How clean is your drinking water?

A new online database is showing people their drinking water is not entirely free of contaminants.

The Environmental Working Group spent two years collecting water utility testing data from state governments and the Environmental Protection Agency to create the database.

Now, anyone can find out what’s in their water by typing in their zip code on EWG’s website. 

Bill Walker, vice president and managing editor of EWG, said he thinks this study has revealed the need for stricter federal standards for water contamination, especially to prevent the pollution from happening in the first place.

He also recommends people filter their water. EWG's website has a guide for choosing a water filtration system.

Dr. J. William Louda, a professor in the department of chemistry and biochemistry and the environmental sciences program at Florida Atlantic University, said he recommends people filter their water no matter where they live. 

The Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County oversees water utilities in the area and conducts regular testing. Those results are then passed onto the state.

“They have in place all the mechanisms: the proper filters, the filtration systems, the daily activity, the daily testing,” said Florida Department of Health in Palm Beach County Public Information Officer Timothy O’Connor, in reference to the water utilities.

O’Connor said some test results from water treatment facilities don’t always indicate exactly what’s coming out of a person’s faucet on the other end.

“Radium generally occurs in raw water,” he said. “It comes out of the ground and then they filter that out in the water plant, so it never even really gets to your household."

However, trying to get rid of contaminants can also create other ones, such as cancer-causing total trihalomethanes, or TTHMs, which Dr. Louda said occurs when chlorine mixes with organic matter in the water during the treatment process.

The EWG database for several municipal water utilities in the Palm Beach County area, but not Palm Beach County Water itself, shows levels of TTHMs higher than what EWG considers safe. Those standards are based on recent scientific findings, Walker said.

The health department and utilities measure themselves using EPA standards, which Walker said he thinks need to be strengthened and updated. He said the EPA doesn't have standards for certain contaminates.

O’Connor also points out the database’s figures may not be completely up-to-date.

“Their data is gathered from us through DEP and EPA, so they have to kind of pull it in through EPA on a final basis, so as a result, it’s not as current as it could be," he said.

However, Walker explained the group compiled data from across the country, which is why the years of testing data spanned several years.

The spokesperson for the city of West Palm Beach said the water meets all EPA water quality standards and is checked on a regular basis. The city also releases a water report every year.

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