We said it before and we will say it again: Ultimate responsibility for the quality of the water you drink rests with YOU.
Far too often we trust that the water entering our homes contains no harmful contaminants because our water treatment plant ‘has one of the best reputations in the business’ or has ‘never had a violation or failed an inspection’. We forget our local water treatment plant’s crystal clear, safe travels through many miles of different types and sorts of pipes before it reaches our faucets.
At any point in that journey a tiny crack in any one of the pipes could allow potentially harmful contaminants to enter the water stream… and travel to our faucets. A multitude of coliform bacteria can work their way through openings far smaller than half of a millimeter in size with the greatest of ease.
Oh, and at one point in time or another, health officials deemed materials like lead safe for use in drinking water pipelines.
Most people take for granted every day that the water from kitchen taps and the vegetables from home gardens or stores will be clean and safe.
But if sewer pipes lying beneath local streets and yards are damaged or broken, there’s potential for serious problems, say health, environmental and utility officials.
Because pipes carrying fresh, clean water often lie in the same ditches, tunnels and infrastructure rights of way as sewer lines, there is tremendous potential for drinking water or irrigation water to be contaminated.
“Your water can be contaminated right out in the street in front of you,” said Dr. Mark LeChevallier, director of innovation and environment stewardship for American Water Co., the parent company of Tennessee-American Water Co., which serves Chattanooga.
Dr. Rand Carpenter, an epidemiologist and waterborne illness specialist with the Tennessee Department of Heath, says once that contamination is there, all it takes is contact and an unwashed hand.
Sewage contains pathogens, bacteria and viruses, he said, and if people touch something bearing those germs, they can get sick.
“These are big concerns to us in the health department,” he said.
Emerging strains of E. coli have proven very dangerous, especially to the young, the elderly or people whose immune systems are deficient.
Even a norovirus, “what we grew up calling the 24-hour virus,” can be a culprit of contamination that began with sewage, Dr. Carpenter said. ( source )