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Photo credit: Joost Nelissen

Do you need a home water filter? While it is true the United States has some of the best drinking water in the world, a disturbing report conducted by The New York Times revealed that one in ten Americans have been exposed to drinking water that contains dangerous chemicals, including carcinogens in the tap water of major American cities and unsafe chemicals in drinking water wells in more rural areas. The primary reason is that the laws intended to protect our water supplies, the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), are not being enforced.

Find out if you are in the 10 percent drinking dangerous contaminants along with your water: Follow these simple steps from NRDC Smarter Living to check out the quality of your water.

  • Read your water system’s annual report. Under U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations, your water utility is required to publish a yearly “consumer confidence report” that details contaminants or violations of water quality standards. To find your water system, visit EPA’s water systems directory.
  • Get your well water tested. Wells, which are not typically regulated by the SDWA, are more likely to contain contaminants than municipal water systems. The EPA advises that you test well water annually, especially if you see signs of trouble like corroded pipes, strange odors, or stained laundry.
  • Check your municipality, county, or state health department for free or low-cost testing services. If none exist, you can use an EPA certified lab. For further information on well-water quality, consult nonprofit groups like the American Ground Water Trust.
  • Consult the lab or your local health department on which contaminants to test for. Ask whether radon or heavy metals like arsenic are present in underground rocks or soils in your area. Tell the laboratory if you live near a farm, an industrial cattle-feeding operation, a gas station, a mine, a factory, a dump, or any kind of operation that might produce contaminants that can find their way into ground water.

If you identify a problem, you can take the appropriate steps to fix it:

  • If pipes in your home are corroded, consider replacing them.
  • If your well is contaminated by bacteria, you can have it disinfected or you can drill a deeper well.
  • If your water contains other contaminant, such as heavy metals, pesticides, volatile organic chemicals, minerals, parasites or bacteria, you should consider installing a filtration system. Consult Select the Right Filter to find one that best meets your needs.

Of course, the best solution is to ensure that contaminants don’t make it into the water supply to begin with. The EPA and the Clean Water Act have come under fire lately–yet as climate change threatens the security of water supplies across the country, protecting them from contamination is vitally important. Learn more about threats to our nation’s drinking water and what you can do to keep water pristine at NRDC.