2017 Washington DC Tap Water Report: What You Need To Know
Eric Roy, Ph.D. | Scientific Founder
We took a day over the long weekend to break down this year's Consumer Confidence Report (CCR) for Washington, DC tap water. Note: We are not affiliated in way with DC Water, but they have been sending people to this article as a reputable source of information.
Lead In DC Tap Water
Washington, DC is an old city with a lot of lead service lines, so it's not a huge surprise that lead leaches from lead-containing pipes, solder, and fittings in some homes. For the most recent Water Quality Data for Washington, DC, DC Water sampled for lead in two sampling periods: January-June and July-December. In the 125 samples pulled during January-June period, the 90th percentile concentration for lead was 2 parts per billion, and no samples were above the 15 part per billion Action Level (AL). In the 115 samples pulled from the July-December sampling period, the 90th percentile concentration was 3 parts per billion, and 2 samples came in at over the 15 parts per billion.
Even though these results indicate that DC is in citywide compliance with federal water quality standards, it's important to point out that there is no level of lead safe for children, and that the federal standards allow up to 10% of sampled taps to have lead concentrations over 15 parts per billion.
Lead contamination is nothing to play around with, especially for families with young children. We highly recommend that Washington DC residents take a look at this map to see if their home has a lead service line, because those homes (and homes with plumbing that predates 1986) are most susceptible. We also highly recommend taking advantage of DC Water's free lead testing program, and any families with small children take steps to remove any lead from their water, even if they don't use a Hydroviv filter. It's important to remember that most pitchers and fridge filters do NOT remove lead from water.
Detectable Levels of Three Herbicides In DC Tap Water
One thing that has caused quite a bit of alarm from several people in this year's report is that Atrazine, Dalapon, and Simazine were all found in detectable levels, albeit well below the allowable limit. It shouldn't be a huge surprise seeing that we draw our water from near at the end of a river, so there is opportunity for agricultural runoff to enter the river. For anyone who is interested, The Maryland DEP has made the Source Water Assessment for the Potomac River (404 pages) publicly available.
DC's Water Source: Potomac River
Even though we've written stand-alone article about DC's tap water, it's worth touching upon it quickly because there seems to be a bit of confusion about where our water comes from. The Washington Aqueduct (operated by the Army Corps of Engineers) draws water from the Potomac River, and treats it. District of Columbia Sewer and Water Authority (aka DC Water) purchases treated water from the Washington Aqueduct, and is responsible for distributing it through DC. This is how's it's been for a long time, nothing has changed.
Left Out Of The Report: Chromium 6
With chromium 6 (also known as hexavalent chromium) still in the public's mind from major nationwide stories, I was a bit surprised to see it left out of the 2017 report altogether. Even though it's a known carcinogen, chromium 6 is categorized as an "Emerging Contaminant" by EPA and is not regulated on its own. DC Water (and 6000 other municipalities) participate in the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR3) (which is basically a nationwide testing program to study "emerging" contaminants before they become regulated) and found chromium 6 concentrations between 74 and 91 parts per trillion. These levels are pretty similar to concentrations that we have seen when we have done sampling/analysis ourselves (84-120 parts per trillion). For perspective, these levels are roughly 4-5x higher than what The State Of California set as a public health goal. It is my strong personal opinion that people should not wait for EPA to begin regulating chromium 6 on its own, and filter their water for it, even if they're not using a Hydroviv filter. It's important to remember that most pitchers and fridge filters do NOT remove chromium 6 from water.
The primary disinfectant used to treat Washington DC's tap water is chloramine, except for a few weeks in the spring when DC switches over to chlorine. DC (and a growing number of municipalities) use chloramine instead of chlorine for a few reasons, one of them being that chloramine is more persistent than chlorine, so it maintains its ability to disinfect the water further away from the source. The flip-side of this is that chloramine does not quickly dissipate from water if left in a jug overnight. If you want to get it out of the water, you'll need a filter designed to remove chloramine, because a regular charcoal filter doesn't do a great job removing it.
When I looked through the data on this, there wasn't a ton that surprised me. Washington, DC is an old city with a lot of lead pipes and plumbing, so it's no surprise that some homes have lead in their water. We get our water near the end of the Potomac River, so it's not a huge surprise that we can find herbicides and chromium 6 in it. While Washington, DC's tap water is in compliance with federal standards, a growing number of people are proactively taking steps to treat their water to a stricter standard than what EPA requires, particularly in the current regulatory climate.
If you want to learn more about Hydroviv's water filters, check out www.hydroviv.com, or drop us a line through live chat or email (firstname.lastname@example.org). Even though we sell our products nationwide, Hydroviv is a DC company and we take care of our own backyard!
As always, feel free to take advantage of our "Help No Matter What" approach to technical support. We will answer your questions about water quality even if you have no desire to purchase one of our products.
Other Articles We Think You'll Enjoy:Please Stop Using a TDS Meter To Evaluate Your Home's Water Quality
Things To Know Before Replacing Your Home's Lead Service Line
How To Filter Chromium 6 From Drinking Water
- Eric Roy