Is My Water Safe to Drink?

Water testing one way plumbers can help ensure customer health.
Is My Water Safe to Drink?
Jason Shank

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The ongoing and future water crisis in Flint, Michigan, has raised many questions from people in all parts of the United States. Is my water safe to use? What is in the water I cook, bathe and drink every day? Where does my water come from? How could this health risk happen and could it happen to my family and community?

These questions are important for the immediate and future health of all us. While what Flint is going through is terrible, it has opened dialogue on the importance of good potable water that has long been forgotten because it is always there. “Don’t know what you have until it’s gone” or “taking it for granted” are sayings that completely apply to our water systems. So the intent of this article is to suggest some ways for us as professional plumbers to ease the concerns of our customers regarding safe drinking water.

Where does my water come from?

This is a big question that is difficult to answer in a short response to a customer. Where they get water from depends on their location. It could be from municipality, private company or private well. Regardless where their water supply comes from, I suggest you start with some basic information such as this EPA pamphlet titled “Home Water Testing.”

By spending a few minutes going over this with them it will show that you care about their health and that you are an educated professional. This would then hopefully lead to a lifelong customer for your company.

If they are receiving their water from a municipality or private company, I suggest doing a survey of their water system starting with their water main to see if it is a lead service line or another material. Follow the water lines checking for material(s) that could cause contamination such as pipes, fittings and faucets. Once you have done a visual check on the system, it will give you a basis to recommend to the customer if testing of the water system is needed. The EPA has a list of certified testing labs, also on the link above, that you can offer to contact and set up this service for your customer.

Private wells should be tested annually

If they have a private well for their home or business, remind them they have taken on the responsibility for providing potable water. Anytime a well is drilled, it is tested to the minimum standards to ensure it is potable water, but normally is never tested again until a sale of that property is completed. This is a dangerous practice in my opinion because there might be changes in their environment such as increased fertilizer/chemicals that make their way into the well or groundwater. Another issue may be some sort of drilling is now taking place and could seep into the well. Just because the customer has not changed anything on their property in these examples doesn’t mean someone around them hasn’t started doing one of them. I would suggest doing the survey as stated previously with the municipality but regardless of the outcome they should be testing their well water resource annually to see if it meets the minimum standards and if there are any changes in the chemical or mineral makeup of their ground water.

Understanding the basics of our water supply system will help your customers ensure that something like Flint won’t happen to them and their community. Even with all of these regulations and oversights, it appears that tragedies like this can still happen when we forget or take for granted how important potable water is to our health. We as plumbing professionals need to remind our customers how important proper plumbing installations and maintenance is in protecting the health of nation.

About the Author: Jason Shank is the training director for Cleveland Plumbing Industry (Plumbers Local 55) and Cleveland Plumbing Contractors Association JATC in Cleveland.


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