FAQ: Water Quality

 

Is it safe to drink water directly from a garden hose?

No. A standard vinyl garden hose has substances in it to keep the hose flexible. These chemicals, which get into the water as it goes through the hose, are not good for you. They are not good for animals or pets, either, so filling drinking containers for them out of a garden hose is not a good idea unless the water is allowed to run a while to flush the hose before using the water.


Do you fluoridate your water?

Fluoridation of the public water supply is one of the most popular water quality questions we receive from our customers. There are many schools of thought regarding this matter with scientists, medical professionals, legal experts, and politicians on the bandwagon proclaiming either the virtues or the imminent dangers of water fluoridation. With so much contradictory information and rhetoric being touted as gospel by all sides, the fluoride agenda has become one of our nation’s most controversial health and water supply issues.

The North Wales Water Authority does not, nor has immediate plans to fluoridate the water we distribute to our customers. We are neither scientists nor medical experts and make this decision based solely on our experience as water professionals. With this in mind, listed below are the reasons that we do not fluoridate our water:

  • Of all the water produced and distributed by the Authority, less than 3% is actually consumed. Most residential water is flushed down toilets, used for showers and baths, for cleaning purposes, in washing machines and dishwashers, watering lawns and gardens, fire protection, or a myriad of other non-consumable uses. However, cost would need to be incurred to fluoridate the entire water supply because we have no control as to how and where the water is used.
  • It is impossible to consistently supply any medication through the drinking water system because the effect is proportional to the quantity consumed in relation to the size, weight and physical condition of the individual. Besides, people are unique in their sensitivities and their reactions may vary.
  • Many consumers simply object philosophically to any type of mandated mass medication of the public through the drinking water system.
  • Once used in insecticides and rodenticides, fluoride is the only toxic element added to finished drinking water for medicinal purposes. Even the proponents of fluoridation admit the relatively narrow range between the therapeutic dental dose and the onset of toxicity. Fluoride appears on the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (US-EPA) Primary Standards List of Contaminants as toxic in dosages of 6 milligrams per liter (mg/L) and above, Secondary Standards List of Contaminants as a health hazard in dosages between 2 and 6 mg/L, and as medicinal in dosages of up to 2 mg/L. (1 milligram per liter is equivalent to 1 part per million, or 1 penny in $10,000.00).
  • The most common additive used in the water fluoridation process, Hydrofluorosilicic acid, is a waste product of the phosphate fertilizer industry. It is becoming extremely difficult to obtain as many manufacturing facilities have closed or relocated overseas due to increasingly stringent regulations and safety concerns. This hazardous compound is extremely toxic and costly to transport and store. It is also corrosive to equipment and poses health-related dangers to operating personnel.
  • Inferior industrial-grade fluoride additives manufactured overseas have been found to be laced with mercury, arsenic and lead which are all toxic and included in the US-EPA’s Primary Drinking Water Contaminants List.
  • The equipment necessary to add fluoride to the water supply and regulate the dosage to these strict parameters is very costly and each individual entry point would need to be outfitted.
  • Many water users such as electronics manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies and food processors cannot tolerate fluoride in their process water. Removing it from the water is very difficult and extremely costly because the fluoride molecule is very small.
  • Fluoride, a toxic heavy metal, remains in food and beverages that are processed with fluoridated water. Fluoride from all sources can accumulate in the body and exceed levels that can initiate adverse health effects in humans. The US-EPA in 2011, at the request of the Centers for Disease Control, lowered the maximum therapeutic dental dosage of fluoride in drinking water from the long-standing range of 0.70 to 1.4 mg/L to a maximum of 0.70 mg/L. The current levels of naturally occurring fluoride detected in the North Wales distribution system are usually non-detectable and range between zero (0) with a maximum of 0.092 mg/L.
  • People who are ‘immune deficient,’ undergoing chemotherapy, dialysis or are experiencing various other health problems cannot consume fluoridated water.
  • Pediatricians and dentists can prescribe fluoride treatment for children. Both liquid and tablet forms are available depending on the age, weight, and dosage requirements. Fluoride prescriptions are of minimal cost and assure each child proper dosage.
  • Last and not least is that some studies have concluded that fluoride at moderately low levels may be linked to osteosarcoma, neurotoxicity, disruption of thyroid function, skeletal fluorosis and contribute to the onset of osteoporosis. With the aging of the population as a whole, fluoridation of the public water supply may seem counterproductive by some consumers.

Although 4 out of 5 dentists may recommend it, over a half-century after its introduction in the United States the debate over whether or not to fluoridate the public water supply remains as pleasant an experience as having a root canal performed. There are still many unanswered questions regarding the fluoridation issue and the volatile mixture of ‘science and scare’ tactics that are being used by both sides to promote this issue are, unfortunately, playing on public sentiment.

The production and delivery of safe, healthy potable water at the lowest reasonable cost is the object of greatest priority to the North Wales Water Authority. We are fortunate to have one of the most technically advanced water treatment facilities in the United States and can provide our customers with an abundant supply of superior quality water to meet their demands. But, as water quality standards are dramatically on the increase and water purveyors are under constant regulatory scrutiny to upgrade systems and initiate new programs, issues such as fluoride need to be addressed in a cost effective manner that will not compromise the long term health and safety of each and every consumer.


Have you experienced cloudy water in your home or business during the winter? Water, that when run into a glass or container seems cloudy and then clears from the bottom up in a short time?

This system-wide occurrence, which appears throughout the cold weather months, is related to water temperature. Unlike ground water supplies where water temperature remains relatively constant throughout the year, the temperature of the surface water supply fluctuates seasonally with the weather. As the temperature of the water decreases, the capacity of the water to retain dissolved oxygen increases.

At our Forest Park Water Treatment Plant, ozone is used as the primary disinfectant and injected into the raw and finished water as part of the overall treatment process. The colder the water supply entering the plant, the more entrained oxygen remains in the water throughout this process. As the treated water flows through our distribution system, the temperature rises due to the fact that the mains and piping are buried well below the frost line. As this temperature increase occurs the water must release this dissolved oxygen, but cannot because the distribution system is operated under pressure.

As you run your tap and the entrained oxygen dissipates, the water appears cloudy. The important thing for you, our customer, is to know is that this phenomenon is not an indication of compromised quality or distribution system problems but a natural, physical property of water.


Is bottled water as safe as tap water?

For years, the bottled water industry has distanced itself from tap water by making bold claims about the superior quality of their product. It has been the fastest growing commodity in the beverage industry as consumers grow increasingly convinced that bottled water is a better alternative to tap water. But now the boom is in danger of fading as regulators are asked to set and enforce stricter rules on bottled water and bring it inline with public water supply regulations. Now, the bottled water industry is claiming their product is as safe as tap water.

Unlike public water suppliers who are regulated by both federal and state guidelines, bottled water falls into a gray area with little or no requirements. New regulations could create major changes to an industry in which perceived quality is the most important ingredient.  

Nearly 70 percent of the bottled water sold in the United States is exempt from any FDA contamination limits and specific bottled water standards because it is bottled and sold in the same state. Additionally, products described on the ingredient label as water, carbonated water, disinfected water, filtered water, seltzer water, sparkling water, or soda water are not considered bottled water by the FDA and are not covered under the standards.

Price, appearance and advertising have all contributed to bottled water's success and perceived value. According to the Beverage Marketing Group this strategy continues to work. During the past decade national bottled water revenues have tripled to about $4 billion per year. Americans drank an estimated 3.6 billion gallons of the product in 1998 (about 13.3 gallons per person) and sales have been increasing nearly 10 percent annually.

Unlike the bottled water industry, the North Wales Water Authority is a licensed purveyor of public drinking water. We are regulated by the Federal and Pennsylvania Safe Drinking Water Acts which require the routine monitoring and reporting of approximately 90 drinking water contaminants. We are also required to provide these results in an annual water quality report to every consumer that we serve.  As a North Wales Water Authority customer, you are guaranteed that we are delivering the finest drinking water available.

Does the Authority recommend using a home water treatment device?

Customers of the North Wales Water Authority do not need to treat their drinking water at home to make it safe. However, special water treatment units could possibly provide an extra margin of safety for people with severely compromised immune systems or children and elderly who have special needs.

Many over-the-counter devices do more harm than good and can actually compromise the quality of tap water. Point-of-use or fixture devices that incorporate carbon filters eliminate the beneficial chlorine residual from the water and become a perfect environment for micro-organisms to grow. Some may add contaminants or change the water's characteristics.

Customers who choose to purchase any type of home water treatment unit should carefully research product information to understand what they are buying and if the product is really necessary. No single water treatment device will eliminate every drinking water constituent and you must decide which, if any, best meets your needs. Once purchased and installed be certain to follow the manufacturer's instructions for operation and maintenance, especially changing the filter element on a regular basis.

The Authority supplies water that exceeds all requirements of the State and Federal Safe Drinking Water Acts and neither endorses or recommends the use of home water treatment devices.

back to top

What effects does the backflow prevention device have on household plumbing?

In 1988, the North Wales Water Authority began it's Backflow Prevention Program. Backflow preventers are designed to prevent the water in a home from flowing back into the public water system.

However, the installation of backflow preventers may require some modification to your home plumbing. Prior to the installation of the backflow device, the volume of water in your home's pipes, which can expand when heated, could easily flow back into the public water system. With the installation of the backflow preventer, the water pressure in your home may build up, particularly when the hot water system is activated. To prevent thermal expansion, the Authority suggests having a thermal expansion tank installed.

If after the backflow prevention device is installed you notice your faucets leak or the emergency relief valve on the hot water tank is continuously activated, you should call a plumbing professional, as damage to your system may occur.

For many homeowners, merely lowering the temperature on the hot water tank will eliminate the need for plumbing work. A setting between 115-125 degrees is considered appropriate for most household users.

back to top

Can lawn care impact local drinking water quality?

The safety and fate of herbicides, pesticides, insecticides and fertilizers applied to residential lawns remains somewhat of a mystery. It seems to depend on whom one talks to: environmentalists, scientists, lawn care professionals or water providers as to what answer you will get.

The fact that enormous quantities of these products are being applied to lawns is beyond dispute. The key question is how much of these products are reaching local streams or leaching into groundwater supplies. Stream researchers are frequently detecting a wide variety of these components in both dry weather and storm runoff conditions from residential watershed areas.

The US-EPA estimates that nearly 70 million pounds of active pesticide ingredients alone are applied to lawns each year. Collectively, residential lawns cover over 30 million acres of our country's landscape. Homeowner surveys suggest that herbicides, pesticides, insecticides and fertilizers are regularly applied on roughly half of these acres.

The diversity of these treatments applied to lawns is staggering.Each individual compound differs greatly in its mobility through soil, persistence and potential aquatic impact. It is very difficult to ascertain the exact environmental risk each individual component of the treatment may pose.

While residents do show an increasing awareness about the links between lawn care and water quality, their primary objective still seems to be a sharp looking lawn. Monitoring drinking water supplies for these products remains a continuous process.

 

Since you utilize ozone in your treatment process, do you still need to chlorinate?

Yes. Chlorine is the most widely used disinfectant in the water treatment process throughout the United States. At our Forest Park Water treatment facility, chlorine is added to the water after final treatment to counteract any potential problems within the distribution system. We are required to maintain a certain level of chlorine, generally .5 to 1.0 milligrams per liter.

Our FPW facility is one of the few ozone plants in the United States. Ozone is a highly effective treatment process and greatly reduces the quantity of chlorine needed to maintain disinfection throughout the distribution system and therefore reduces chlorine byproducts. Ozone is also a stronger oxidant than chlorine and, therefore, destroys a wider range of organic compounds.

However, ozone dissipates quickly and therefore can not be used as an effective disinfectant in the distribution system. This is where chlorine is utilized. Chlorine has a longer life as a disinfectant in the distribution system and serves to inhibit any bacteriological re-growth in the system.

Our ozone treatment process allows us to deliver you the finest drinking water available while minimizing the use of chlorine and lessening the potential for harmful chlorine byproducts.