Filtration methods and alternate sources of water
Despite the fact that the public water supply is heavily regulated by the EPA (see our article covering
the Safe Water Drinking Act
), there are still various risks in ingesting tap water.
Impurities can be present in your water from the materials the pipes are made from (lead, PVC, BPA).
Additionally, the methods used to eliminate contaminants from public water supply are fallible, as are
the standards themselves. We each must decide for ourselves how comfortable we are with their
Disinfecting involves the addition of chemicals like chlorine, rather than the removal of impurities
through filtration. When serving hundreds of thousands of people, for water that is used for more than
just drinking, they can’t really be expected to run it all through a carbon filter. With the low price the
consumer pays for tap water, we have to expect cheaper methods of treatment to be used. This often
means less appealing methods.
There’s more than chlorine, too. The debate is unsettled about whether fluoride is harmful when
ingested, but its been added to the water supply for years for its alleged impact on dental health.
Where to start
Refer to your Consumer Confidence Report. This is required by the EPA for all operators of public
water supply systems, and should be sent to households by July 1
each year. The report should also be
published online. Try a quick search including your locale and the words
“consumer+confidence+report” or “water+quality+report.”
For a more detailed breakdown of the chemicals present in your water, you can order testing kits from a
lab, and then send them a sample.
Because pipes can contaminate water after it has been treated, there is always something to be gained
from testing a sample from the tap. These can pinpoint any specific contaminants that are cause for
What you can do
These are units you install in your water supply line(s). Some of them are designed so you can install
them yourself in a few minutes, while some may require the assistance of a plumber.
Capacity is limited with filtration components: some filters will slow down the flow of water, and all
filters will need to replaced periodically. Consider this when choosing where to install an inline filter
--- you’ll have to replace it more often if you want to filter water to all faucets and fixtures .
is a review of ten state of the art inline filters
Secondary filtering methods
You can buy pitchers and dispensers with a pour through filter. These take a bit of time for the water to
pass through, and require the extra step of filling the container. Like inline filters, the capacity has a
limit and the filters must be periodically replaced.
Filters made by companies like Berkey
treat for 200+ contaminants
(compared to the ~90
contaminants the EPA regulates in tap water). The Berkey is a large cylinder that takes up quite a bit of
counter space. For a similar but smaller device you can put in your fridge, try Brita or similar brands.
Other sources of water
Bottled water is a regulated not by the EPA, but by the FDA. The FDA has supposedly loosely adopted
the EPA’s list of contaminants and their maximum contamination level, but this only means that bottled
water is not necessarily any safer than tap water. While you don’t have to worry about contamination
from supply pipes, there is risk of contamination from the bottle itself.
Some brands may have more stringent standards than tap water, though --- as a consumer product,
quality is, to some degree, their prerogative. They can afford more stringent purification, after all, with
the overhead the consumer pays for bottled water. As you’ve surely noticed, some brands definitely
taste better others and better than tap water.
Of course, being more expensive or better tasting does not make them safer, necessarily. We advise
doing the research on one brand you like, and then deciding if you trust what they’re saying about their
product. Your brand should have some sort of description of their purification process on their web site
or on a phone number listed on the bottle. If they can’t even provide that, are they worth trusting at all?
When considering bottled water, don’t overlook the refill stations that can be found at some grocery
stores. The taste of these is usually good (at least, in our experience) and the price is usually
reasonable. You’ll be re-using containers, so you can get some that you feel are safe (IE free of BPA)
and get your water from one trusted source whenever you get groceries
You can find spring water locally, as well. We’d say drink at your own risk...but that applies to pretty
much all water. The difference here is that this is untreated ground water. But who knows, maybe that
makes it safer. There are two locations around we know of:
This is described as an artesian water well that draws from an underground aquifer.
and Wastewater has provided the well as a courtesy, and its water is untreated. Click
for the info
This one is east of Monroe. The location is listed by findaspring.com, which you can navigate to by