Safe Drinking Water

Don Wyeth

Safe Drinking Water

3 mins
May 11, 2021

 Most people assume that the water coming out of the kitchen tap is safe to drink. The Safe Drinking Water Act, passed by Congress in 1974, is designed to “… protect public health by regulating the nation’s public drinking water supply.” epa.gov. But, after the Flint, Michigan water crisis in April 2014, the spotlight has been turned on the question of water purity. “Tens of thousands of Flint residents were exposed to dangerous levels of lead, and outbreaks of Legionnaire disease killed at least 12 people and sickened dozens more.” britannica.com. President Biden, spurred on by these concerns, has included provisions in “…his proposed $2 trillion national infrastructure plan to rebuild failing, aging, and outdated water … systems.”

  The local municipal water treatment plant is the central cog in the machinery for delivering clean, safe drinking water to our homes and businesses. It is important that citizens in our community have a working understanding of what comprises the process of water purification. Armed with this knowledge, casting a vote for a water treatment referendum becomes an informed decision. There are three sequential steps that are taken that guarantee safe, potable drinking water.

  The first stage is filtration. Initially “…[t]he water travels through large filters made of sand, gravel, and charcoal to remove the remaining dissolved particles such as dust, parasites, bacteria, viruses, and chemicals.” mitte.co. In this first step the filter takes away organic compounds by supporting a biofilm which can absorb and metabolize these unwanted contaminants.

  The second component of this process is disinfection. This is accomplished by utilizing a single or combination of methods including “… chlorine, ozone, ultraviolet radiation, carbon and ion exchange, or reverse osmosis to remove microscopic and dissolved particles from the water.” The most common of these is chlorine or chloramine (a combination of chlorine and ammonia). There are also some supplementary treatments that are used to further purify the water. The addition of fluoride which is proported to prevent tooth decay, is one of these methods. Because clean water is so vital, the process of purification is critical and must be monitored on a continuous basis. Our water supply is vulnerable to bacterial outbreaks, natural disasters, poor water delivery infrastructure, and human error.

  Additionally, there are steps that can be taken by the homeowner. The more expensive of these options is the installation of a whole-house or “…point of entry (POE)  water filter.” freshwatersystems.com. This filtration system is installed at the water main as it enters the house. Another less expensive option is the individual sink filter. Utilizing this kind of filtration device can improve the overall taste of your water by removing residual chlorine and pesticides. The home filters that work on the reverse osmosis principle deliver the best results regarding taste. Under-the-sink water filters actually have a better track record than the ones you attach to the water spigot, “…because under-sink filters use water pressure, not gravity, to push water through the filter, their filters can be denser, so they can remove a greater range of potential contaminants.” remodelista.com. 

This article was orginally reported by
Don Wyeth

Passionate and intelligent columnist from Madison, WI.