Just about every day in the news across the US you can find a story about contamination in the local water supply. These stories include reports of Legionnaire’s, a bacteria that is extremely harmful and fatal about 10% of the time, outbreaks of cyanobacteria, or reports of contaminates (like specific toxic pesticides) found in the water. You may be thinking that you have immunity to these water issues, after all, your local water municipality has everything under control, right? Or do they… ?
The water that comes out of your tap is taken from lakes, reservoirs, and ground water. Some of our tap water is sourced from recycled sources. As an example: Las Vegas. One hundred million gallons of raw sewage is treated daily by the Clark County Water Reclamation District. Ninety million gallons of this is released from this water facility back into the “Las Vegas Wash”, which feeds Lake Mead, just outside the city. Yes, when you visit Vegas you theoretically could be drinking water that once resided in a toilet!
So now that you’re grossed out, you may be curious to know: What’s the sanitation process of water that’s drawn from these lakes and reservoirs and then delivered to our homes?
I’m not an artist. At all. But here’s a depiction of water’s journey through a typical water treatment plant:
- Coagulation and Flocculation: Particles of contaminates floating in water have a negative charge. Coagulation through this charge and makes it so the particles begin to clump together. Aluminum salts and ferric (iron) salts are are the water treatment industry’s most commonly used coagulants. Flocculation gently mixes the water and helps increase the size of these particles that are now attracted to each other.
- Sedimentation: Water flows into a sedimentation basin which allows the large particles to settle to the bottom.
- Filtration: The water without particles then goes through a filtration process that uses sand, gravel, and charcoal. This is intended to remove things like dust, parasites, bacteria, viruses, and chemicals.
- Disinfection: Chlorine, chloramine, ozonation, and UV lights are used to attempt to kill any pathogens remaining in the water.
- Water Storage: Water goes from treatment to a water tower or holding tank, which distributes to households in the community.
Although the municipal process of cleaning water may seem extensive, it isn’t sufficient to remove all dangerous contaminates. Here are a few examples:
- Our water infrastructure is literally corroding. As exemplified in the case of Flint, MI, the pipes which distribute clean water are made of lead. With corrosive water, the lead leeches into household water supply. The EPA has estimated that our water system needs over $600 billion of upgrades over the next 20 years.
- A study in the Ann Arbor, Michigan, area discovered that the filters used in the water filtration process were a source for excess bacterial growth.
- A study in the Midwest uncovered several neonicotinoid insecticides which are pesticides used in the fields that had a wide-spread presence in tap water. These are potent neurotoxins that can be very toxic to a person’s nervous system and cause a myriad of health concerns.
- When products like chlorine are added to water systems, they interact with compounds in the water, forming dangerous by-products that aren’t completely filtered out. These toxins haven’t been well-researched, but they have been shown to cause oxidative stress in human cells which could potentially lead to inflammation and cancer.
What’s in Your Municipal Water?
Environmental Working Group is a non-profit organization that easily allows you to check your local water source’s purity — and potential violations to water safety standards. Enter your zip code here: EWG Water Database
Your Water at Home
There are various certified laboratories across the US that can test the water in your house so you are aware of exactly what you are drinking.
What We Use
We use (and love) our Berkey Water Filter. According to EWG, our municipal water report reveals that the arsenic levels in our water are far above EPA standards, so we also use the fluoride/arsenic filters in our Berkey.
As always, we share information like this with you not to induce fear, but to empower you so that you can live your life with resilience!