How to Avoid Water Contamination

There are some steps you can take to limit the chances your water will be contaminated, but there’s only so much you can control. If the water in your home becomes contaminated, there are actions you can take to stop or limit your exposure. How it can be stopped depends on the cause of the contamination and its location. If this is happening to you and your family, this can be frightening and stressful; but to address the problem, you need to think clearly and scientifically.

Water contamination could be avoided and prevented in any number of ways:

  • Lead-containing pipes and solder could be removed from your home to prevent the metal from entering the water.
  • Water could be treated so it’s less corrosive and less likely to leach lead.
  • Local land use should be done with an eye toward preventing water pollution from farming, chemicals used on lawns and industrial pollution coming from businesses.
  • Wastewater treatment plants need to be able to handle the demand and not allow untreated sewage to be discharged.

Contaminated water can cause any number of health issues, including gastrointestinal illness, reproductive problems and neurological disorders. Infants, young children, pregnant women, the elderly and those whose immune systems are compromised due to AIDS, cancer treatment or immune suppressant medications may be especially vulnerable to illness from some contaminants.

The source of your water comes from one of two places: a private well or a community or municipal water supply. Water from a community water supply is constantly checked so is less likely to be the source of contamination. If you’re using a well, testing its water may be something that’s rarely done.

About fifteen million Americans get their water supply from wells, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Well water contamination can impact just your household, or, depending on the problem, may affect all the households using the same aquifer. Here are some ways well water can become contaminated:

  • Naturally occurring chemicals and minerals (arsenic, radon)
  • Local land use practices (pesticides, chemicals, animal feeding operations)
  • Malfunctioning wastewater treatment systems (sewer overflows)
  • Other sources.

According to the CDC:

  • More than 286 million Americans are supplied with water from a community water system.
  • Only 8% of such water systems provide water to 82% of the U.S. population through large municipal water systems.
  • Most community water systems (78%) are supplied by ground water, but more people (68%) using those systems are supplied by surface water (rivers and reservoirs).

Community water contamination could happen at the source of water or in the distribution system after the water was treated, according to the CDC. Sources of water contamination may include:

  • Naturally occurring chemicals and minerals (arsenic, radon, uranium)
  • Local land use practices (fertilizers, pesticides, concentrated feeding operations)
  • Pollution from manufacturing processes, sewer overflows or wastewater releases.

If you have reason to believe your water is contaminated, you need to test it to see if that’s the case and, if so, determine what is causing the problem.

  • There are a number of test kits you can buy at your local home improvement store.
  • If you don’t want to go that route or the tests are inconclusive, call your local health department, discuss your concerns and ask how you can have your water tested.
  • If you’re using a municipal water supply, you can also call your water department to talk about water testing and the problems you’re having.
  • You can also hire an independent laboratory that can test your water for contaminants.

What if contaminants are found?

  • Once you know what they are, you may be able to determine their location. Are they coming from inside your home’s plumbing? The municipal water supply? Your well? Is this something the water authority or health department can help you with?
  • You may also find out the amount of contaminants.

You can then decide what actions and costs are justified, given the level of actual or potential threat. Even if there are some contaminants, the water still may be safe to drink, depending on the contaminant and how much is found. Here are some questions to ask the authorities:

  • If the water’s not safe to drink, can you still safely cook with it? Use it to bathe, wash clothes and dishes?
  • Does the contaminant pose an immediate threat or is the threat long-term exposure?
  • Would it be safe enough to simply let your water run for a time to flush out contaminated water sitting in pipes?
  • Can the water be filtered to make it safe?
  • Would removal of existing pipes end the problem?
  • Might the use of bottled water make the most sense financially, if major work is needed?

One water issue New Jersey parents need to be concerned about is school water supplies being contaminated with lead. This is caused by lead-containing pipes, fixtures and solder and water corrosive enough to leach lead into the water. While many schools have just recently started testing for lead in their water, students may have been drinking water containing lead for years.

If you believe your child has been injured due to exposure to lead in drinking water, call the Law Offices of James C. DeZao at 1-866-813-4516 or fill out our contact form so we can talk about the situation, how the law may apply and how you may be able to collect compensation for your child’s injuries.