A Texas town is facing a serious health crisis as black contaminated water is pouring out of the town’s residents’ faucets, according to an Fox News article written last night. This comes on the heals of a serious political scandal as the town’s “mayor, city manager, mayor pro tempore, a city councilman and a former councilman were arrested earlier this week.” Not only have the residents been left with little to no government representatives, they also have “no water to drink.” Concerned citizens have banned together and are donating bottled water to the town until the municipal water is safe.
According to Fox News, “Joel Barajas – the only City Council member not facing criminal charges – told the San Antonio Express-News that he was grateful to residents elsewhere in the region who donated water. The city has blamed the water problem on dirt and mud build up in a water tank that was flushed, the newspaper reported.”
Despite the water bottle donations, the town’s residents are not happy. “We didn’t get a warning” one resident said, “We didn’t get a warning that this was going to happen.”
The Laredo office of the Texas Commission on Environmental is investigating the reports of black water and a water department employee said residents should boil water before using it.
While the people of this Texas town have real signs that they should be worried about their water, your water doesn’t have to be completely black to be unsafe. As we know, the people of Flint (and many other towns) have been dealing with a serious health crisis as unsafe levels of lead were found in the drinking water. This was exceptionally scary because heavy metals like lead, and contaminants like E. coli or Giardia do not change the look or taste of your water. That means that you can’t tell if your water is contaminated by taste or look alone.
So how can we be sure that our water is safe?
“This is reminder to all of us,” says Fresh Water Systems Water Quality Specialist Geoff Dethloff, “that even if we have a municipal water source, we are not immune to having contaminants in our water.” Dethloff goes onto explain that while black water is not a common problem, we should be aware of what could potentially be contaminating out water. Fresh Water Systems offers a number of water quality tests that you can do quickly and easily. There are at-home test kits and lab send-in test kits depending on what you prefer.
“If you are concerned about bacteria or particulate matter,” says Dethloff, “you should look into getting a UV system [for the bacteria], and a filter [for the dirt.” Fresh Water Systems offers the Viqua IHS UV system, which filters our sediment and also disinfects your water.
If you have any questions, please call us at (866) 986-8895. One of our certified water quality specialists will be happy to assist you.
Last summer, areas in the Midwest, including Iowa and Minnesota, experienced drought conditions. Now, with the return of rainfall, nitrates are entering the water system through run-off into surface water. Nitrates are difficult to filter out of water, and if not caught, they can cause serious health problems.
What are nitrates?
Nitrates occur naturally through a combination of nitrogen and oxygen. In low levels, they are completely harmless. Water sources can often have trace amounts of nitrates. Excessive amounts can occur through pesticide or fertilizer use, a leaking septic system, or sewage run-off.
In times of higher than usual rainfall, water run-off can carry nitrates into the water system. Private wells in agricultural areas are particularly susceptible to becoming contaminated with nitrates. A recent example, can be found in Rock County, Wisconsin. This year, nearly 50% of wells tested throughout the county had unsafe levels of nitrates. Some cities even had wells with 80% greater than the allowed amount.
Why are nitrates dangerous?
High levels of nitrates ingested through drinking water or water used in cooking can inhibit the flow of oxygen in the blood stream causing shortness of breath and possible death. Both the EPA and the CDC warn that babies and pregnant women are particularly susceptible to the harmful effects of high nitrates. These high levels can also cause “blue baby syndrome.”
Other recent studies, discussed in this article from the Miami Herald, have come out showing that nitrates in tap water have been linked with birth defects including spina bifida and missing limbs.
How do I know if nitrates are in my water?
Recently, the results for the government’s American Housing Survey came out. Along with measurements of number of occupants in a home and how many vehicles most families own, this survey also found that nearly 1 in 12 homes have unsafe drinking water. The contaminants listed was not specific, but you may be in one of these homes. Nitrates make some of these homes unsafe.
The only way to know if you have nitrates in your water is to test your water. Because of the rising levels of nitrates in certain areas, some local health departments offer well well water testing kits for a reduced price. Here are some locations that offer or have offered free nitrate testing:
Minnesota (also here)
If your area does not offer this service, Fresh Water Systems offers several options for testing your water, either from a well or from the tap, at home or sending it to a lab.
How can nitrates be removed from tap water?
Once the level of nitrates has been confirmed, there are a few options for reducing the contaminant level. The CDC and the Water Quality Association both recommend a final barrier treatment. (A final barrier treatment is a final filtration system at the point of use. In other words, just before the tap water will be consumed.) Consumers have three options for this final barrier treatment: water distillers, reverse osmosis systems, and ion exchange media. Each of these options will provide a filtration system that will lesson the amount of nitrates in tap water, making it clean and safe.