Problems We Found in Fairfax County, Virginia’s Drinking Water


Christina Liu | Science Team Water Nerd   

We assessed date from Fairfax Water, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Environmental Working Group, and the US Geological Survey. The custom water filters that we build for our customers in the Fairfax County area are optimized with this research in mind. Fairfax Water provides drinking water to nearly two million people in the Northern Virginia communities of Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, Fort Belvoir, Herndon, Dulles, Vienna, Alexandria, Falls Church, and Fairfax City. Fairfax Water draws water from the Potomac and Occoquan Rivers and also purchases water from treatment plants that are part of the Washington Aqueduct. 

Lead In Fairfax County’s Drinking Water

Lead contamination in tap water is different from most pollutants, as lead comes from plumbing, not the water supply. 2020 lead sampling by the Fairfax County detected levels at 1 part per billion. However, this does not necessarily represent the lead levels at the tap. EPACDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics all recognize that there is no safe level of lead for children. In addition, Federal regulations cannot take into account levels measured at an individual tap.

PFAS in Fairfax County’s Drinking Water

Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) are a category of emerging contaminants commonly used in firefighting foam, Teflon, non-stick surfaces, stain-resistant surfaces, and food packaging. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) has determined that PFAS exposure is associated with various adverse health effects, including an increased risk of cancer, lowered fertility rates, and developmental issues in infants and young children. 

Fairfax County voluntarily tested the water for PFOA and PFOS in April 2021. The highest level reported was a total PFOA + PFAS concentration of 8 ppt. Not all water filters are designed to remove PFAS from tap water. If you'd like to find water filters that remove PFAS from tap water, check out this Duke/NC State PFAS study. Hydroviv filters are NSF/ANSI Standard 53 certified for PFOA/PFOS removal.

Disinfection Byproducts (DBPs) In Fairfax County’s Drinking Water

DBPs are a category of emerging contaminants that form when chlorine-based disinfectants react with naturally-occurring organic matter. EPA regulates two categories of DBPs: Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs) and Haloacetic Acids (HAA5). The EPA has stated that DBPs have been associated with increased risk of bladder cancer as well as kidney, liver, and central nervous system problems. In 2020, Haloacetic Acid levels were as high as 54.1 parts per billion, compared to the EPA Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) of 60 parts per billion. Total Trihalomethane levels were reported to be as high as 75.9 parts per billion, compared to the MCL of 80 parts per billion.

Radium and Uranium in Fairfax County’s Drinking Water

Radium is a naturally occurring radioactive metal. Radium in drinking water is of primary concern because exposure through drinking water may cause cancer, kidney damage and birth defects. Radium levels in 2020 were reported to be as 4 ppb in the Falls Church and Arlington Service areas, compared to the EPA MCL of 5 ppb. Radium levels in the Fairfax service area were 0.19 ppb. Uranium levels measured at below EPA minimum detection limits in 2020, with the highest levels measuring at 0.09 ppb in the Fairfax service area. 

Arsenic in Fairfax County’s Drinking Water

Arsenic is a naturally occurring hazardous heavy metal that can cause cancer and other health problems. In the Falls Church Service area, the arsenic levels were 0.4 ppb, and arsenic was not detected in the Fairfax or Arlington service areas. While Fairfax County's arsenic levels were below EPA water quality standards, consumers should know that the U.S. EPA's standard balances toxicity against the costs of removing arsenic from drinking water. We strongly suggest that tap water with levels higher than 1 part per billion be treated to remove arsenic, especially in homes with children.

Chromium 6 Levels In Fairfax County’s Drinking Water

Chromium 6 is a highly toxic metal that is not regulated by the EPA. According to testing conducted by the Environmental Working Group, Fairfax Water had Chromium 6 levels as high as 0.18 parts per billion (180 parts per trillion), which  is up to 9 times the level generally accepted as safe. The California EPA has acknowledged that ingesting Chromium 6 through drinking water can increase the risk of stomach cancer and reproductive issues.

How Can Hydroviv Help Me?

Hydroviv is a water filtration company that uses water quality data to optimize water filters for each customer's water. The contaminants that we list above are what we consider to be major “points of emphasis” that we use to build water filters that are built specifically for Fairfax County water, but all of our filters also include broad protection against a wide range of contaminants. Questions? Email

Hydroviv's drinking water filters carry NSF certifications to Standard 42 (aesthetic effects--Chlorine Removal) and Standard 53 (health effects--Lead, VOCs, and PFOA/PFOS removal), and are independently tested to remove hundreds of contaminants.

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