and pesticides… as well as nitrates and water acidity (pH).
There is an additional water sample required that tests for bacteria in the water supply. The test requires combining a water sample with an enclosed powder and allowing it to sit for 24 hours. If the sample is purple at the end of the 24 hours, the test is normal. If the sample turns yellow/orange, there is bacteria present in the supply.
Fortunately in my case the test came back well within the normal range, but I plan to test it semi-regularly over the next few years just to make sure it stays that way.
In addition to the DIY testing kit, here are a few other tips on making sure you have safe & healthy drinking water for you and your family.
- Always use a filtration system of some kind – tap mounted filters or even Brita filters remove many contaminants in your water supply, or for a more expensive approach, you can install a reverse osmosis filtration system.
- Call the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1 (800) 426-4791 – to find a local water testing agency
- Search the Environmental Working Group Website – this is a watchdog group that compiles a list of water quality reports searchable by zip code, and water provider.
If you’re still concerned about your water supply, contact your local government office for more information on local water testing agencies.