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Is Tap Water Safe to Drink?

You’ve seen it all over the news in this past decade: tap water isn’t safe to drink in some areas of the United States. Flint, Michigan, comes to mind, for example, though the quality of their water has improved greatly since the crisis in 2014. So, what’s the bottom line? Is tap water safe to drink?

The answer? Yes (when tested and/or provided by water utility companies)! In fact, the Mayo Clinic reports that tap water and bottled water are comparable in terms of safety. So the choice of tap or bottled water is mostly a matter of personal preference.

Regulations Surrounding Tap Water

Why is tap water safe? It’s due to EPA mandates. The EPA mandates that water utilities provide annual quality reports to customers. These reports provide information, such as source (river, lake, aquifer or other source), contaminant levels and potential health effects.

However, the EPA doesn't regulate private wells. If your tap water comes from a private well, you should test your water every year for contaminants.

Dangers of Tap Water

These regulations were put in place to inform and protect the public about some of the hidden dangers in drinking contaminated water. There are certain chemicals and minerals, such as lead, that can get into the water supply and are unhealthy to consume above certain levels. The annual reports will mention all of the levels of unsafe contaminants and will provide consumers with prompt updates if anything changes.

If you’re worried about your tap water, contact your local water provider or specialist.

So, your tap water (when tested regularly and provided by a utility company), is safe. However, it may still come with an unsavory taste or color that you don’t like. There are things you can do about that!

In-Home Water Filtration Systems

In-home water filtration systems and bottled water are about the same in terms of safety and cleanliness, but filters do provide better tasting and smelling water! There are four main types:

  • Activated carbon

  • Ion exchange units

  • Reverse osmosis units

  • Distillation units

Activated Carbon Filters

Activated carbon water filters are probably the most familiar filtration products on the market. They’re normally found in pitchers that you can fill up and stick in your fridge.

Every pitcher requires an activated carbon filter cartridge. Those tiny granules of carbon work to adsorb certain contaminants in the water such as chlorine.

Most carbon filters do not remove lead or other heavy metals from drinking water.

Only special activated carbon filters can handle those contaminants. Across the board, carbon is ineffective against:

  • Arsenic

  • Fluoride

  • Microbes

  • Nitrate

  • Sodium

Ion Exchange Units

Ion exchange replaces unwanted minerals in water with less questionable ones. Typically, the exchange material is prepared by exposing the beads to a salt solution. As untreated water passes through the device, the undesired ions are exchanged for ions on the exchange material.

The two types of ion exchange units are water softeners and anion exchange devices. Water softeners remove cations and replace them with sodium. Anion exchange devices remove anions such as arsenic and nitrate and replace them with chloride

They require regular maintenance and are not that efficient as they need monthly refills of salt and brine removal. It is also crucial to monitor your treated water to verify that the unit is working properly. Home test kits are available to estimate nitrate and sulfate concentrations. If testing shows that contaminant concentrations exceed an acceptable level, regenerate the unit.

Reverse Osmosis

Reverse Osmosis is a popular water filtration method because it can be used to filter your whole home, or a specific sink. It removes contaminants from your water by forcing the water through a membrane. That semi-permeable membrane only allows clean water through.

Reverse Osmosis can remove:

  • Fluoride

  • Chlorine

  • Chloramine

  • Lead

  • Detergents

  • Pesticides

  • Nitrates

  • Sulfates

One huge positive for reverse osmosis is that it can filter water for your whole house, or just one sink. At the end of the process, your family can enjoy clean water without any worry.

Distillation Units

Distillation mimics the natural water cycle to produce clean water. The process is simple: the contaminated water is heated in a large tank to form steam. The contaminants have a different boiling point than water, therefore they do not evaporate with it. The steam is pure water, which is caught and condensed into pure water.

Distillation is highly effective and can remove all of the following:

  • Bacteria

  • Viruses

  • Pesticides

  • Lead

  • Arsenic

  • Nitrates

  • Chlorine

  • Salt

  • Uranium

The water produced through distillation is extremely clean and pure compared to traditional tap water. Unfortunately, distillation is extremely inefficient. One unit can only produce between 3-11 gallons of clean water per day. Because of this, it can’t be used for a whole home and may not even be enough for one kitchen faucet.

If you’re interested in efficient and affordable water filtration, give us a call at the BC Team. We’re ready to help find and install the best unit for your household.

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