New database reveals if your municipal water supply has contaminants

Kim Glovas
October 26, 2019 - 6:15 am
Glass of water

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — Ever wonder what’s in your water? A new database easily pinpoints the contaminants — echoing clean water advocates’ rationale that legal parameters set by the government are not necessarily safe.

The Environmental Working Group has been testing tap water since 2005. EWG toxicologist Alexis Temkin said the 2019 database allows consumers to plug in their ZIP code and see what contaminants are in their public water supplies. 

The database has identified contaminants in more than 50,000 municipal water systems nationwide.

“Just because the majority of drinking water systems in the U.S. get a passing grade by the federal government — they meet legal standards — that doesn't mean the contaminant levels in those water systems are safe,” she said.

Related: Pennsylvania gets $5M grant to study health effects of PFAS

The federal government set maximum contaminant levels under the Safe Water Drinking Act, but Temkin said those levels have not been adjusted in 20 years, even though the prevalence of “forever chemicals” like PFAS are now contaminating water supplies nationwide. 

The database currently only allows consumers to check their water supply. It also includes information on water filtration systems and asks consumers to contact their elected officials to demand dedicated funding to upgrade and maintain municipal water systems. 

“We've seen a lot of pressure currently on trying to get a standard for the PFAS chemicals, and it still hasn't happened yet,” Temkin added.

The Environmental Protection Agency says it is committed to protecting America's drinking water, and tests for more than 90 contaminants. The EWG reports its samples contained more than 278 contaminants. 

Although the levels were legally acceptable to the EPA, EWG argues they were not safe. 

Science shows that allowable levels of PFAS in water are causing health effects, Temkin said, and safe levels of PFAS are continuously decreasing.