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Unknown to most Americans, a surprising number of U.S. cities have drinking water with unhealthy levels of chemicals and contaminants. In fact, some organizations and state environmental agencies that collect and analyze water data say the level of chemicals in some Americans’ drinking water not only exceeds recommended health guideline but the pollutants even exceed the limits set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the national legal authority in these matters.

The website 24/7 Wall St. examined the quality of water supplies in most major America cities, using data collected from multiple sources for five years (ending in 2009) by Environmental Working Group (EWG), based in Washington, D.C. The fact that the data covered a half-decade is important because it shows that the presence of certain chemicals is persistent.

Cities in Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Georgia provided insufficient data to be included in EWG’s database. Some other major cities outside of these states also failed to submit information, including Detroit, Salt Lake City and Washington, D.C.

Test results from EWG’s national database covered “a total of 316 contaminants in water supplied to 256 million Americans in 48,000 communities in 45 states.” According to the data, among the contaminants were 202 chemicals that aren’t subject to any government regulation or safety standards for drinking water.

Based on the EWG’s methodology, 24/7 Wall St. came up with its 10 worst cities list. These cities’ water quality rank is based on three metrics, in order of increasing importance:

  • The percentage of chemicals found based on the number that were tested for
  • The total number of contaminants found
  • The most dangerous average level of a single pollutant.

Here’s that list, in descending order, with the city’s water utility in parenthesis:

10. Jacksonville, Fla. (JEA)

Located on the northeast coast of Florida, Jacksonville is the state’s largest city. According to EWG, 23 different toxic chemicals were found in Jacksonville’s water supply. The chemicals most frequently discovered in high volumes were trihalomethanes, which consist of four different cleaning byproducts — one of which is chloroform. Many trihalomethanes are believed to be carcinogenic. Over the five-year testing period, unsafe levels of trihalomethanes were detected during each of the 32 months of testing, and levels deemed illegal by the EPA were detected in 12 of those months. During at least one testing period, trihalomethane levels were measured at nearly twice the EPA legal limit. Chemicals like arsenic and lead were also detected at levels exceeding health guidelines.

9. San Diego (San Diego Water Department)

Located on the Pacific in Southern California, San Diego is the country’s eighth-largest city. According to California’s Department of Public Health, San Diego’s drinking water system contained eight chemicals exceeding health guidelines as well as two chemicals that exceeded the EPA’s legal limit. In total, 20 contaminants have been found. One of those in excess of the EPA limit was trihalomethanes. The other was manganese, a natural element that’s a byproduct of industrial manufacturing and can be poisonous to humans.

8. North Las Vegas (City of North Las Vegas Utilities Department)

North Las Vegas’s water supply mostly comes from groundwater and the Colorado River, and doesn’t contain chemicals exceeding legal limits. However, the water supply did contain 11 chemicals that exceeded health guidelines set by federal and state health agencies. The national average for chemicals found in cities’ water exceeding health guidelines is four. North Las Vegas had a total of 26 contaminants, compared with the national average of eight. The water contained an extremely high level of uranium, a radioactive element.

7. Omaha (Metropolitan Utilities District)

The land-locked city of Omaha gets its water from the Missouri and Platte Rivers, as well as from groundwater. Of the 148 chemicals tested for in Omaha, 42 were detected in some amount, 20 of which were above health guidelines, and four of those were detected in illegal amounts. These were atrazine, trihalomethanes, nitrate and nitrite, and manganese. Atrazine is an herbicide that has been shown to cause birth defects. Nitrate is found in fertilizer, and nitrite is used for curing meat. Manganese was detected at 40 times the legal limit during one month of testing.

6. Houston (City of Houston Public Works)

Houston is the fourth-largest U.S. city. It gets its water from sources such as the Trinity River, the San Jacinto Rivers and Lake Houston. Texas conducted 22,083 water quality tests between 2004 and 2007 on Houston’s water supply, and found 18 chemicals that exceeded federal and state health guidelines, compared to the national average of four. Three chemicals exceeded EPA legal health standards, against the national average of 0.5 chemicals. A total of 46 pollutants were detected, compared to the national average of eight. The city water has contained illegal levels of alpha particles, a form of radiation. Similarly, haloacetic acids, from various disinfection byproducts, have been detected.

5. Reno (Truckee Meadows Water Authority)

Reno gets most of its water from the Truckee River, which flows from Lake Tahoe. Of the 126 chemicals tested for in Reno over four years, 21 were discovered in the city’s water supply, eight of which were detected in levels above EPA health guidelines, and three of these occurred in illegal amounts. These were manganese, tetrachloroethylene and arsenic. Tetrachloroethylene is a fluid used for dry cleaning and as an industrial solvent, and is deemed a likely carcinogenic by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Arsenic is a byproduct of herbicides and pesticides, and is extremely poisonous to humans. During at least one month of testing, arsenic levels were detected at roughly two and a half times the legal limit.

4. Riverside County, Calif. (Eastern Municipal Water District)

Riverside county is a 7,200-square-mile area located north of San Diego, part of California’s “Inland Empire.” The county is primarily located in desert territory, and so the water utilities draw their supply from the Bay Delta, which is miles to the north. The water in Riverside County contained 13 chemicals that exceeded recommended health guidelines over the four tested years, and one that exceeded legal limits. In total, 22 chemicals were detected in the district’s water supply. The contaminant exceeding legal health standards was tetrachloroethylene.

3. Las Vegas (Las Vegas Valley Water District)

Located in the Mojave desert, Las Vegas gets its water from the Colorado River through miles-long intake pipes. While its water doesn’t exceed the legal limits for any single type of contaminant, Las Vegas’s water has a large range of pollutants. Of the 125 chemicals tested for over a five-year period, 30 were identified in some amount, and 12 were found in levels that exceeded EPA health guidelines. These chemicals included radium-226, radium-228, arsenic and lead. The two radium isotopes are commonly found around uranium deposits and are hazardous to human health, even in small quantities.

2. Riverside, Calif. (City of Riverside Public Utilities)

Riverside, with a population slightly greater than 300,000, gets most of its drinking supply from groundwater. Regulators in the city of Riverside, which has a different water-treatment facility than the rest of Riverside County, detected 15 chemicals that exceeded health guidelines and one that exceeded legal standards. In total, 30 chemicals were found. Since 2004, the water has almost consistently been riddled with alpha particle activity, traces of bromoform (a form of trihalomethane) and uranium, causing an unusually unhealthy water supply.

1. Pensacola, Fla. (Emerald Coast Water Utility)

Located on the Florida Panhandle along the Gulf of Mexico, Pensacola is Florida’s westernmost major city. Analysts say it has the worst water quality in the country. Of the 101 chemicals tested for over five years, 45 were discovered. Of them, 21 were discovered in unhealthy amounts. The worst of these were radium-228 and -228, trichloroethylene, tetrachloroethylene, alpha particles, benzine and lead. Pensacola’s water was also found to contain cyanide and chloroform. The combination of these chemicals makes Pensacola’s water supply America’s most unhealthy.


The Top 10 States With the Most Toxic Tap Water

 dated 2010 (with updated links)

States With the Most Toxic Tap Water:

1. California
2. Wisconsin
3. North Carolina
4. Florida
5. Texas
6. New York
7. Nevada
8. Pennsylvania
9. Ohio
10. New Mexico

“With 40 percent of U.S. community water systems in violation of the Safe Water Drinking Act, which sets drinking-water quality standards and is directly linked to the Clean Water Act, 23 million people received low-quality drinking water. ”

“North Carolina- In this state, 6.1 million citizens were exposed to 59 contaminants that exceeded the EPA’s limits. Nitrate, which can have a negative impact on kidneys, blood, the heart and the reproductive systems, was the most common contaminant.

The suspected carcinogen enters water through fertilizer runoff, leaching septic tanks and erosion of natural deposits. Bromodichloromethane showed up in amounts that exceeded health limits in 373 communities, exposing 5 million people to potentially dangerous amounts of the toxic compound.”

The EPA’s Web site provides directions for finding out more information about your drinking water : http://www.epa.gov/enviro/facts/sdwis/search.html

Are You Drinking Contaminated Tap Water?





Depending upon which contaminants you are trying to remove and your price point, the alternatives vary greatly. To just remove chlorine is probably not sufficient, since many excreted and flushed medications are in city water. Apparently, they do not remove medication from city water. Plus, some do/don’t remove fluoride. 

So, distillation is the most effective, but not really home use friendly. Reverse osmosis probably does about the same job, and has a lot of filter issues and cost, maintenance and installation. Might be overkill, if you are on healthy well water. But, if you have your own water tested, or read the government’s city water reports, you could gauge more accurately which type of chemical removal you need.

You need a carbon filter to remove BPA…

reports indicate no filtration system will remove the BPA, and that water is a minor source of BPA compared to other contaminants in our food supply with BPA. 

Environmental Toxins in Drinking Water: Phthalates
– Phthalates are found in our drinking water, air, and food all over the world.

Researchers estimated that more than 75% of the U.S. population is exposed to phthalates. Starting as early as the 1950s, scientists have published research findings in peer-reviewed academic and science journals on human and animal exposure to phthalates and their wide variety of health problems, as follows:

  • Infertility (especially among men)
  • Cancers (e.g., liver, breast, prostate, testicular, colon)
  • Autoimmune diseases (e.g., lupus)
  • Fertility problems (e.g., low sperm count, poor mobility of sperm, DNA damage in sperm, lower testosterone level, and ovarian dysfunction)
  • Obesity, resistance to insulin, and diabetes in men
  • Smaller testes and smaller genitals on average among male babies exposed to phthalates in mothers’ wombs
  • Asthma
  • “Feminization” of male fish, frogs, and other amphibians living in phthalates-contaminated
    rivers in the wild

 What Are Phthalates and Where Are They Found? 

Phthalates are a class of synthetic chemical compounds used widely as softeners in many plastic products (or commonly called as “plasticizers” in plastics) and other consumer products, as follows:

  • All polyvinyl chloride plastics (PVCs), including PVC plastic bags and PVC pipes
  • Pharmaceutical products and medical devices (e.g., tubes, PVC blood bags, dialysis
    equipment, disposable medical examination and sterile surgical vinyl gloves)
  • Cosmetics, perfumes, and other beauty products (e.g., face cream, nail polish)
  • Personal care products (e.g., lotion, shampoo, soaps)
  • Children’s soft-squeeze plastic toys
  • Baby’s pacifiers, infants’ teething rings
  • Common household products (e.g., shower curtains, raincoats)
  • Industrial lubricants
  • Building products (e.g., carpet backing, putty, caulk)
  • Solvents in glues and other adhesives, paints, and wood finishes
  • As the inert ingredient in pesticides and insect repellents
  • Food packaging
  • Sex toys (specifically the so-called jelly rubber toys)

Avoid Phthalates in Your Drinking Water and Food

For your health and your family’s health, it is best to avoid all plastic containers—both
for water and food—labeled #3 PVC and all containers containing phthalates. It is best to use glass or stainless-steel food and water bottles and containers when bottling your own filtered water at home. It is difficult to avoid phthalates in this world even if you want to, so do not
voluntarily ingest more phthalates by using phthalate-containing water bottles and food containers!

info on reverse osmosis water filters


Here are some further resources: “262d7B1EOTHExkCYNYXLsDft8Ug”, event);’ rel=”nofollow” target=”_blank”‘>http://www.nsf.org/consumer/drinking_water/index.asp?program=WaterTre


Is Your Water Safe To Drink?

Note: Call your local water supply company and ask them to send you “The Yearly Water Quality Report”, it’s required by federal law to test your water every year for the range of contaminates. Based on this report you can choose on what type of water filtration system you may need…

Water from a municipal water source or private well can be contaminated with fluoride, chlorine, heavy metals, pharmaceuticals, birth control pills, gasoline additives, industrial discharge/commercial farming runoffs, jet fuel, radioactive residues, and parasites.

And even if we place a water filtration system at the sink, what about the water with which we bathe, shower, cook with, and wash our clothes? Consider that the water we absorb from a 10 minute shower may be greater than the amount we drink all day long!

Read more about Water” and the home filtration system best to removing fluoride, radiation, heavy metals, drug residue, chloramine, chem and micro-sediments, Raises Ph & more… 

Compare this system to:  
B. Gravity Filters