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Is Your Drinking Water Safe, and what can you do about it?

John R Moffett

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ria from human sewage. Many of the violations continued unchecked since 2004, and possibly much earlier.

NY Times link here

EPA representatives said that almost none of the violations were acted upon, and that high level EPA officials were not interested in correcting the problems. One longtime E.P.A. enforcement official who, like others, requested anonymity for fear of reprisals was quoted as saying “I proposed drinking water cases, but they got shut down so fast that I've pretty much stopped even looking at the violations. The top people want big headlines and million-dollar settlements. That's not drinking-water cases.”

The NY Times reports that scientific research indicates that as many as 19 million Americans may become ill each year due to just the parasites, viruses and bacteria in drinking water. Certain types of cancer — such as breast and prostate cancer — have risen over the past 30 years, and research indicates they are likely tied to pollutants like those found in drinking water.

Because the EPA is not going to act quickly or decisively on water quality issues, what can you do to make sure that you and your family are drinking clean water? There are several options, each of which has advantages and disadvantages. Tap filters with activated charcoal are inexpensive, and will get some of the pollutants out of tap water. Their advantage is cost, but their disadvantage is that they are not capable of removing all the possible contaminants found in various municipal water supplies. Also, they need to be changed relatively frequently to maintain their water cleaning capacity.

A more permanent and effective method that has come down in price in recent years is called reverse osmosis (RO). The advantage of RO water purification systems is that they remove over 90% of all contaminants by means of ultra-filtration, and if maintained properly the main filters can last 2 to 3 years. The disadvantages include relatively high price ($300 or more for a good system), and the fact that water is produced relatively slowly by filtration, so a holding tank under the sink is necessary to store the purified water. Another disadvantage is that chlorine in municipal water supplies is corrosive to the RO filters, so activated charcoal prefilters must be changed fairly often if your tap water contains chlorine.

Wikipedia link on reverse osmosis here

The good news is that newer RO purification systems are sold as kits that can be installed by you to save the cost of having a plumber install them. They work off of your existing water pressure, so no pumps or electronics are required. The systems are entirely mechanical, and do not require electric power unless you install an ultraviolet sterilizer lamp in your holding tank, which is usually not necessary.

I installed an RO system in my house about 4 years ago, and have only changed the main RO filter once in that time at a cost of about $80. Our house is on an in-ground pump system, so our well water does not contain chlorine, which extends the life of the charcoal prefilters. My system excludes over 95% of the contaminants in our well water, and produces almost a gallon of water per hour with 50-60 psi pressure in our pipes. The holding tank holds a bit over 5 gallons, so we have more than enough water to keep our water cooler jug filled.

There are many RO purification systems available online now. Doing a Google search will turn up a number of different companies that provide good quality home RO systems that should meet any needs. Some even work with relatively low water pressure in the system. Another added benefit if you have a fish tank at home is that your fish will love the purified, chlorine free water.

If you want to make sure your family is drinking good quality water, you should at least be using charcoal tap filters. But an RO system is a better and more effective way to produce large quantities of pure drinking water, and it is an investment that you will be glad you made.

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Author's Bio: Dr. John Moffett is a Managing Editor at, and is an active research neuroscientist in the Washington, DC area. Dr. Moffett has published numerous scientific articles on the nervous and immune systems. Dr. Moffett's main area of research focuses on the brain metabolite N-acetylaspartate, and an associated genetic disorder known as Canavan disease.