Maybe you recall the crisis in Flint, MI where the small town’s drinking water was found to be severely contaminated by lead levels much higher than what is readily acceptable by the EPA and thought about how horrible it was and looked into what’s in your water. Or maybe you chose to live in the realm of naivety thinking what you don’t know, doesn’t hurt you. Either way, the fact remains that lead contamination is a reality for many places in the U.S., not just in Flint.
The crisis in Flint was a nudge for many municipalities and cities across the country to start seriously looking into and implementing lead remediation for city water lines. But, some places still have not gotten around to dealing with this issue yet. We assume our local governments are looking out for us and wouldn’t let us knowingly consume water that was contaminated. However, the burden does not just fall on local government to know these facts and take action, it also requires the part of the homeowner. Many municipalities’ water authority organizations post the latest round of testing information documenting what lead levels are in the water coming out of their facility, but, what causes high levels of lead is corrosion of existing copper and metal pipe. So, if the breakdown of this pipe is occurring in your home, and not in the city water line, these results will not accurately reflect the water you are consuming and the burden will be on you to implement proper remediation by replacing your old, corroded copper and metal pipes with the new, lead-free alternatives. And if you are on well water, then the breakdown can be occurring in your well -- or if lead is in the soil, it can be seeping into your water source that way, too. Pretty scary to think about, isn’t it?
Maybe you think that since you don’t consume tap water from your home and instead purchase bottled water, that you’re safe. However, the reality is that many bottled water sources are coming from municipality tap water. So, maybe the city water lead tests pass the required level (let’s hope), but perhaps the facility where it’s being bottled from hasn’t remediated their old lead pipes and lead soldering yet. This is why it’s important to know the source of the water you are consuming. Companies put the source of the water on the label of the bottle, and it will usually indicate a municipal source in small print, while the front of the bottle may read “purified drinking water” – I don’t know about you, but to me, tap water does not really necessarily equal drinking water. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a resource to many consumers that exposes what exactly is in consumable products, including bottled water, that you can turn to if you’re just not sure.
Water filters can definitely help with these issues, but are really just a band-aid on the larger issue at hand, which is that pipe, valve, and fitting infrastructure needs replaced, yesterday, so that we can help try and eliminate this major health hazard altogether. If you aren’t concerned about your health being affected (a quick google search of the term “lead poisoning” might provide you some insight) by the fact that lead builds up in our bodies from even just the smallest of consistent exposures, then consider the fact that it is extremely detrimental to the health and development of young children, especially under the age of 6.
And unless you spend 100% of your time in your home, we also have to wonder about the restaurants where we order water to drink, or our office buildings, daycares, schools, stadiums, arenas, hospitals, and all other public places where water is consumed. Those are a lot of places that need to seriously start considering if their pipe infrastructure is outdated and corroded, and what they can do to help alleviate the next water crisis so we can avoid a future Flint.