Quality of Water Impacts Human Health
Fight For Zero’s drinking water concern poll found that 88% of people are not very confident that the tap water in their home is safe to drink. As the human population continues to grow and the water supply is reduced by consumption and contamination, water issues will only increase in complexity. The quality of water impacts human health and the environment.
In 2017, Florida's drinking water ranked among the United States worse. Altogether, 7.5 million people receive water in Florida from utilities that violated drinking water standards. By 2018, a United States memo to Florida suggested that Florida wasn't following water monitoring guidance correctly. The EPA had "identified inconsistencies" regarding when officials tested water in Florida for harmful chemicals. The major problems violated rules on cancer-causing disinfectants, high levels of coliform from human waste, and lead and copper that exceeded safe limits.
Additionally, Florida officials didn't inform local residents about the potential dangers of elevated levels of chemicals perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) that were found in areas next to military bases and at state colleges where fire training took place.
When people turn on their faucets to pour a glass of water they generally have an expectation that safety is assured. However, harmful contaminants were found in the water provided by hundred of utilities across Florida. The goal of this information is to allow people to learn what's in their drinking water, tell them what steps they can take to protect themselves and push for stricter federal limits on harmful chemicals in water.
Testing Your Water & Finding a Filtration System
Water that's safe to drink should ideally be clear with no odor or funny taste. One definite way to tell if your water is contaminated is by testing it. You can test for yourself by using at home kits that come with strips that change color to indicate the presence of various contaminates in your water. These tests can be ordered online or bought at your local hardware store. If you want a trained technician to come to your home and perform the sampling you'll need to hire a state-certified lab. Some people require certification reporting for legal compliance.
Even if you cannot see, taste or smell the contaminants, there are resources available to help you detect.
Some suggested tests:
PurTest (Home Depot & Walmart)
TestAmerica (Certified testing)
WaterSafe Well (Amazon)
It's important to make sure you're using a filter that is designed to fit your local needs. When searching for filtration products we suggest that you look for the NSF mark (an independent testing laboratory that performs comprehensive testing and certification of filtration products.) You can visit the link below to search for products on the NSF site and see what contaminates they filter out:
Some systems we suggest:
Culligan Water Filter Company
Multipure Drinking Water Systems (online)
Under Sink System (Home Depot)
No Boil Notices
Boiling kills most types of parasites, bacteria, and viruses, but it increases concentrations of other contaminants due to evaporation of water.
Table of Regulated Drinking Water Contaminants
Learning More About Safe Drinking Water
To find more data and water quality reports from your local water treatment plant go to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Documents Management System (Click public OCULUS login to access): https://depedms.dep.state.fl.us/Oculus/
The Safe Drinking Water Act authorizes the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set national health-based standards for drinking water to protect against contaminants that are naturally occurring and/or caused by human activity: EPA Laws Regulations
EPA’s 1991 Lead and Copper Rule requires systems to monitor drinking water at customer taps. If lead concentrations exceed an action level of 15 ppb or copper concentrations exceed an action level of 1.3 ppm in more than 10 percent of customer taps sampled, the system must undertake a number of additional actions to control corrosion and safeguard health. Lead and Copper Rule
The most prevalent water quality problem is an excess of nutrients (mainly phosphorus and nitrogen) in a body of water. Natural Sciences
The safety of water from private wells are not regulated by the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act. More than one in five wells tested from 1991-2004 contained one or more contaminatns at concentrations greater than a human-health benchmark: Pubs.usgs.gov
A 2016 study found that levels of polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)—a widely used class of industrial chemicals linked with cancer and other health problems—exceed federally recommended safety levels in public drinking-water supplies for 6 million people in the United States. Pubs.acs.org
Coal-burning plants in particular discharge some of the most dangerous heavy metals on earth, including arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium and selenium. PSR.org/sellingourhealth
Waste can introduce pathogens such as Shigella, Salmonella, Cryptosporidium, Giarida, Legionella and coliform into drinking water, leading to diarrhea and gastrointestinal illness. www.ncbi.gov/articles
Why is Florida's tap water is prone to contamination? Plumbing Today
View real-time water data from USGS which contains information about streamflow, ground water, water quality and tide telemetry. http://epa.gove/myenv/mywater
National Secondary Drinking Water Regulation (NSDWRs) are non enforceable guideline regulating contaminates that may cause cosmetic effects or aesthetic effects in drinking water. https://water-research.net/index.php/standards/secondary-standards
Above Health Limits
Contaminates across Florida's water supply that were detected above health limits at different water departments across the state:
Arsenic: Cancer-causing contaminant in drinking water. Causes thousands of cases of cancer (skin, bladder, liver, & prostate cancer) each year in the U.S. Can come from wood preservatives, petroleum production, pesticides, industrial deposits, and coal power plants. Also has cardiovascular, pulmonary, immunological, neurological and endocrine disruption effects.
Chlorate: Forms in drinking water as a byproduct of disinfection. Linked to impaired thyroid function, which can be harmful during pregnancy and childhood.
Chromium (hexavalent): Cancer-causing chemical made notorious by the film "Erin Brockovich." Causes harm to the liver and reproductive system.
Nitrate: Sources of contamination is human sewage and livestock manure, fertilizers, and erosion of natural deposits. Can cause oxygen deprivation in infants and increase the risk of cancer.
Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFHPA): A member of a per fluorinated chemicals used many consumer products. Can cause serious health effects such as endocrine disruption, accelerated puberty, liver and immune system damage, thyroid changes, and cancer.
Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS): A member of per fluorinated chemicals used in many consumer products. PFOS can cause serious health effects, including cancer, endocrine disruption, accelerated puberty, liver and immune system damage and thyroids changes.
Per fluorinated chemicals are persistent in the environment and they accumulate in people.
Strontium: Radiative strontium-90 can cause bone cancer and leukemia, and any form of strontium at high doses can harm bone health.
Thallium: A naturally occurring metal released in to the environment from metal smelting and coal burning. Exposure to too much thallium can cause harm loss, liver damage, central nervous system damage, and harm to the male reproductive system.
Total trihalomethane (TTHMs): Cancer-causing contaminants that form during water treatment with chlorine and other disinfectants. Linked to bladder cancer, skin cancer and fetal development issues.
Radium-226: A radioactive element that causes bone cancer and other cancers.
Radium-228: A radioactive element that causes bone cancer and other cancers.
Uranium: Source is radioactive decay of uranium and thorium in rocks and soil. Potential health effect is increased risk to cancer.
Contaminates of Concern
Many people never become suspicious of the drinking water until people in the community start to get sick. Whether you have water near agricultural areas or industrial plants here are some contaminants of concern:
Antimony: A naturally occurring metal that enters tap water from plumbing fittings or industrial use. Health concerns are harm to the liver and change to the stomach and intestines.
Barium: From manufacturing mineral deposits, smelting of copper, and disposal of drilling wastes. High concentrations of barium in drinking water increase the risk increased blood pressure, changes in heart rhythm, stomach irritation, brain swelling, and damage to the lier, kidney, heart, and spleen.
Cadmium: From corrosion of pipes, erosion of natural deposits, discharge from metal refineries, runoff from waste batteries and paints. Potential health effects are diarrhea, sensory disturbances, liver injury, concussions kidney, liver, bone and blood damage.
Carbon Tetrachloride: A volatile carcinogenic solvent that has been used in industrial chemical production and as a dry cleaning ingredient. Health concerns are cancer, harm to the liver, harm to the central nervous system, harm to the kidney and decrease fertility.
Chloramine: Comes from municipal treatment. Can cause hemolytic anemia when present in dialysis process water.
Copper: From industrial discharges, copper plumbing materials due to corrosion, and copper salts used for algae control in reservoirs. Potential health effects are nausea, vomiting, gastrointestinal illness, abdominal and muscle pain, anemia, liver poisoning, and kidney failure.
Di (2-ethylhyexyl) phthalate: A softener added to PVC plastics. Phthalates are hormone disruptors that target the male reproductive system.
Fluoride: Comes from municipally treated water. Potential health effects are skeletal fluorosis, bone disorder resembling osteoporosis, and abnormal fragility of the bones.
Lead: From lead containing solder, service line, and brash fittings of different types of industrial processes. Potential health effects are reduced intelligence, impaired hearing, decreased growth in children, damage to brain, kidneys, bone marrow, nervous system, and red blood cells.
Selenium: Sources of contaminant is natural deposits and releases from copper smelting. Potential health effects are hair and fingernail changes, damage to the peripheral nervous system, fatigue, and irritability.
Haloacetic acids (HAA5): Formed when disinfectant such as chlorine is added to tap water. Harmful to fetal growth and development, and cancer concerns.
In the Headlines
Florida may not be testing drinking water correctly, says government memo: WLRN.org
Deadly toxic chemicals found in drinking water for at least 6 MILLION Americans. Florida is on the list: dailymail.co.uk/health
A new study conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) says over 77 million people spread across all 50 states have been drinking from water systems that violate the Safe Drinking Water Act. Florida is #2 on the list
“What's worse than the color of the water what's in the water," said Grant Gilmore, a marine biologist who studied life in the lagoon for more than 40 years. www.tcpalm.com/story/news/local
Florida Legislators OK Plan to Dump Sewage Into Drinking-Water Aquifers: www.miaminewtimes.com/news/florida-bill
"The state of Florida wants to weaken its restrictions on roughly two dozen cancer-causing chemicals that can be discharged into its rivers, lakes, streams, and coastal waters." Tallahassee.com
“The state of Florida wants to weaken its restrictions on roughly two dozen cancer-causing chemicals that can be discharged into its rivers, lakes, streams and coastal waters.” www.tallahassee.com/
Environmental groups have filed a lawsuit against Florida Power & Light Co., operator of the Turkey Point nuclear facility, saying that the company violated the Clean Water Act by discharging contaminants from the plant, impacting nearby drinking water. www.rt.com/usa/351360
Sinkhole leaks fertilizer plan's contaminated waste water into Florida aquifer. www.latimes.com
Public water supplies in 42 state area contaminated with 141 unregulated chemicals for which the EPA has never established safety standards. www.thoughtco.com
Florida community raises alarm about potential cancer link to water contamination. www.abcnews.go.com
Florida not immune to lead in drinking water. https://www.floridatoday.com/story/news/local/environment/2016/03/18/florida-not-immune-lead-drinking-water/81447772/
Contaminated Drinking Water in Florida's Lake Belt. florida-lake-belt
10 U.S. cities with the worst drinking water. http://www.nbcnews.com/id/41354370/ns/business-going_green/t/us-cities-worst-drinking-water/#.XXcF-S2ZNZo
Too much contamination, not enough reporting, study finds.
Water in the Sunshine State
Rivers, lakes, streams, wetlands and groundwater are all connected. The water flowing in rivers can come from groundwater migrating into the riverbed. The Floridan aquifer system underlies all of Florida, and is the main source of potable ground water for much of the state.
There are four main stages in the water cycle; evaporation, condensation, precipitation and collection. Water is constantly circulating, and the water we consume come from two main sources: groundwater and surface water.
Threats to Water
Water flow is the lifeblood of the springs. People can harm the springs by pumping too much water from the aquifer and by putting fertilizers and pollutants on the land. The biggest consumer of water is landscape irrigation. Issues impacting the health of the springs include population growth, growing demand for groundwater, introduction of pollutants (lawn care, development, consumption and overuse, illegal dumping, livestock farming, golf courses, etc.). There is a strain on the state's aquifer system.
Contaminates get into water sources by absorbing into the ground. Contamination of drinking water sources can occur from raw sewage overflow, septic tanks, leaking sewer lines, and land application of sludge. The absorbed materials contaminate ground water sources through broken pipes, and excess water run-off during heavy rain periods. Seepage overflow into drinking water sources can cause disease from ingestion of microorganisms such as E coli and Hepatitis A.
When a bottled water company goes in and pumps millions of gallons of water out of the ground that means there are millions of gallons less. When you pump groundwater unsustainably the level of water table drops. Groundwater depletion can negatively impact lakes and wetlands. It takes 3x the amount of water to produce a plastic bottle than it does to fill that same bottle. We're giving huge corporations resources at a very low cost while the community suffers the impacts.
Clean water is vital to our health; it helps us stay hydrated, protects our joins, helps excrete waste, maximizes physical performance, aids in digestion, helps with nutrient absorption, improves blood oxygen circulation, helps fight off illness, promotes collagen production, and more. We need safe water for drinking, cooking, and general hygiene purposes. Clean water demands sustainable industrialization, intact ecosystems and responsible consumption.
What Kind of Water Projects Can I Start
When you invest in clean water, you create a solution that's unique to your community
Provide a Filter to a Family in Need
Clean water is a basic human need
Give the gift of clean water by donating a water purifier that provides clean, safe water for life to a family in need. When you give a water filtration system, you provide a lifetime supply of safe water, as well as peace of mind.
Put a System in your Local School
Disinfect lead and bacteria
Many schools with old pipes can have water quality issues. Generously donate to help replace water fountains wth new water stations and water filtration at your local school.
Share Your Knowledge
You should speak up
Volunteer at community meetings discussing water quality concerns in your town, and share information with family, neighbors, and friends.
Is your school providing clean water to faculty and students? Take a look at our 2019 school drinking water survey to see if your school district is testing the quality of water.