3.2 Drinking Water

Our drinking water is protected by the Safe Drinking Water Act. Under the authority of this law, EPA oversees the state and local governments and water suppliers who must implement standards for safe drinking water. Another consideration of safe drinking water is the protection of the sources of drinking water, including streams, lakes, rivers, and aquifers. Aquifers are underground rock and sand formations that contain water. EPA protects the sources of our drinking water in part through the Underground Injection Control program. This program regulates injection wells to prevent hazardous and non-hazardous substances which are injected into the ground for storage or disposal from leaking into groundwater. In Louisiana, the Conservation Division/Underground Injection Control Section of the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources (LDNR) handles injection-well permitting and safety.

Most people who live in populated areas get their drinking and tap water from a public water system, whether that water originates from ground or surface water. This water is monitored and tested routinely, and the water company must notify you if any contaminants are found that may cause illness or other problems. However, if you receive your water from a private well, you are responsible for making sure your water is safe to drink.

Clean Water State Revolving Fund

You can help your community improve water quality! Tell your local leaders about the Clean Water State Revolving Fund. Created by the Clean Water Act, this fund provides low-interest loans for the upgrade or construction of water quality improvement projects. For more information see LDEQ’s website http://www.deq.louisiana.gov/portal/Default.aspx?tabid=2148 

Well water should be tested routinely to ensure it is free of certain contaminants such as total coliform bacteria, nitrates, and total dissolved solids, in addition to having the pH tested. For more information on private water well testing, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals (DHH) has put together an informative flyer which can be found on the DHH webpage: http://dhh.louisiana.gov/assets/oph/Center-EH/engineering/Private_Water_Well_Testing.pdf

If you have a private well, it is important to test the water yearly, or when certain circumstances change.

You should have your well water tested yearly; however these special situations may mean you need to test more frequently:

  • Someone in your household is pregnant or nursing
  • There are unexplained illnesses in the family
  • Your neighbors find a dangerous contaminant in their water
  • You notice a change in water taste, odor, color or clarity
  • There is a spill of chemicals or fuels into or near your well
  • When you replace or repair any part of your well system
Signs that indicate that you should have your water tested:
Conditions or Nearby Activities Test for:
Recurring gastro-intestinal illness Coliform bacteria
Household plumbing contains lead pH, lead, copper
Radon in indoor air or region is radon rich Radon
Corrosion of pipes, plumbing Corrosion, pH, lead
Nearby areas of extensive agriculture Nitrate, pesticides, coliform bacteria
Coal or other mining operations nearby Metals, pH, corrosion
Gas drilling operations nearby Chloride, sodium, barium, strontium
Dump, junkyard, landfill, factory, gas station, or dry-cleaning operation nearby Volatile organic compounds, total dissolved solids, pH, sulfate, chloride, metals
Odor of gasoline or fuel oil, and near gas station or buried fuel tanks Volatile organic compounds
Objectionable taste or smell Hydrogen sulfide, corrosion, metals
Stained plumbing fixtures, laundry Iron, copper, manganese
Salty taste and seawater, or a heavily salted roadway nearby Chloride, total dissolved solids, sodium
Scaly residues, soaps don’t lather Hardness
Rapid wear of water treatment equipment pH, corrosion
Water softener needed to treat hardness Manganese, Iron
Water appears cloudy, frothy, or colored Color, detergents

Back to
3.1 Surface Water

The Louisiana Citizens’ Guide To Environmental Engagement

Forward to
Who Is In Charge Of Water?

 

DRINKING WATER QUALITY DATA

·        What contaminants are in my tap water? You can find out more information about what contaminants might be in your tap water at these sites: 

o   Louisiana Drinking Water Watch Database

o   Louisiana Water System Consumer Confidence Reports

o   EPA Drinking Water Database

WATER TESTING

·        Who can test my water for other contaminants? Certified labs in Louisiana:

o   Chemistry Testing

o   Microbial Testing

o   Contact a state certified water testing laboratory and get your water tested. Find certified labs in your state here.

WATER TREATMENT

·        What water treatment system should I get? The National Science Foundation (NSF) certifies drinking water filters to standards necessary for acceptable treatment. The NSF website has valuable resources which can aid you in your water treatment selection, not just for lead but for a variety of contaminants. Not all water treatment systems will remove the all contaminants. Find out about which specific systems are certified to remove specific contaminants here. From these links you can find out more about:

o   Personal water bottles

o   Pitcher, dispenser or pour-through filters

o   Faucet mount filters

o   Under-the-sink or plumbed-in systems

o   Under-the-sink systems piped to a separate faucet type

o   Plumbed-in to separate faucet systems

o   Refrigerator filters

o   UV microbiological treatment systems

o   Water softeners

o   Whole-house chlorine filters

LEAD

·        How can I test my water for lead? Healthy Babies Bright Futures: Testing water at-cost or what you can afford hereLinks to Video on how to test for lead – From Healthy Babies Bright Futures: here

·        Who can I contact if I think I’m being exposed to lead? Louisiana Healthy Homes and Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (LHHCLPPP): http://ldh.la.gov/index.cfm/page/466     

·        Do I have a lead water service line or whip? Homes built before 1986 may have lead service lines (otherwise known as whips) which carry water from the water main in the street to the home, putting residents at risk for lead exposure from their drinking water. You can use NPR’s interactive tool to see if you have a lead service line. Some utilities will provide residents with information on whether the city has lead service lines and if so, where they are located.  You may also be able to find out from your utility’s annual consumer report here. Other resources include:

o   Utility pipe installation records

o   Utility pipe service records

o   Plumbing permits

o   The Manual of American Waterworks. New York: Engineering News (Moses Baker 1897)

o   Historic Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps for your town

o   Other helpful data sources can be found here

·        Let others in your town, state and country know there is lead plumbing in your community. See our sister website, “Crowd the Tap” to tell us if you have a lead service line.