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What drinking water contamination tests should you order where there may be chemical contaminants present? This article explains the general classes of water contaminants covered in a water test for other chemicals, phthalates, endocrine disruptors, pesticides or pesticide contamination and similar contaminants. The health effects of chemical contaminants in drinking water and drinking water monitoring requirements are also discussed in many US EPA documents (where exposure standards for more than 80 chemical contaminants are specified) as well as various state and municipal documents and water testing guides.
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The list of possible chemical contaminants is long and the number of possible tests so large, and potentially costly, that some research and thinking are needed before you can make an intelligent choice on just which water tests for chemical contaminants are appropriate for a given property.
While water test labs offer package tests that can screen for a wide number of chemical contaminants for a modest fee, (See for example Standard VA FHA, Pesticides , and Title 5- water test parameters and Comprehensive Water Test) none of these tests guarantees that all possible contaminants that could be present have been checked for a specific well.
Readers should also see our longer article Water Quality Testing, and advice for home buyers and building owners: water contaminants, water test procedures, well shock procedures, preventing drinking water contamination, and Cheating on water tests in that document.
Be sure to review the water test alternatives with your water test consultant or lab and with the neighbors of your property - neighbors and local water testing labs often are the most aware of what specific contaminants have been found in nearby wells or in surface and ground water. Below we collect comments and advice about both common and uncommon water contaminants that might be a concern at specific water wells or in other bodies of water such as lakes or streams where contaminants may affect both humans and other animals.
The list of chemical contaminant topics in water (below) is of necessity, incomplete, and we continue to add information to this article. Readers are welcome to Contact Us by email with content suggestions or corrections for this article.
Conflicting Opinions and Difficulty of Research About Chemical Contaminants in Drinking Water
OPINION: One can cite at various reasons why readers will encounter varying opinions about the actual level of risk from various environmental contaminants:
US EPA List of Drinking Water Contaminants
Original Source: http://www.epa.gov/safewater/contaminants/index.html
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Microorganisms in Drinking Water
Radionuclides found in Drinking Water
1 Definitions - US EPA drinking water standards and contaminant levels:
2 Units are in milligrams per liter (mg/L) unless otherwise noted. Milligrams per liter are equivalent to parts per million.
3 EPA's surface water treatment rules require systems using surface water or ground water under the direct influence of surface water to
4 more than 5.0% samples total coliform-positive in a month. (For water systems that collect fewer than 40 routine samples per month, no more than one sample can be total coliform-positive per month.) Every sample that has total coliform must be analyzed for either fecal coliforms or E. coli if two consecutive TC-positive samples, and one is also positive for E.coli fecal coliforms, system has an acute MCL violation.
5 Fecal coliform and E. coli are bacteria whose presence indicates that the water may be contaminated with human or animal wastes. Disease-causing microbes (pathogens) in these wastes can cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches, or other symptoms. These pathogens may pose a special health risk for infants, young children, and people with severely compromised immune systems.
6 Although there is no collective MCLG for this contaminant group, there are individual MCLGs for some of the individual contaminants:
7 The MCL values are the same in the Stage 2 DBPR as they were in the Stage 1 DBPR, but compliance with the MCL is based on different calculations. Under Stage 1, compliance is based on a running annual average (RAA). Under Stage 2, compliance is based on a locational running annual average (LRAA), where the annual average at each sampling location in the distribution system is used to determine compliance with the MCLs. The LRAA requirement will become effective April 1, 2012 for systems on schedule 1, October 1, 2012 for systems on schedule 2, and October 1, 2013 for all remaining systems.
8 Lead and copper are regulated by a Treatment Technique that requires systems to control the corrosiveness of their water. If more than 10% of tap water samples exceed the action level, water systems must take additional steps. For copper, the action level is 1.3 mg/L, and for lead is 0.015 mg/L.
9 Each water system must certify, in writing, to the state (using third-party or manufacturer's certification) that when acrylamide and epichlorohydrin are used in drinking water systems, the combination (or product) of dose and monomer level does not exceed the levels specified, as follows:
National Secondary Drinking Water Regulations (NSDWRs or secondary standards) are non-enforceable guidelines regulating contaminants that may cause cosmetic effects (such as skin or tooth discoloration) or aesthetic effects (such as taste, odor, or color) in drinking water. EPA recommends secondary standards to water systems but does not require systems to comply. However, states may choose to adopt them as enforceable standards.
This list of contaminants which, at the time of publication, are not subject to any proposed or promulgated national primary drinking water regulation (NPDWR), are known or anticipated to occur in public water systems, and may require regulations under SDWA. For more information check out the list, or vist the Drinking Water Contaminant Candidate List (CCL) web site.
[These articles link to the US EPA website]
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Question: reader points out EPA tables don't show data for BPA and other plastics and effects on drinking water
There is a huge amount of information to work through here, but I still can't find whether there is any potential for HDPE water storage tanks to leach BPA into the water. Any simple answers?
Reply: links added
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Technical Reviewers & References
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