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Drinking water, it should be simple

 Posted by on May 4, 2009
May 042009
 

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Drinking a glass of water. It should be a simple thing. But as we Americans wean ourselves from plastic water bottles and return to the tap, there are a new set of questions that arise.

The main one: How safe is tap water?

There have been problems — lead, arsenic, cadmium, selenium and a variety of unfriendly microorganisms have turned up in city water systems. Last year, an AP investigation found  all sorts of medications (presumably flushed into the system) were persisting in treated water in systems across the country. So we’re all getting a little help with our blood pressure, whether we need it or not.

Many studies have shown that our tap water is mostly, by and large, as safe as a lot of bottled water. Often this is true because bottled water is just plain tap water that may or may not have been run through a separate filtering process that may or may not have included the reverse osmosis process needed to really clean that water.

Some bottled water has a better pedigree than tap, coming from real springs or mountains — but follow the carbon miles from France or wherever — and it becomes a true guilty pleasure. Many carbon emissions are emitted to get it here.

In much of the Western world, environmentally sensitive people are trying to get around the issue by using home filtration systems, either on the fridge or faucet, to cleanse the tap water.

Entrepreneurs are busy developing other options. Right now, we at GreenRightNow are trying out the Ecoloblue Atmospheric Water Generator — a machine that makes filtered water from air. Poof! It’s magic. Well, not quite. The machine uses de-humification technology, similar to the engineering behind that rattly old room dehumidifier that you might have encountered in past decades but very much updated with 21st Century computerization and a sophisticated system of filters. It captures, cleans and stores the water for your drinking pleasure instead of dumping it into a scummy collection tank to be discarded. This water is so pure tasting. It’s crystalline. (See snazzy red machine, right.)

But I digress. We’ll tell you about Ecoloblue later. Today I really wanted to mention this scary story about how a water sanitation supervisor in Fort Gibson, Okla., falsified reports, certifying the purity of the town’s water when he knew it exceeded the levels considered safe for chlorine. The water also exceeded safety standards for “turbidity” or clarity set by the EPA (high turbidity means the water is higher risk for carrying harmful microorganisms).

Fortunately, no one was harmed by this deception. The supervisor pleaded guilty in federal court last week, according to the Environmental News Service. He faces up to five years in prison or a fine of up to $250,000.

So our water is only as good as our water keepers.

By weird coincidence this is National Drinking Water Week. Who knew? Get some of your questions about tap water answered by the EPA. Start with their section on Ground Water and Drinking Water.

You can also read the annual reports about your local drinking water via the EPA website. Really, they do that. Just sign up for their Local Drinking Water Information service.

The EPA info is largely reassuring. But sometimes it only whets our appetite for more. Take this statement: “Over 90 percent of water systems meet EPA’s standards for tap water quality.”

OK…and the other 10 percent? That would be suitable for, say, flushing the toilet?

Copyright © 2009 Green Right Now | Distributed by Noofangle Media