While the majority of water systems DO stay in compliance with State and Federal drinking water regulations, sometimes mistakes happen, equipment fails, and/or people get lazy and try to cut corners by not testing as often as they should
When any or all of those things happen the quality of the water might suffer. For that reason State and Federal agencies conduct audits on public water systems to make sure each one has dotted all the i’s and crossed all the t’s on their paperwork and reports.
Every once in a while an audit will turn up some interesting violations and when that happens the information gets released to the public. That happened recently in the State of Oklahoma.
Nearly 140 public water supplies are operating in consistent violation of state and federal drinking water codes, pumping water containing chemicals linked to cancer, infant illness, and damage to the liver and nervous system.
In central Oklahoma, nine public water sites serving about 16,000 customers have orders to resolve environmental compliance issues, records from the state Department of Environmental Quality show.
The department regulates 1,582 public water systems in the state.
“The public has a right to know about the quality of their drinking water,” said department spokeswoman Skylar McElheny. “Some of these things might not hurt them for several decades, but they have the right to know.”
Consent orders are legal agreements between the state and the water system to resolve violations. If the terms of the order aren’t followed, the water system can be fined up to $10,000 per day depending on the violation. ( source )
As you can see, some pretty stiff fines accompany citations of non-compliance — yet instances will STILL occur where appropriate testing and maintenance will not get done.
Checking up on your local water department?
Federal law requires water departments to make their annual water quality reports available to the public. Many have started posting them online for download while others still mail them out upon request.
One thing to always keep in mind: Water travels through miles of water lines before it reaches your home and even though your water department does keep its equipment operating properly and does perform the required testing, lots of things can change about water as it passes through a wide range of pipe types and gets exposed to innumerable places where cracks in the lines could introduce foreign matter such as bacteria and debris.
Therefore it may serve you well to occasionally test the quality of water coming from your tap regardless of how great a job your water does… or doesn’t do.