Water can be contaminated in several ways. It can contain microorganisms like bacteria and parasites that get in the water from human or animal fecal matter. It can contain chemicals from industrial waste or from spraying crops. Nitrates used in fertilizers can enter the water with runoff from the land. Various minerals such as lead or mercury can enter the water supply, sometimes from natural deposits underground, or more often from improper disposal.
The EPA has set minimum testing schedules for specific pollutants to make sure that levels remain safe. Still, some people may be more vulnerable than others to potential harm caused by water contaminants, including:
- People undergoing chemotherapy
- People with HIV/AIDS
- Transplant patients
- Children and infants
- Pregnant women and their fetuses
By July 1 of each year, public water suppliers are required to mail their customers a drinking water quality report, sometimes called a consumer confidence report or CCR. The report tells where your water comes from and what’s in it. If you don’t get one, or have misplaced it, you can ask for a copy from your local water supplier. Many reports can be found online. If you have any questions after reading your report, you can call your water supplier to get more information.