Before treated drinking water ever reaches your tap, it undergoes a number of rigorous tests to ensure the highest level of quality. Citizens Water tests drinking water approximately 120,000 times every year.
There are number of substances the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires us to test for to ensure the safety of our water supply and the health of our customers. Our world-class laboratory facilities maintain strict adherence to standards for accuracy and quality, earning state certification each year. The EPA prescribes regulations which limit the amount of certain contaminants in water provided by public water systems.
In addition to the laboratory testing, more than 120 in-line water monitors continually measure the quality of water throughout the drinking water system.
Substances that are monitored include, but are not limited to, pharmaceuticals, lead, cryptosporidium, atrazine and arsenic, hard water, and algae.
Special Health Considerations
Some people may be more vulnerable to contaminants in drinking water than the general population. Immunocompromised persons, such as persons undergoing chemotherapy, persons who have undergone organ transplants, people with HIV/AIDS or other immune system disorders, and some elderly and infants can be particularly at risk from infections. These people should seek advice about drinking water from their health care providers. The EPA and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) offer guidelines on appropriate means to lessen the risk of infection by cryptosporidium and other microbial contaminants. Additional health and contaminant information is available via the EPA's Safe Drinking Water Hotline, 800-426-4791 or at www.EPA.gov.
Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products as Pollutants (PPCPs) refers, in general, to any product used by individuals for personal health or cosmetic reasons or used by agribusiness to enhance growth or health of livestock. PPCPs comprise a diverse collection of thousands of chemical substances, including prescription and over-the-counter therapeutic drugs, veterinary drugs, fragrances, and cosmetics. For more information on PPCPs, visit the Environmental Protection Agency website.
Infants and young children are typically more vulnerable to lead in drinking water than the general population. It is possible that the lead levels at your home may be higher than at other homes in the community as a result of materials used in your home's plumbing. If you are concerned about elevated lead levels in your home's water, you may wish to have your water tested. Also, flush your tap for 30 seconds to two minutes before using tap water.
Additional information is available from the EPA's Safe Drinking Water Hotline at (800) 426-4791.
Cryptosporidium is a microscopic organism that lives in the intestines of animals and people. When ingested, this microscopic pathogen may cause a disease called cryptosporidiosis, which has flu-like symptoms. Although there has been no cryptosporidium found in treated finished drinking water, cryptosporidium is found in source water such as White River, Fall Creek and Eagle Creek Reservoir.
Citizens Water utilizes a stringent monitoring program, testing source water and finished drinking water as well as using online monitors that measure the clarity of the water. This monitoring program helps determine the likeliness of the microbe's presence in the drinking water. At the surface water treatment plants, physical removal by coagulation, flocculation, sedimentation and filtration is used to eliminate the pathogen from drinking water.
Atrazine and Arsenic
Citizens Water customers frequently ask if harmful levels of atrazine and arsenic are present in their drinking water. Our testing ensures that concentrations of these parameters remain well below established EPA standards. Occasionally during the spring, when test results indicate the need, powdered activated carbon (PAC) is added to the surface water treatment process to reduce atrazine concentrations.
“Hard Water” is water that contains dissolved calcium, magnesium and iron salts. Generally, water hardness is unpleasant for two reasons.
First, the calcium, magnesium and iron salts react with soaps to form insoluble soaps that have no cleaning power. They can also stick to fabrics to give a dingy appearance and make a ring in the bathtub. Excess soap has to be added to react with all of the calcium, magnesium and iron salts.
The second reason water hardness is objectionable is because hard water is responsible for the formation of boiler scale. At high temperatures the calcium, magnesium and iron form solid mineral matter coating the boiler or heater. Scale is a poor conductor of heat, and energy is wasted to heat the water.
As is common with water in this region, water in Indianapolis is considered hard due to the natural levels of the minerals calcium and magnesium. The water hardness, expressed as calcium carbonate, typically ranges from around 200 to 350 milligrams per liter or parts per million (ppm). This equates to 12 to 20 grains per gallon, the measure often referred to in determining water softener settings. Water hardness can vary depending on the hardness of the source water that is used to supply different treatment plants. For more specific information about the water hardness typical at your address, call (317) 924-3311.
The state of Indiana routinely monitors Geist, Morse and Eagle Creek Reservoirs for blue-green algae and the potential toxins it may produce. Their findings are posted online at www.algae.in.gov. There are currently no guidelines in the United States regarding the removal or reduction of these compounds from drinking water. They are on the EPA's watch list of "unregulated contaminants," essentially meaning that regulators are monitoring the presence, location and frequency of their reported occurrence. However, there are no treatment recommendations or standards of removal for these toxins at this time.
Many kinds of algae are present in most open waterways and streams throughout the state. Higher temperatures, warmer waters, cloudless days and lack of rainfall contribute to the conditions which encourage algae growth and reproduction. These algae are a natural part of the biodiversity which contributes to the biological food chain. Some of these algae have the capacity to produce algal toxins which may, at certain concentrations, cause some health concerns to those who come into contact with the water. Recreational water users are advised to rinse off after contact with potentially impacted waters, which may be in a lake, reservoir or stream.
While some of these algae may pose a risk for recreational users, standard drinking water procedures successfully remove the algae from drinking water.
Algae in Drinking Water Supplies
Past sampling data has indicated the presence of some forms of blue-green algae during various times of the year in the reservoirs which supply raw water to the Citizens Water treatment facilities. The presence of the algae does NOT mean algal toxins are also present, and there appears to be no correlation between the amount of algae present and whether or not the toxins are detected. Large amounts of blue-green algae may not produce any detectable toxins, or small amounts of the algae may or may not produce the toxins. Global research is currently underway in various locations to try to better understand how, when and why these toxins may be produced.
Conventional water treatment methods have been proven effective in removing both blue-green algae and the types of potential toxins which have been reported and found in Indiana waters. Powder-activated carbon and chlorine disinfection are commonly used to eliminate many unwanted contaminants. Although algal toxins are not currently regulated by the U.S. EPA, research has shown that small concentrations of the algal toxins microcystin and cylindrospermopsin such as those which have been reported can be effectively processed to meet World Health Organization standards.
The World Health Organization, which provided global advice on many issues, has posted standards for the algal toxins based on their data and information. These levels, which are not regulated in the United States by the EPA, advise that finished drinking water should contain no more of the toxins than 1 to 1.5 parts per billion (the equivalent of roughly one drop of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool, or one second in a period of 31.7 years).
Eagle Creek Reservoir
The presence of certain types of algae can result in water taste and odor issues. Citizens Water receives less than 10 taste and odor complaints per year, due to our attentive treatment practices and focused research and development.
The presence of pseudanabaena algae in the Eagle Creek Reservoir can sometimes pose a challenge to Citizens Water. This algae produces a chemical, MIB (2-methylisoborneol), that some humans are very sensitive to. This is not a new phenomenon, and typically takes place for one to two years after a drought year.
Eagle Creek Reservoir is especially susceptible to algae problems because it is relatively shallow and typically has limited movement of water through the reservoir. Increased sunlight penetration in recent years has contributed to algae blooms. Unfortunately it tends to grow very quickly during some conditions.
Citizens Water has successfully treated the reservoir with cutrine plus, an algaecide that is safe for aquatic life and for humans.
For more information on algae and the potential problems it can cause, visit the Indiana University Purdue University Center for Earth and Environmental Science website.