Have you ever wondered just how contaminated your home water supply really is?
Do you sometimes find yourself smelling something strange coming from the water in your faucet?
Are you worried about the safety of the water you are letting your family drink?
If any of these sound like you, then it’s time for you to learn about the twelve safety measures you can take against drinking water contamination. In this article, you’ll find out everything you need to know about how to determine whether or not your water is safe to drink, as well as how to keep it safe and clean at all times and how to clean it up if it’s already contaminated.
By the time you’ve finished reading this article, you’ll be armed with all the information you need to take care of the water in your home in the best way possible. You’ll be able to speak to your local government and find out about the water quality in your area, and you’ll understand a lot more about what makes water contaminated in the first place. If you find yourself confused about the difference between pollutants and contaminants in water, don’t worry—this article has you covered there too.
There’s a lot to learn about drinking water contamination, but the more you learn about it, the better off and safer you and your whole family will be. Read on to find out more.
Contaminants vs. Pollutants
Before you can learn more about how to tell if your water is contaminated, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the difference between contaminants and pollutants. Although they both might sound like they are exactly the same thing, there is a slight difference between the two, and understanding that difference can make it much easier for you to understand the state your water is in when you start doing some further research. Check out these drinking water contamination facts to learn more.
- Contaminants – are any type of substance, whether it is mineral chemical, physical, biological, or radiological, that may enter into a water supply. There are always some contaminants in water sources, and it is impossible to find any water that does not contain at least some type of contaminant. Just because contaminants are in water does not necessarily mean that that water is dangerous to drink. Many types of contaminants are actually beneficial, and in most instances, even the ones that aren’t can be easily filtered out by home filters or through city or county municipal water treatment facilities.
- Pollutants – on the other hand, are dangerous substances that may enter into water supplies. These may refer to any type of contaminant that has an effect that is less than desirable on the water source and in the world around it. There are some kinds of pollutants that will eventually disappear from the water sources, but most of them continue polluting until human intervention removes them from the water.
- It is important to remember that a pollutant is always a contaminant, but a contaminant is not always a pollutant. Just because there are contaminants in your water supply does not mean it is unsafe to drink. It is always necessary to further examine the type of contaminants present in your water in order to determine whether or not you can drink that water.
- Contaminants are easy to remove from water sources when they are harmless, and they are not always too difficult to remove when they are harmful either. Harmless contaminants should be able to be filtered easily out of your water by utilizing home water filters or by putting in a durable filter at the source of your water supply. If you have a well, you will need to look into options for filtering your well water properly. If you have city or county water, be sure to speak to your water treatment facility and your government officials to determine how the water is being filtered and treated before it reaches your home.
- Pollutants are much harder to remove from water sources. While you may be able to remove the initial cause of the pollution from the water, it may take years to completely remove the pollutants themselves. For example, in the case of oil spills, the leaking oil may eventually be stopped, but the oil that has already entered into the water may not ever be able to be removed. In the case of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the oil that leaked into the ocean was never removed, and now, years later, it is finding its way into wetlands throughout the United States.
Sources of Water Contaminants
There are quite a few different sources of water contaminants, and figuring out which ones might be affecting your drinking water is a good first step toward determining whether or not your water is really safe to drink without some type of intervention on your part. You might not need to be too worried about the potential for some harmless contaminants in your water, but you will definitely need to be on the lookout for harmful contaminants that may lead to pollution and all of the problems associated with it. Check out this list of both harmless and harmful types of sources of drinking water contamination to help you narrow down the possibilities.
- Most physical contaminants in water are harmless. These include sand, dirt, small pieces of rock, and other sediments from nature. They may also include pieces of plant matter or other organic material such as small shells. These are usually naturally occurring from normal soil erosion and, while they should be removed from the water, they do not pose much danger to humans, if any. There are some physical contaminants, such as animal waste, that may be more harmful, but most water treatments and filters can remove these as well. Even simple handheld filters made for hiking are capable of removing these types of contaminants from water.
- Some types of biological contaminants aren’t really harmful to humans, either. There are plenty of “good bacteria” present in water that actually benefit humans and help keep the water cleaner for longer. In fact, one of the potential problems with filtering your water at home is that you run the risk of removing both the good and the bad microbial contamination of drinking water. However, most individuals and families who filter their water are willing to take that risk. These types of bacteria are present in some types of water and less present in others, and it all depends on where your water source comes from if you will experience bacterial contamination of drinking water in your home.
- Chemical contaminants in water sources are almost always harmful. While very low levels of some chemicals may be present in water without causing a problem, most of the time, they are very dangerous for human and animal consumption. Some of these chemicals may occur naturally, but most of them are man-made toxins such as cleaners, medication, pesticides, plastics, metals, and salts. Naturally occurring chemicals that may get into your water include nitrogen and poisonous toxins that come from metal and rock in nature. This is a common example of fracking and drinking water contamination.
- Radiological contaminants in water supplies are also always very dangerous. In areas where radiological contamination is present, water is almost always incredibly polluted. Unfortunately, runoff from nuclear power plants is one of the many factors that may cause water that is contaminated with radiological substances, and this is much more common than you might realize. Plutonium, uranium, and cesium may be present in some water supplies, especially near places where nuclear waste is very common.
Safety Measures Against Contamination
There are twelve excellent safety measures you can take against contamination in your water. They are divided into three different sections: how to tell if your water is safe, how to keep your water safe, and how to clean up your water. Check out the lists below to see which measures you can take to improve the quality of water in your home, your city or county, and even in larger surrounding areas. Be on the lookout for signs of potential trouble in your own water sources as you go through this list.
How to Tell if Your Water is Safe
1. Look at your water.
This may go without saying, but you can actually find out a lot about whether or not your water is contaminated simply by looking at it. Take a sample of water and put it in a clear, clean glass that is free from soap scum. Let it sit for a few minutes and see if you notice anything swirling around inside it. If you think the color of your water is anything other than clear, or if you see a lot of things moving around inside your water, you may have contaminants. This is also a good time to get a good smell of your water and see if you notice anything unusual about it. If your water smells strange, and especially if it smells like gas, contact your water supplier at once.
2. Buy a testing kit.
You can purchase home water testing kits from a number of reputable sources, and you can pick them up locally or order them online. Locally, look for them at hardware stores or get in touch with your local water supplier to see if they are offering any free kits, as some of them do every now and then. Your kit should come with directions on how to safely and properly test your water supply. You should be sure to choose a kit that tests for pH balance as well as for contaminants such as lead, bacteria, ammonia, and more. Do not go with a cheap water testing kit, as these will usually only test the pH levels in your water. You should always be checking the bacterial contamination in drinking water as well as the presence of any toxins.
3. Send a sample to a lab.
If you cannot find a water testing kit that is thorough enough for your needs or if you believe you might not be able to complete the tests on your own correctly, don’t hesitate to send your water off to a laboratory for an official sample testing. There are many labs around the United States that will test your water for any type of contamination, and if you’ve never had your water tested before, this can be a great first step toward ensuring safer drinking water for your whole household.
4. Contact your water supplier.
While this should always be one of your first steps if you believe you have contaminated water, sometimes it can be a difficult one. Water suppliers such as cities and counties should provide the public with information about the quality of their water as long as you ask. However, some of these municipalities are less likely to work with members of the public than others, and you may run into some trouble if you try to ask one of these areas for water quality reports. Be persistent, and don’t be afraid to go to other, higher parts of your local government if you find yourself running into trouble. In most instances, however, you should be able to get a recent water quality report with relative ease.
How to Keep Your Water Safe
5. Always pay attention to the taste of your water.
Every time you take a drink of water from the tap, pay close attention to the flavor of the water. If anything seems off, you might need to test the quality of your water again or get in touch with your local water company and find out what the problem might be. Chances are, something might be contaminating your water, and there is always the risk that it could be something harmful. If you don’t notice anything off about the taste of your water, then things are probably okay. This is a very simple way you can keep track of your water on a daily basis.
6. Never re-boil water.
It’s true that boiling water is a great way to purify it, and in some situations—such as in a drought or when you are out hiking or camping—this may be the only option you have to get clean fresh drinking water. Boiling removes a lot of bacteria and other unwanted contaminants from your water, but boiling it a second time can actually be very dangerous. When you put water back in a kettle or pot to boil again, you run the risk of contaminating it even more with metals and toxins that might be present in the pot or kettle you’re using. If you need to boil water to use it, never boil more than you will use at one time.
7. Do not use harsh chemicals or fuel in your yard.
Using fuels and chemicals in your yard is a potential for very serious consequences. If you happen to spill oil or gasoline in your yard, or if you use too much pesticide or house cleaner, those substances can seep into the ground surrounding your home and may very easily get through to your water pipes. Although this might sound like it’s almost impossible, it’s actually much more common than you might think. You may end up with very contaminated water full of chemicals if you aren’t careful, so it’s often best to stay away from using these products at home whenever possible.
8. Keep your faucets clean.
Do you frequently wipe down the insides of your faucet nozzles? Although you probably wipe off the faucets themselves, the nozzles sometimes go unnoticed for a long period of time. Unfortunately, this can cause chemicals to build up on the nozzle, including salt, calcium, and other potential contaminants. When you run the water out of your faucet, it becomes contaminated with these substances as it passes through the nozzle. These are not usually very harmful substances, but in some instances, they can cause mild digestive and skin irritation in humans and pets both.
How to Clean Up Your Water
9. Buy an under the counter filter.
An under the counter filter attaches to your kitchen or bathroom sink and can be used to filter water that goes directly to that faucet. This is a good option if your water isn’t very badly contaminated, and if you don’t mind using it as-is in other places in your home, such as the laundry room or in the shower. However, most of the time, contaminated water in a home is too much of a problem to rely on a simple under the counter filter alone, and this can be an expensive way to solve the problem.
Once again, if you aren’t too worried about the state of your water throughout your home and you’re only concerned with purifying your drinking water, you can purchase a faucet or refrigerator filter to help be sure you always provide your family with clean water to drink. These filters can either be attached to your faucet using a few simple tools or just placed in your refrigerator pitcher-style. Just run the water through the filter and let it sit for a while, and you will have instantly clean water to drink at any time. It is important to keep up with the maintenance of these filters and change the filter media as often as necessary. This option can be good if you are concerned with bottled water contamination from plastics as well.
11. Install a well filter or whole house filtration system.
If you have city or county water, you have the option of putting in a whole house filtration system that can help keep the water in your home clean and free of contaminants no matter what you use it for. If you have a well on your property, you absolutely should put in a filtration system like this. Be sure to purchase one that is strong enough to handle the amount of water your family uses in a given day, and be sure to have it professionally installed if you feel uncomfortable putting it in on your own.
12. Campaign for safer water.
Last but not least, if you find that the water in your city or county is simply too contaminated for you to deal with, you can always campaign for safer water. This may take a while, and you might feel as though you aren’t making a lot of headway when you first start out, but if you’re very determined you’ll surely find that you and any other interested parties in your community can make a difference if you put forth a lot of effort.
As you can see, understanding the difference between pollutants and contaminants is the first and most important step toward determining whether not there is a problem with your drinking water. It is also crucial to be able to tell the difference between harmful and harmless contaminants, so you know what you need to be worried about and what you don’t have to focus so much on when choosing the right way to handle water contamination in your home. The more you understand about the causes of your water contamination, the better you will be able to handle the situation and provide clean water to your whole household.
Remember the twelve tips outlined above to help you combat the potential for water contamination in your home. Follow these tips in order to determine whether or not you have contaminated water in the first place, and keep them in mind when planning how to clean up your water as well. Of course, you should always be concerned with keeping your water as safe as possible, so practice clean water habits at home whenever you can. And always try to stay away from plastic water bottles, even the reusable kind. Even if your bottle won’t end up in a landfill, it can be a surprising source of contamination you’ve never thought of before.