Riverside County: Is our water safe to drink?
Since 2011, our community has been receiving conflicting reports about the safety and quality of our local tap water. This issue really came to the forefront when the website 24/7 Wall Street released a report in 2014 that named Riverside County’s Easter Municipal Water District among the ten cities in America with the worst drinking water. 24/7 Wall Street came to this conclusion using data collected by the non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG).
According to the report, Riverside County’s water contained 13 chemicals exceeding recommended health guidelines. In total, there were 22 chemicals detected, with tetrachloroethylene exceeding legal health standards.
At first glance, this report is shocking. However, when we dig a little deeper we discover that EWG’s methodology was flawed. Instead of testing tap water, EWG admitted (after threat of legal action) to using untreated drinking water test results in their reporting. Eastern Municipal Water District explained that the water is treated thousands of times over and does not contain dangerous amounts of chemicals, and certainly nothing over the legal limit or EPA health guidelines.
However, the debate didn’t end there. In October 2019, another report was released by the EWG that found more than 270 harmful contaminants in local drinking water across the country. This time, the report focused on the discrepancy between current legal limits for water contaminants, and what the most recent authoritative studies identify as safe for consumption. The contaminants under consideration are linked to cancer, brain and nervous system damage, hormonal disruption, problems in pregnancy and other health conditions. While these contaminants may be within legal limits in most cases, Sydney Evans of the EWG believes these legal limits are outdated and not safe based on current research. Simply put, she explains “Legal does not necessarily equal safe.”
Regarding Murrieta, EWG found 17 contaminants in the water supply, and 6 that they believe are above the EWG’s own recommended health guidelines, one (Trihalomethanes) being as high as 115 times the rate of suggested EWG guidelines.
The EWG believes the EPA is behind in updating their regulation. Evan’s explains, “We’re trying to fill the gap to let people know, based on the latest science, what the safe levels of contaminants in water are.”
In February 2019, the Board Presidents of several local water utilities released a Letter to the Editor in The Press Enterprise in response to a piece that accused California of failing to fulfill their promise of safe water for all. The Board Presidents assured the community that “Through state-of-the-art treatment plants, around the clock testing, and innovative technologies . . . [we] provide our customers with the highest quality water available that exceeds all state standards. Coupled with some of the strictest water quality requirements in the country, California residents and businesses can rest assured that their tap water is safe to drink and use for their families.” In the same letter, they also admit that some areas of California have a long history of groundwater contamination, and lack of response has caused “entire freshwater systems to become unusable.” Because of this, water must be imported from other areas while Californians develop a way to address the root cause and underlying causes of the contamination of freshwater systems.
So, what do we take away from this conversation? Here is a brief summary:
- Untreated drinking water in California is unsafe to drink (for example well water), and in some parts of California there are freshwater systems that are unusable due to contamination.
- Treated tap water in California may be safe to drink and at least, according to government reports, meets and exceeds the Federal legal requirements.
- Methodology matters and should always be considered when looking at both sides of the argument (in this case the EWG, Eastern Municipal Water District, and EPA).
- The EWG methodologywas originally flawed in places and is still vague in areas.
- Federal water quality standards may not be up to date with current research.
- There are many chemicals in our water that are not currently being regulated by the Federal government.
When we are faced with this type of information, we may become overwhelmed and feel helpless. But we are not helpless. There are many things you can do if you are concerned about the quality of your water including:
- Writing and speaking to your representatives.
- Learning more about water quality and local treatment.
- Read the annual water quality report released by your county.
- Take action at home by having your water tested and installing a water filtration system.
At Liberty Plumbing, Heating, and Air Conditioning we were initially shocked by the quality reports regarding our local water, and we are still concerned. This is the water we drink and bathe our children in. Bottom line, the cities filtration system is not required to (and therefore doesn’t) remove all the contaminants, chemicals, and impurities from our water. They are most likely doing the best they can, but there is more you can do at the tap. Installing a whole house water filter will remove these dangerous chemicals from your water, and protect your health, your children, your pets, and even your pipes and appliances. By testing your water, we can help you determine which filtration system addresses your water needs and fits your budget. Overtime, these filtration systems not only protect your health, but they also pay for themselves by protecting your plumbing, appliances, and reducing your need to buy bottled water and special laundry softeners or skin and hair products. You will be amazed at how different life is with water free of impurities. You will also be confident, that no matter what is happening at the plant, the water coming through your pipes is clean and safe.
If you are concerned about your water give us a call today. We can help.