Lead in Newark’s Water – How to Protect Yourself
The next lead-in-water crisis has hit, and this time it’s close to home. Newark, New Jersey is following in the Flint, Michigan footsteps, and tragedies like these will continue due to the country’s aging water infrastructure. This is leaving us all to wonder, who’s next?
The fact is, anyone can have lead in their water, among other contaminants. Where buildings contain older plumbing and fixtures, where there’s a faulty public water supply, and when lead leaches in from contaminated soil into wells, trouble is sure to follow.
Earlier this month, the Environmental Protection Agency announced that its analysis revealed that tens of thousands of household lead filters provided to residents of the Pequannock, New Jersey service area last year “may not be performing as expected,” and recommended that Newark residents be provided bottled water to drink and cook with. What’s worse, it will take weeks to test the filters to figure out what’s going on.
The EPA also is trying to determine when lead began to leach into the water system.
The stakes are high. Lead contamination can damage a child’s health. Even low levels of lead have been linked to serious, irreversible brain damage among other ailments. Experts agree there really is no safe level of lead in drinking water.
While we don’t have control over the public water supply, there are things we can do. And, it’s more than buying bottled water to drink, which doesn’t solve the issue of contaminated water. That’s because every day, we use tap water to bathe, wash clothes and dishes, brush our teeth, water our vegetable gardens, and more.
The bottom line is this: if your water contains lead or other toxins, your health is at risk.
What can you do? Here are 4 tips to help ensure your water is safe.
Have Your Water Tested by a Professional
Home water testing kits may seem like a good idea, but they won’t give you the accurate results or peace of mind you need. If the sample is not taken correctly, which happens often, results will not be correct, and you could be putting your health at risk. Whether it’s your home, office, school, gym, or a public facility, only a comprehensive water test conducted by an independent testing company can produce proper water draws and reliable results by using state-certified and licensed laboratories.
Your local health department may offer to test your water for free for bacteria or nitrates, but it’s far from a comprehensive test and involves some work on your part. Choose a professional service that performs only testing so that you get thorough, unbiased results. If they find a problem, they will help you determine what your next steps should be.
Comprehensive water testing will confirm whether your water supply contains any of these environmental hazards that can cause serious health issues:
- Lead or other heavy metals
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)
- E. coli
- Dozens of other contaminants
Test Your Water Annually – and from Every Faucet
The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommends that, at the very least, you check your well every spring to make sure there are no mechanical problems and have it tested once each year for total coliform bacteria, total dissolved solids, nitrates, and pH levels. Every few years you should test for additional contaminants. If your water source comes from municipal infrastructure, take the time to read the water quality report, which is required to be published annually.
Even if the report’s results are excellent, that does not mean your pipes or fixtures are free from harmful lead or bacteria. Pipes traveling from the road to your home can deteriorate, and sometimes the parts disintegrate right into the water, which flows to your home. The only way to know for sure is to have a licensed professional test water from each faucet in your home. There may be a problem in one faucet, and not the rest, which is often the case.
Know If the EPA Regulates Your Water
The EPA regulates public water systems, but it does not regulate private water wells. Nearly 25% of all private wells contain harmful contaminants, according to the U.S. Geological Survey Water Science School. In the New York tri-state area, high levels of radon, heavy metals, and arsenic are a major issue. These contaminants can seep into your water supply from bedrock, not just industrial pollution. Water in areas that have experienced flooding can also become contaminated.
Although the Connecticut State Department of Public Health does not require private well owners to test their water for known toxins, other communities are taking steps. In New York, Westchester County implemented Westchester County Private Well Water Testing Legislation, Local Law 7 – 2007, which requires that water testing be conducted upon the signing of a contract of sale for any property served by a private well. New Jersey also has a similar law, which is what prompted action in the Newark water crisis.
Watch for Health Symptoms That May Be Caused by Contaminated Water
Drinking and bathing in contaminated water can cause chronic health issues, including joint pain; damage to the brain, kidneys, and neurological system; skin rashes and other dermatological problems; body numbness; gastro-intestinal illness; hair loss; and immune deficiencies. If you or a family member has any of these symptoms, your water may be to blame.
Newark is just the tip of the iceberg. As infrastructure continues to age and deteriorate, more and more cities and towns will suffer from this same issue. Don’t wait for a problem to grow on a grand scale – by then it will be too late. Step up to the plate and have your water tested now.