NEWSplash!: What Are The Odds?

What Are the Odds?
by Corinne Upton

Did you know that 23% (Nearly 1 out of every 4) of drinking water tested is actually contaminated?* The most common items detected were coliform, lead, and volatile organic chemicals (VOCs). This is just another very important reason to test your drinking water regularly.

  • The odds of winning the Power Ball Lottery are: 1 in 80,089,128
  • The odds of being struck by lightning are roughly: 1 in 600,000
  • The odds of having contaminated drinking water are: 1 in 4

Coliform bacteria was the most common pollutant found in the water we tested with a failure rate of 17.8%. Coliform is a group of bacteria found in both waste water and surface water that has the potential for disease causing bacteria. Drinking water that is contaminated with coliform may cause gastrointestinal illnesses, fever, and other flu-like symptoms.

Sources of coliform include human or animal fecal matter, surface water (lakes, streams, etc.), and water that contacts soil. Contamination can reach your water supply through a number of ways. There could be a broken or missing well cap, openings which could allow small animals to enter in the well, breaks in underground pipes, malfunctioning septic systems or sewer lines, or poor well construction.

Boiling water is a temporary step if your water is contaminated with coliform. The most commonly installed treatment equipment is an Ultraviolet purifier or a chlorinator. It is recommended that you perform a test for total coliform, fecal coliform and fecal streptococcus to determine the source of the contamination. It is also recommended that you get your well or spring inspected for physical defects.

Lead, another item commonly found in drinking water has a failure rate of 8.2%. Lead is a metal found in natural deposits. It is often used in household plumbing materials or in water service lines used to bring water into your home. Lead can interfere with red blood cell chemistry, delay normal physical and mental development in babies and small children, and increase the blood pressure of some adults. The long-term effects of lead contamination can be devastating and include stroke, kidney disease, and cancer.

Lead may occur in drinking water either by contamination of the source of water used by the water system or by corrosion of lead plumbing or brass fixtures. Corrosion of plumbing is by far the greatest cause for concern.

For individual households, acid neutralizers are the most commonly used method of corrosion control. There are also point-of-use filters or other certified devices that can reduce the amount of lead in your water.

The third most common contamination found was from Volatile Organic Chemicals (VOC’s). VOC’s were detected in 18% of the water we tested. VOCs are man-made compounds that evaporate from water into the air. They present a health risk not only from drinking the water, but also from inhaling during showering. They are commonly used as solvents, fuels, paints, or degreasers. VOCs are cancer-causing or cause damage to the liver, kidneys, nervous system, or circulatory system.

Most people are not aware that many contaminants could be in their drinking water. It is imperative that you test your water regularly to ensure that your health and the health of your family is not compromised.

* Based on samples tested by Suburban Water Testing Labs between July 2001 and June 2002.

Prevention Tip #22:
Repair dripping faucets by replacing washers. If your faucet is dripping at the rate of one drop per second, you can expect to waste 2,700 gallons per year.