Rural Water - Quarter 4, 2017 - 25
New Online Database Provides
for Tap Water Customers
BY MONICA WURTZ, TECHNICAL ASSISTANT, KANSAS RURAL WATER ASSOCIATION
In a recent article published by
The New York Daily News as well as by
numerous other national publications and
media, readers are warned of "dozens of
harmful contaminants in tap water." Who
is their source for information? It's the
Environmental Working Group or EWG.
EWG developed an online database (www.
ewg.org/tapwater) that allows citizens to
enter their zip code and search for their
public water system "to find out exactly
which contaminants are in their local water
supply." Kansas Rural Water Association
(KRWA) started to receive phone calls and
emails from water systems and citizens
concerned by the information they read
on www.ewg.org, so KRWA decided to
investigate EWG's tap water database and
the accuracy of the data provided.
KRWA randomly selected five different
public water systems (PWS) in Kansas and
conducted a search for each system on
EWG's tap water database. Here's what
* For each PWS, ewg.org provides a
water quality report that includes
the name of the system, population
served, source of water and a list of
contaminants that were detected above
EWG-selected "health guidelines" using
data from 2015.
* For each contaminant that was detected
above the "health guidelines," the report
includes the contaminant level that was
detected by the utility and compares that
level to state and national averages, as
well as the "health guideline" and, for
The Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org) recently released an online database of drinking water quality
supplied by public water systems. The information is misleading because it uses a much lower "health guideline" rather
than the contaminant levels established by the federal Safe Drinking Water Act as the recognized standard for safe
some contaminants, the legal limit or
Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL).
* The report also provides a description
of health risks associated with each
contaminant and provides links to filters
that can be purchased to remove the
contaminants from tap water.
* Of the five PWS reports that were
viewed on ewg.org, the majority of the
data that was collected by the utilities
matched data provided on the Kansas
Department of Health and Environment's
Drinking Water Watch database.
* The issue with the EWG report is that
contaminants are listed under a PWS if it
was detected above a "health guideline."
EWG indicates the source for each
"health guideline," which is generally
much lower than the legal limit or MCL.
For example, Total Trihalomethanes
(TTHM) has a "health guideline" of 0.8
ppb (or μg/L) defined by the California
Office of Environmental Health Hazard
Assessment as a draft public health goal
to protect against cancer. The MCL for
TTHM is 80.0 ppb (or μg/L). So for one of