What's in Your Water?

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - We bath in it, cook with it, and most of us drink it daily. Most of us assume our tap water is safe, but when was the last time you check up on it?

Recent water issues in small cities and bigger towns across the state led FOX16 to investigate how Arkansas monitors the quality of water people get in their homes. 

There is certain information you should be receiving from your water supplier, and one of the biggest threats to safe drinking water could be inside your own home. 

Turing on the tap is different that it was when Janice and Don were growing up. 

"One place we lived we had a pump over the sink and we could pump the water right into the sink," Janice Boster of Little Rock said.  

But lead pipes, the one thing they don't have to have to worry about these days. They replaced the pipes in their 1930's home decades ago. 

"We had asbestos floor in the kitchen, Janice Boster said. "We didn't know about asbestos then we've replaced that. We've replaced a lot of things in this house."

According to the Department of Health, it spends about $3 million a year testing more than 60 thousand samples from the state's 800 public water systems; looking for over 200 contaminants, everything from bacteria to lead. 

The results of those tests are posted online, so those turning on the tap at home can have an idea of what's coming out the spout. 

"It's very much a report card - of here's what was in my water, Arkansas Drinking Water Program Director Jeff Stone said."

The language in those reports required by the federal regulations so they're not the easiest read, but consumers can follow up with their water system or the Health Department's water staff if anything is murky. 

"The goal of these reports is transparency to where the customer does not have to rely on one person saying it's safe - don't worry about it," Arkansas Drinking Water Program Director Jeff Stone said.

In 2015, Flint Michigan's Water System hit the national headlines and put discussions about lead levels at the forefront for many communities. According to the State Health Department, Arkansas doesn't have the same lead infrastructure or corrosive water sources that could pose those significant problems. 

"Those two main factors do not describe Arkansas water systems," Jeff Stone said. 

The biggest challenge for smaller water systems is declining populations that can lead to less revenue while having to meet the same standards as larger systems with more money. 

"I know some other cities would love to be in our shoes," Doug Shackleford with Central Arkansas Water said. 

Larger water systems like Central Arkansas Water (CAW) have their own challenges, like the sheer size of systems to maintain. But they also have the opportunity to take proactive measures because of bigger revenues. 

"We've been very cognizant of corrosion in the water to correct levels," Doug Shackleford said. 

In regard to lead in the water, CAW treats its water with anti-corrosives because one of the biggest causes of lead is the actual pipe the water runs through. Corrosion inside lead service pipes and plumbing can cause lead to leach into the water. 

"That really takes the danger out of the equation for those few lead pieces that are still out in the system," Doug Shackleford said. 

Over the past two decades, Central Arkansas Water has been mapping and replacing lead services lines which connect the water system to your home. Of some 6 thousand service line of unknown material, the supplier has whittled that down to about 160 known to be made of lead, which it should have completely replaced within a year. 

"When you're talking about almost 150,000 service lines in our area to only find 150 that are remaining, we're really in good shape," Doug Shackleford said.

I'm not sure if any of these old houses have lead pipes," Janice Boster said. 

In older homes, especially those built before 1930, lead plumbing and those old service lines something most people don't think about. 

"I don't think we thought about it - we just had to replace them and we knew copper was the best," Janice Boster said.

It was something Janice and Don didn't know to worry about but for these grandparents it's one less worry in a world ful of them. 

"We take so many things for granted...now so many. You don't miss them until you don't have them," Janice Boster said.

Even a small serving of peace of mind can be priceless. 

If water samples reveal bacteria or lead levels above what's allowed your water system should send you a notice with directions on what to do next. 

If the Health Department issues a boil order you shouldn't take that order lightly and continue taking precautions until it is lifted. 

If you want to check up on the results for your system Click here for a link to those water reports.  


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