4 Contamination Sources Polluting Our Drinking Water

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drinking water

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The best way to protect yourself against the dangers of contaminated drinking water is by understanding the threats around you. Normally, water treatment facilities remove contaminants. However, they can’t control what happens water leaves the facility.

Here are 4 common contamination sources that can pollute your home’s water.

Agricultural Runoff

Nitrates from agricultural runoff threaten citizens in rural communities who receive water from a well source. However, most of us receive water from a treatment facility. These plants ensure nitrate levels never go beyond 10 parts per million. Recently, studies from the National Cancer Institute have said that water with as little as 5 ppm of nitrates could increase the risk of cancer.

Algae blooms are another threat to our drinking water caused by agricultural runoff. These blooms develop when nitrogen and phosphorous from crop fields seep into water sources. Since these lakes don’t constantly move water, algae accumulate into one large bloom. These blooms are almost an annual occurrence on Lake Erie and threaten the safety of drinking water in areas of Michigan and Ohio.


Fracking is a wide-spread oil extraction method used across the United States. Most of the 137,000 fracking sites are located far away from residential areas. However, a handful appear close enough to water sources posing risks.

Fracking uses 353 known chemicals that are sent into the ground. These chemicals include methane, a tasteless, naturally occurring gas. Fracking sites produce the gas too. A 2011 Duke University project reported that methane water contamination is 17 times more likely to appear within 1 mile of a fracking site.

Industry Runoff

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a collection of man-made chemicals created for industrial use since the 1940s. These chemicals exist in food packaging, household products, manufacturing equipment and the soil near industrial plants.

The United States no longer allows the production of these chemicals. However, many of the products have persisted. These “forever chemicals” find their way into humans through water contamination and interfere with hormones and increase the risk of cancer.

Service Lines

The Environmental Protection Agency instituted the Lead and Copper Rule in 1991. The huge change that emerged from this law was the reduced use of lead for city infrastructure development and paint manufacturers.

At the time of the ruling, an estimated 10 million lead service lines still carried drinking water to homes. Nearly 6.1 million are still in use today as the high cost of plumbing projects prevent older developments from switching out the old lines.

Lead continues to leach into water from these pipes and affects homes today.

By knowing the contamination threats around you, you can start making your drinking water safer. The better equipped you are with water contaminant information, the better prepared you will be against the dangers of poor drinking water.

Below is an infographic breaking down the top pollutants contaminating our drinking water.

Water contaminants infographic

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