We get asked this question more times than we care to count… and we don’t mind answering it because at least it means the people asking us have taken an interest in the quality of the water they drink, cook with and use for showering/bathing.
Contamination of natural bodies of water (including lakes, streams, aquifers and groundwater) can have numerous characteristics and sources. While many believe only ‘big business’ causes water pollution, all humans and animals release waste products that eventually find their way into lakes, rivers, streams, oceans, etc.
Scientists refer to this occurrence as ‘nutrient loading’ and when it happens too often in one location nutrient loading may result in bacterial contamination that eventually becomes detrimental to the environment and harmful to humans who unknowingly consume the water.
Contaminants often included in the list of ‘natural’ contaminants include things such as coliform bacteria, nitrates, nitrites, etc.
Therefore, if your drinking water comes from the ground (i.e. a well) you may have ‘natural’ things to worry about… and even municipal (i.e city, town, etc.) water sources have problems from time to time. Need proof? Ever hear of things called boil water advisories?
This type of contamination typically comes from accidental or intentional dumping of foreign matter into or too close to a body of water either on the the surface or under the ground.
Common sources of groundwater and surface water contamination include improper disposal of industrial waste products, faulty septic tanks and waste water storage or processing equipment, landfills, pesticides and fertilizers.
Many experts believe the practice of hydraulic fracturing certainly belongs in the category of unnatural water contamination and pollution… and, of course, many other experts (who often work for or get funding from gas drilling companies) believe hydraulic fracturing poses no (or extremely limited) risks to the environment.
Thus far OUR opinion falls more in line with the folks who suspect that fracking (the nickname for hydraulic fracturing) may pose risks and that more research needs to get done before we turn the Marcellus Shale Formation under the United States into swiss cheese whose holes we filled with ‘questionable’ fluids containing a host of unknown compounds.
Moral of the Story?
You will NEVER know if your water contains unwanted contaminants UNTIL YOU GET IT TESTED and for that task you have several options: 1) Test for the basics yourself using a drinking water test kit; 2) Have a qualified drinking water laboratory test your water; or 3) test for the basics yourself with a water quality test kit and enlist the services of a qualified water testing lab from the list posted on the EPA’s Safe Water Web Site