The quality of the tap water in most U.S. cities is determined by very strict regulations imposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), as well as state and local departments of health. Tap water contaminants include anything from wildlife and soils, heavy metals like lead, bacteria, pesticides, and wastes from local factories and household products, among others. However, drinking water agencies treat tap water rigorously to make sure that those contaminants do not exceed the minimum amount necessary to cause damage over a person’s lifetime, as established by the EPA. However, according to an EPA article on safe water drinking, in 2001 one out of four drinking water agencies either did not conduct any testing or did not accurately report the results. Therefore, it is important that people take the initiative to call their local drinking water agency to determine how often the water is tested in their community and contact local officials to make sure the EPA’s requirements are being met. Here is a link to an in-depth EPA guide to drinking water: http://water.epa.gov/drink/guide/upload/book_waterontap_full.pdf
Generally speaking, the United States is known for having one of the safest and most reliable water sources in the world. However, the system is not foolproof and there ways of contaminants and chemicals getting into our water sources, making tap water unsafe to drink. In most cities, it is safe to say that water treatment facilities do a good job of filtering water. However, when the Environmental Working Group tested various sites around the nation, 31 of 35 were found to have traces of harmful chemicals, 25 of which were over safe limits. Therefore, while drinking the water in your city may not be extremely harmful, it may be good to check in with your local treatment plant to get more information.
In 2009, the Environmental Working Group ranked 100 highly populated US cities in terms of tap water quality and released the following lists of best and worst:
The cities were ranked based on total number of contaminants found in the most recent 5-year period, the percentage of chemicals found, and the highest average level of an individual pollutant.
The group’s website says that the numbers will be updated soon, but until they are, you can check to see how your city ranked by visiting the link below.
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