With the true scope of Flint, Michigan’s, water crisis now national news, the public is justifiably outraged. Evidence suggests state and government officials deliberately downplayed the possibility of health issues arising from discolored, foul-smelling water — water that exposed Flint residents to high levels of lead for two years.
This begs the question: Could Flint’s water problems occur elsewhere in the nation? After a similar incident in Sebring, Ohio (with a delay in informing the public), the answer seems to be yes.
If you’re concerned with your home’s water quality, you have a number of options. You can check your municipal water quality report. Also called a consumer confidence report, your municipality is required to send residents a copy of the report annually or on demand.
Be aware that the report’s results are based on water quality at the treatment plant: Contamination can occur between the plant and your faucet. The EPA Water Safety Hotline (1-800-426-4791) can direct you to state-certified testing centers for faucet testing. Some municipalities offer free in-home water tests, while others charge a fee.
If you’re curious about water quality but don’t want to pay a testing center fee, you can use a commercial water analysis kit. Available through most home improvement stores, water testing kits don’t test for every possible contaminant, but most can detect lead, arsenic, pesticides, and bacteria. Be sure to carefully read the kit’s packaging before buying to understand exactly what the kit detects. Pelican Water offers a Rapid Water Test Kit that tests for 12 major contaminants among other types of water tests kits.
Each kit includes color-changing reagents and vials. Add the reagent to the vial, top up with water, cap the vial, and shake vigorously. Leave for the recommended amount of time and then compare the color of the reagent to the provided chart to determine if a contaminant is present. The best results come from using “first-draw” water: water from when you first turn on the faucet in the morning. The water will have sat in your pipes overnight, so if contaminants are leaching from pipes or plumbing solder, they’ll be at their highest concentration and easier to detect in the morning.