What to Drink?

By now you have read or heard about the problems that occurred in Flint, Michigan and the drinking water supply. But for the city and its inhabitants, the tap water is still undrinkable 3 years later. Residents don’t want to pay for contaminated water that they Resized_20160826_120201can’t use,and corrective additives that would prevent more lead from leaching into the water are not getting to the pipes because no one is turning on their faucets.

So, how safe is your water?First, you have to know where your drinking water comes from: a public water system or private well.

Congress enacted the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) in 1974 and amended and reauthorized it in 1986 and 1996. This is the main federal law that ensures the quality of Americans’ drinking water and authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set standards to protect against health effects from exposure to naturally-occurring and man-made contaminants. Municipalities are required to test water quality weekly and sometimes daily. Your water company/utility sends out a report card annually called “Consumer Confidence Report” detailing contaminants that have been detected, at what level, potential health effects, and how the issue is being corrected. If this does not sound familiar you can request a new copy anytime.
This doesn’t apply to well water.About 15 percent of Americans have their own sources of drinking water, such as wells, cisterns, and springs. Unlike public drinking water systems serving many people, they do not have experts regularly checking for quality and safety.In addition to natural contaminants, ground water is often polluted by human activities such as  improper use of fertilizers, animal manures, herbicides, insecticides, and pesticides.
Other sources of ground water pollution:
  •  Improperly built or poorly located and/or maintained septic systems for household wastewater
  •  Leaking or abandoned underground storage tanks and piping
  •  Storm-water drains that discharge chemicals to ground water
  •  Improper disposal or storage of wastes
  • Chemical spills at local industrial plants

Most U.S. ground water is safe for human use. However, ground water contamination has been found in all 50 states, so well owners have reason to be vigilant in protecting their water supplies. Well owners need to be aware of potential health problems. They need to test their water regularly and maintain their wells to safeguard their families’ drinking water.Many municipalities in Florida ban fertilizer use for lawns and ornamental gardens during the heavy rain season from June 1- September 30 because of runoff into the watersheds and ground water.

The Food and Drug Administration(FDA) regulates bottled water safety. Current Good Manufacturing Practices specifically for bottled water have been established.

They require bottled water producers to:

  • Process, bottle, hold and transport bottled water under sanitary conditions;
  • Protect water sources from bacteria, chemicals and other contaminants;
  • Use quality control processes to ensure the bacteriological and chemical safety of the water;
  • Sample and test both source water and the final product for contaminants.

FDA monitors and inspects bottled water products and processing plants under its food safety program. When FDA inspects plants, the Agency verifies that the plant’s product water and operational water supply are obtained from an approved source; inspects washing and sanitizing procedures; inspects bottling operations; and determines whether the companies analyze their source water and product water for contaminants.

What can you do to protect your access to safe drinking water?

  • Inspect your pipes. Homes built prior to 1986 were allowed to have lead pipes.
  • Consider a filter. So many options are available today: pitcher, faucet, counter mount or under-sink units.
  • Conserve. Fix leaks, run full loads in dishwasher and clothes washer; save cooking water to use as a base for soups and sauces; switch to showers; schedule your sprinkler or choose native plants that thrive on less water instead.
  • Take out the garbage. Hazardous waste like expired medications, paint or other chemicals should never be flushed or poured down a drain. Take advantage of special waste collection days and drug disposal programs in your community.


About nadineandadamblog

Nadine and Adam are mother and son. Nadine lives in Florida where she has provided outpatient MNT in a large healthsystem for the past 20 years. In addition, she teaches nutrition to second and third year family medicine residents. She is a past-spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Adam lives in Washington State. His career has largely been involved in recipe development and food production. He is currently developing recipes and menus for the Seattle schools to meet the new federal guidelines for school nutrition programs and he does outpatient nutrition counseling. He is also a voice in PSAs over Seattle radio representing the Washington Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
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