There are several ways in which your Sarasota, FL, home’s water can become contaminated. Contaminants have risks associated with them, but there are ways to mitigate those risks. Read on to learn more about the kinds of contaminants that may be present in drinking water and what you can do about them.
Types of Possible Contaminants
Contamination may include agricultural waste, heavy metals, organic chemicals, nitrates, microorganisms, fluoride, and other sources. These contaminants reach the water supply in different ways.
Runoff from local agriculture is a source of potential contaminants when the water from farms is not controlled. Agricultural contaminants include fertilizer, animal feed, animal waste, animal burial, manure, pesticides and field irrigation. These contaminants end up in groundwater from runoff, where they can end up in the water supply.
Heavy metals can leach into the water system from household plumbing, electronics, manufacturers, municipal waste disposal and even natural mineral deposits. This includes arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, selenium, and more. An excess of heavy metals in the body can lead to liver damage, anemia, and cancer.
Organic chemicals found in many household products can end up in your home’s water. These are present in dyes, paints, solvents, pharmaceuticals, and disinfectants. They can also enter the water supply via surface water seepage and groundwater movement.
Nitrates are a component of chemical fertilizers as well as human and animal waste. These chemicals, when ingested, can reduce the blood’s ability to carry oxygen. This is especially dangerous for infants.
Microorganisms, including bacteria, viruses and parasites live everywhere on the planet, including your home’s water at times. These can come from human and animal waste, water runoff, or leakage from underground storage tanks. Private wells are more vulnerable to these microorganisms because they lack the constant oversight found in public water systems.
Excessive fluoride, which is often used to help prevent tooth decay, is sometimes added to residential water systems. Some homeowners add fluoride to private water systems like water from their wells. Consuming too much fluoride can lead to skeletal fluorosis, which presents as pain and tenderness of the bones.
Other sources of contaminants include:
- Radionuclides like uranium and radium
- Waste from medical facilities and institutions including research laboratories
- Waste from storm water pipes and drains
- Runoff from oil and gas production facilities including pipelines
- Runoff from commercial facilities such as airports, boatyards and railroad tracks
Industrial properties such as metal fabrication facilities and machine shops can also result in contamination. These sources are especially notable for heavy metal contamination like lead, copper, and other metals.
How Contaminants Get Into the Water
While municipalities test and treat public water systems, contaminants can get into the water after treatment has occurred. They can get into the source water itself or in the distribution system.
Often, contaminants end up in the water because of a break in the waterline. Where the break occurs, these contaminants may find their way in. Contamination happens when these breaks occur past the point of filtration or treatment.
Human activity can also introduce contaminants into your home’s water supply. For example, activities that involve septic tanks, industrial sewage treatment plants, and landfills are possible culprits.
Most of the homes in the U.S. rely on groundwater for at least part of their water supply. It’s also one of the biggest sources of irrigation water. Groundwater is especially vulnerable to pollutants and contamination.
Man-made products like gas, oil, and chemicals can get into the groundwater. These can wreak havoc on your health.
Rain also picks up dissolved gasses in the air when it falls. This water becomes part of the groundwater and can pick up more minerals and gases in the soil when it passes into the aquifer. From there, it can end up in your home’s water.
Here are just a few sources of groundwater contamination:
- Atmospheric contaminants
- Uncontrolled hazardous waste
- Storage and septic tanks
One of the biggest ways that lead can get into your home’s water is actually from your pipes. In fact, pipes made before 2011 can contain up to 8% lead that comes from the material used to weld or solder the pipes together.
Those with old pipes are most likely to have lead issues, though it is always a good idea to check your water’s purity. Since you cannot see, smell, or taste it in your water, testing is the only sure way to know if your water contains the metal.
Private Water Systems Are Particularly Vulnerable
According to the Southwest Florida Water Management District, there are over 24,000 homes in Charlotte, Manatee and Sarasota counties on private wells. Many homes also have private water systems like cisterns and rainwater collection systems. These private systems are not monitored or treated like public systems are. This lack of testing can lead to significant health risks.
The EPA doesn’t regulate or provide recommendations to private well water systems. According to the CDC, over 15 million U.S. households rely on private wells for drinking water. These private owners are personally responsible for making sure their water is free of contaminants and should obtain regular testing of their water as the purity may change over time.
Rainwater Isn’t as Pure as You Might Think
Many homes utilize rainwater collection systems as a way to conserve resources. This water is often used for bathing or drinking. Don’t assume that collected water is safe to drink.
The risk of rainwater contamination depends on a lot of factors, including the season and how you collect and store the rainwater.
There are several ways that rainwater becomes polluted:
- Dust, smoke and soot from the air before it gets collected
- Dirt, germs, or bird droppings washed in from your roof
- Asbestos, lead, and copper from roofing materials like gutters and pipes
- Bacteria, parasites, viruses and chemicals in the water collection container
Rain barrels do not provide any kind of filtration or treatment. Adding chlorine or iodine won’t remove chemicals, and neither will boiling the water, though both purification methods can help with microorganisms.
Health Risks of a Contaminated Water Supply
Contaminants in water can lead to adverse health effects. This includes gastrointestinal illness, neurological disorders, and reproductive problems. Infants, pregnant women, the elderly, and those with compromised or weak immune systems are especially vulnerable.
Serious diseases and illnesses are rare but may be life-threatening when contaminants are both dangerous and in high concentration. This includes acute and chronic toxicity, liver damage, intestinal damage, kidney damage, and cancer.
Symptoms to watch out for include prolonged vomiting, diarrhea (sometimes bloody), fever, dehydration, or stomach cramps. If you have any concerns about your health, please contact your health care professional for an evaluation.
Mitigating the Risk of Contaminants in Your Water
Ensuring the safety of the water in your home is crucial for your family’s health and well-being. Drinking water needs to be clean and free from contamination. Two ways to address the risk of water contamination include testing your water on a regular basis and getting an in-home filtration system.
One system our professionals may recommend is a reverse osmosis filtration system. Also known as RO systems, these filters work by pushing the water through a special membrane. The contaminants, larger than water molecules, are too big to pass through, resulting in purified water. The captured contaminants are then disposed of through the wastewater system.
We may also recommend an advanced water conditioner system based on a certified, on-site evaluation of the water flowing through your entire home. This system softens the water, reduces mineral build-up, and gives the water a smooth feel.
It’s impossible for the public water system to test for and remove every possible contaminant in the water supply. These molecules can enter your home’s water and present risks and possible health problems. Contact Aqua Plumbing today for a complimentary drinking water analysis for residents in Sarasota, FL. We are fully licensed and stand behind our work with a quality guarantee.
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