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Problems We Found With Pittsburgh's Drinking Water

Problems We Found With Pittsburgh's Drinking Water

Analies Dyjak | Policy Nerd   

For Hydroviv’s assessment of Pittsburgh's tap and drinking water, we collected water quality test data from the city’s Consumer Confidence Report and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. We cross referenced their water quality test data with toxicity studies in scientific and medical literature. The water filters that we sell at Hydroviv are optimized to filter out contaminants that are found in Pittsburgh’s drinking and tap water.

Where Does Pittsburgh Source Its Drinking Water?

Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority sources its drinking water from the Allegheny River. The city treats and delivers 70 million gallons of drinking water to 300,000 customers every day.

Lead In Pittsburgh’s Drinking Water

In recent years, Pittsburgh has had a huge problem with lead in drinking water. Lead enters Pittsburgh's tap water through old lead service pipes and lead-containing plumbing. The city reported test data from the months of June and December of 2017. Both of these reported concentrations either met or exceeded the Federal Action Level of 15 parts per billion. In June of 2017, 10% of the samples exceeded the Action Level of 15 parts per billion. In December 2017, 10% of the sites exceeded 21 parts per billion, which is significantly higher than the Action Level. Additionally, Pittsburgh inaccurately listed the Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCLG) for lead in drinking water. The report listed 15 parts per billion as the MCLG, but Environmental Protection Agency has determined that the MCLG for lead should always be 0 parts per billion. 128 sites were sampled for lead contamination, which doesn’t accurately represent the scope of the problem. Houses built before 1986 were most likely built with lead plumbing and lead fixtures. Environmental Protection Agency, Center for Disease Control, and American Academy of Pediatrics all recognize that there is no safe level of lead for children. Lead exposure can cause developmental issues, lowered IQ, and damages to the kidneys and brain. We highly recommend taking advantage of Pittsburgh’s free lead testing program! If you are a customer of Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority, you can request a free kit by signing up online or by calling 412-255-2423.

Disinfection Byproducts In Pittsburgh’s Drinking Water

Pittsburgh municipal water also has high levels of Disinfection Byproducts or DBPs. DBPs form when chlorine-based disinfectants that are routinely added to the water supply, react with organic matter. DBPs are split into two categories: Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs) and Haloacetic Acids-5 (HAA5). Concentrations of TTHMs averaged 56.3 parts per billion but were detected as high as 105 parts per billion. Concentrations of HAA5 averaged 18.8 parts per billion but reached levels as high as 36 parts per billion. For a bit of perspective, EPA set a Maximum Contaminant Level of 80 parts per billion for TTHMS and 60 parts per billion for HAA5. Disinfection Byproducts are a category of emerging contaminants which means they have been detected in drinking water but the risk to human health is unknown. Regulatory agencies have very little knowledge about the adverse health effects of DBPs, and their toxicity. EPA has stated that they have been linked to an increased risk of bladder cancer, as well as kidney, liver, and central nervous system problems. Some disinfection byproducts have almost no toxicity, but others have been associated with cancer, reproductive problems, and developmental issues in laboratory animals. 200 million people in the United States use chlorinated tap water as their primary drinking source, so we take understanding their full health effects very seriously, even if federal agencies fail to regulate all categories.

It’s important to note that only a handful of contaminants are required to be included in annual Consumer Confidence Reports, and that there are hundreds of potentially harmful unregulated contaminants that aren’t accounted for. If you’re interested in learning more about water filters that have been optimized for Pittsburgh’s tap water quality, feel free to visit www.hydroviv.com to talk to a Water Nerd on our live chat feature or send us an email at hello@hydroviv.com.

Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
Lead Contamination In Drinking Water 
Disinfection Byproducts In Drinking Water: What You Need To Know

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  • Analies Dyjak