We often get asked if people who have city/town water ought to test their drinking water from time to time. If you live in the city of Edgewood, Iowa, you no longer have to ask that question.
While the Iowa Department of Natural Resources says they do not believe any dangerous water safety issues avoided detection, the fact that a city employee responsible for testing the city’s public drinking water supply on a regular basis purchased only enough supplies for 100 tests — despite claiming to have performed 3,889 water tests between January 2006 and July 2009 — would make just about anyone curious.
A former Edgewood city employee has been sentenced to probation after he admitted that he failed to test the town’s water supply and submitted false reports to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.
Harris, 43, pleaded guilty in April to one count of making false statements in a matter within the jurisdiction of the Environmental Protection Agency.
In the plea agreement, Harris admitted he sent false monthly reports to the DNR from February 2008 and July 2009. He falsely claimed testing for fluoride, chlorine and manganese. DNR tests showed less chlorine in the water than the 1.5 milligrams per liter required by state law to kill bacteria.
The review found lower-than-acceptable levels of fluoride, which reduces tooth decay, and manganese oxide, which helps remove cancer-causing radium from the water. Residents in the eastern Iowa town were not exposed to any short- or long-term health risks, a DNR officer said.
The DNR originally alleged that Harris claimed to have done 3,889 water tests between January 2006 and July 2009, but bought enough material for only 100 tests. Harris resigned in August 2009.
The investigation began after some residents complained about declining water quality. ( source )
OK, now having read that, does the statement, “DNR tests showed less chlorine in the water than the 1.5 milligrams per liter required by state law to kill bacteria.” make you feel… safe?
How about “The investigation began after some residents complained about declining water quality.” Does that give you any sense of security?
Can individuals test their city/town/tap water?
Of course they can! While only certified water testing laboratories can give the absolute last word on the safety and potability of drinking water, at-home drinking water test kits from companies like SenSafe and WaterSafe allow the average homeowner to test critical water parameters on their own, whenever they want, and for little money.
What water parameters should homeowners test?
Given the number of possible drinking water contaminants, the average homeowner would find it difficult (and expensive!) to test for them all… but as a general rule, if typically makes sense for people on city/town/tap water to test for water parameters such as:
- free chlorine residual
- total chlorine residual
- lead in water
- copper in water
- iron in water
- total hardness
- bacteria in water
- hydrogen sulfide
Should homeowners with city water test for other things? That all depends on where their water company gets its water. As an example, if the water comes from a well, other potentially harmful water contaminants such as pesticides and arsenic could find their way into the water supply and an ill-equipped water treatment facility may not have the proper technology installed to remove them.
As always, though, if you have serious reason to suspect that your tap water has ‘issues’, seek advice from certified water quality experts. Home water test kits serve as great field tests, but the final word regarding a water supply’s potability should come from a certified water testing laboratory.