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Is Your Water Safe to Drink? Flint and How to Test Your Water (and your local water system)


Is the water in your home, at work, in your town’s public buildings, and in your schools safe to drink? Assume nothing, but don’t panic either (yet):

You can link to this “Ripple Effect” article from (the excellent and addictive) Longform, or directly from the June 2016 issue of Wired:

“Ripple Effect: To obsessed water engineer Marc Edwards, the lead crisis in Flint is just the beginning of an epidemic, by Ben Paynter,” Wired dot com, June 2016.

Excerpt: “…. According to the EPA, at least 7.3 million lead service lines lie beneath the surface of most major cities. The American Society of Civil Engineers gives the nation’s entire substructure a D-plus rating. Any day in any place there could be another problem. “You don’t witness something like that and come out whole,” Edwards says. “You can crawl into a hole and get depressed, or you can fight.” Edwards decided to fight. To do it, he knew he’d have to spot budding disasters fast—to stop the next public health failure before it escalated….” [Link to full Wired article.]

How to test your drinking water? Consumer Reports offers some advice and referrals in their May 2016 issue:

Reports of unsafe water pouring from taps in Flint and other cities can be alarming. But before you panic, you should check your municipal water report and also have your water tested, says Chris Hendel, Consumer Reports’ medical researcher. The Environmental Protection Agency posts municipal water-quality reports every July; find yours at But if your home was built before lead-free pipes were mandated in 1986 or if you use well water, a test is the best way to assess your home’s water quality.

Your state or local health department may offer free test kits. The EPA’s website lists local labs; you can also call its Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791.

If tests find lead but it’s below 150 parts per billion (ppb), a filter can make your water safer to drink. If it’s higher or if tests reveal other concerns, such as arsenic, bacteria, or parasites, contact your local health department for advice….”

You may be able to find this Consumer Reports May 2016 article free online, but if not, the official, full-text version is behind a firewall. Check with your local library. Many public libraries have databases that offer the full text of Consumer Reports; they may also have print subscriptions. (I do.)

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