April 19, 2004
Do you prefer to see the
glass as half-full or half-empty?
"An increasing number
of people are served by community water systems that meet all health-based
drinking water standards. In 2002, states reported that 94 percent
of the population served by community water systems were served
by systems that met all health-based standards, up from 79 percent
Half-full: Please note
that there was an improvement of 15% in just nine years, bringing
us to a level where 94% of the population of the United States served
by community water systems has access to water that meets all health-based
Half-empty: As you may
have noticed, as recently as 11 years ago, 21% of the population
of the United States did not have access to a water system that
met all health-based standards; 6% of the population still lack
"On April 7, 2004,
Acting Assistant Administrator Benjamin Grumbles and Regional Administrator
Donald Welsh (Region 3) testified before the Senate Environment
and Public Works Committee on EPA efforts involving lead in drinking
water in Washington, D.C. Welch described Region 3's actions to
help correct current problems. Grumbles explained EPA actions to
review compliance with the 1991 Lead and Copper Rule nationally,
work with states and localities on lead in drinking water at schools
and day-care facilities, and plan workshops and other efforts to
review possible changes to existing guidance and rules."
Where does it come from?
How does it get there? What can we do?
"When the source of
pollution can be found, it is called Point source pollution. Once
the source is identified (e.g. discharge from a sewage treatment
plant), it becomes easier to make improvements. Non-point source
(NPS) pollution, unlike pollution from industrial and sewage treatment
plants, comes from many diffuse sources. The EPA reports that NPS
pollution is a leading cause of water quality problems. Caused by
rainfall or snowmelt moving over and through the ground; the runoff
moves, picks up and carries away natural and human-made pollutants,
finally depositing them into lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters,
and even our underground sources of drinking water.
Excess fertilizers, herbicides, and
insecticides from agriculture and residential areas
Oil, grease, and toxic chemicals
from urban runoff and energy production
Sediment from improperly managed
construction sites, crop and forest lands, and eroding streambanks
Salt from irrigation practices and
acid drainage from abandoned mines
Bacteria and nutrients from livestock,
pet wastes, and faulty septic systems"
(Visit the above site for a free download of their complete educator's
Other pollutants from human
"Developed to promote human health and well being, certain
pharmaceuticals are now attracting attention as a potentially new
class of water pollutants. Such drugs as antibiotics, anti-depressants,
birth control pills, seizure medication, cancer treatments, pain
killers, tranquilizers and cholesterol-lowering compounds have been
detected in varied water sources. Where do they come from? Pharmaceutical
industries, hospitals and other medical facilities are obvious sources,
but households also contribute a significant share. People often
dispose of unused medicines by flushing them down toilets, and human
excreta can contain varied incompletely metabolized medicines. These
drugs can pass intact through conventional sewage treatment facilities,
into waterways, lakes and even aquifers. Further, discarded pharmaceuticals
often end up at dumps and land fills, posing a threat to underlying
groundwater.... Along with pharmaceuticals, personal care products
also are showing up in water. Generally these chemicals are the
active ingredients or preservatives in cosmetics, toiletries or
fragrances. For example, nitro musks, used as a fragrance in many
cosmetics, detergents, toiletries and other personal care products,
have attracted concern because of their persistence and possible
adverse environmental impacts. Some countries have taken action
to ban nitro musks. Also, sun screen agents have been detected in
lakes and fish."
What about where you live?
"Local Drinking Water
Each year by July 1 you should receive in the mail a short report
(consumer confidence report) from your water supplier that tells
where your water comes from and what's in it -- see if your report
is posted on-line or read a fact sheet about these new reports."
Why even bother? Why not
just drink bottled water?
"Sales of bottled
water in this country have exploded in recent years... But bottled
water sold in the United States is not necessarily cleaner or safer
than most tap water, according to a four-year scientific study recently
made public by NRDC [Natural Resources Defense Council]. NRDC's
study included testing of more than 1,000 bottles of 103 brands
of bottled water. While most of the tested waters were found to
be of high quality, some brands were contaminated: about one-third
of the waters tested contained levels of contamination -- including
synthetic organic chemicals, bacteria, and arsenic -- in at least
one sample that exceeded allowable limits under either state or
bottled water industry standards or guidelines.... At the national
level, the Food and Drug Administration is responsible for bottled
water safety, but the FDA's rules completely exempt waters that
are packaged and sold within the same state, which account for between
60 and 70 percent of all bottled water sold in the United States
(roughly one out of five states don't regulate these waters either).
The FDA also exempts carbonated water and seltzer, and fewer than
half of the states require carbonated waters to meet their own bottled
Even if you do not drink
plain water very often: soda, coffee, sports drinks, and many bottled
juices are just a few of the things you may drink that have water
added to them from some source.
Questions of the Week:
Does the water you use meet all health-based standards? How can
you find out? What is the source of the water you drink and use
for cooking? What can you do to help maintain and/or improve the
quality of the water in your home and in your community?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum