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One Cracked Pipe: From Municipal Waterways to Your Taps

Beneath the average American town lies a dizzying array of interconnected waterways. Sewage systems gather wastewater, channel it to water treatment facilities, and release treated water. Freshwater enters water-treatment facilities from lakes, rivers and reservoirs, passing through a labyrinth of inter-connected pipes on its journey to homes and faucets. A third system of runoff pipes uses curbside drains to collect rainwater and runoff, transporting it away from our roads and homes and depositing it—usually untreated—in lakes or the ocean.

municipal waterway

All in all, these systems are an impressive feat of municipal engineering, but their interconnected nature can cause problems. Ideally, freshwater, sewage, and runoff are in separate systems, but mistakes and damage can cause cross-contamination. Should water from either sewage or run-off enter the freshwater system, your drinking water might contain fecal bacteria, fertilizer runoff, chemicals from roadways, or unwanted minerals and metals.

This can happen relatively easily, either through human error, corroding pipes, damage caused by construction, or even heavy rain. An aging water infrastructure increases the likelihood of such contamination, and as we’ve observed in the past, municipal waterworks are aging at an alarming rate, resulting in a higher risk of contamination and a sharp increase in boil water advisories.

The interconnected nature of water delivery systems means contamination at any point in the delivery system can spread to a wide area. A backhoe digging out a ditch in one neighborhood breaks a water pipe, contaminating the water with bacteria from soil, which quickly travels through the system, resulting in boil water advisories in neighborhoods far removed from the contaminant’s origin point.

The true vulnerability of municipal waterworks becomes when a contaminant enters the system at a water treatment plant. When this happens, the entire system can be contaminated.

One of the most frightening aspects of contaminated water is the delay between contamination and public alerts. By the time a boil water advisory alert is issued some people will have already ingested contaminants. A Pelican whole house water filter with UV offers a line of defense against public water contaminants, destroying 99.9% of bacteria and pathogens. When the municipal system fails to protect your home’s water, a Pelican system can ensure you have cleaner, safer water.

Pelican Combo System Salt-Free Water Softener Whole-House Water Filter