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Is Your Water Safe?

Water is a vital element in each of our lives. Without water, all life would end in a matter of days. Not only is it essential to our health, but we also use it for numerous household tasks. Every day we use water for drinking, cooking, bathing and cleaning. How often do we think about it as a health risk? These days many people are worried about the quality of their drinking water but few people realize that water that looks, tastes, and smells good can still be hazardous to their health.

According to a recent study, ground water contamination has become the principal environmental concern for the next decade. Rainwater flushes airborne pollution from the skies that ends up in the rivers and lakes. With contamination by toxic organic chemicals, ground water can remain polluted for years because nature supplies few, if any, cleaning or diluting forces. We can no longer take for granted that our drinking water is safe all the time.

The most common sources of contamination are a result of human activity such as discharges from factories, leaking underground pipes & storage tanks, improperly treated sewage disposal, and probably the most common of all, agricultural chemicals & pesticides trickling and seeping into our underground water aquifers. Millions of water wells, storage lakes and rivers are either contaminated now or in danger of becoming contaminated as chemicals creep through these aquifers. Even surface water found in a pristine mountain stream may possibly contain Giardia or Coliform Bacteria from the feces of wild animals.

Several contaminants occur in nature that may present a health hazard if they are found in drinking water. They include bacteria, viruses, uranium, radium, arsenic and fluoride. Though many people worry about the inorganic pollutants such as lead or pesticides, microbial contaminants are by far the greater threat. This may be a good time to define a few of them. There are three basic categories of disease causing pathogens commonly found in untreated water:

The first category is protozoa

It includes the well-known Giardia, and the not-so-well known Cryptosporidium, or Crypto for short. Their size ranges from 1 - 16 microns (anything smaller than 20 microns is invisible to the naked eye).

The second category is bacteria

It includes such commonly known organisms as E-coli, Vibrio Colera, and Salmonella. They range in size from 0.2 to about 10 microns.

The third category is viruses

Commonly known viruses include Hepatitis A and Polio. Viruses are truly tiny; they range in sizes between 0.02 and 0.085 microns.

Few water mains lines going into residential houses or buildings incorporate an effective filtration system. The chances are quite high that there will be initial contamination when you fill up your water storage tank. Further contamination is then inevitable on standing. A recent test conducted with a large container filled with tap water showed an initial bacterial count of 18 per ml, which after only a week had risen to 45000 per ml. Thus, the tanks commonly used to store and dispense fresh water leave much to be desired unless subject to additional treatment. This may range from the simple use of purifying agents added to water, filtration, or complete water treatment.

Contaminants present in water can range from the objectionable to the harmful. Objectionable contaminants are those which affect the taste, smell, and colour of drinking water. Harmful contaminants include all forms of disease-producing bacteria and viruses and possible cancer causing agents.

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