Sunday, September 14, 2008

Public Confidence Reports on Drinking Water

Want to know what’s in your drinking water?

One way to find out is to check your Consumer Confidence Report (CCR), which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires all water systems to provide their customers each year.

The City of Bellingham tests its drinking water for more than 150 substances. The City of Bellingham's Consumer Confidence Report can be found here:

According to recent reports, up to 5,000 families and businesses rely on Lake Whatcom for drinking water.

What is the best source of water for a public drinking water system?

Here's what the Washington State Department of Health has to say: Without extensive treatment provisions, the use of a properly constructed well that taps a protected groundwater aquifer is the safest source of drinking water. A connection with another public water system that meets all drinking water standards is also a good option. Water that is open to the atmosphere and vulnerable to surface water runoff is not safe to drink without complete treatment.

Sources at risk include lakes, rivers, streams and improperly constructed springs. Shallow or poorly constructed wells may also be unsafe.

Why do surface water sources need special treatment to make them safe?

Surface water sources are open to contamination from human and animal waste and other pollution. Consequently, they are particularly susceptible to contamination by organisms such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites that can cause serious illness and disease. Two parasites that cause waterborne illness are Giardia and Cryptosporidium. Giardia is the cause of an illness commonly known as “backpacker’s disease.” Cryptosporidium is the organism that caused over 400,000 illnesses and 100 deaths in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1993.

What special requirements are surface water systems subject to?

Public water systems with surface water sources are subject to extensive federal and state requirements to protect public health. Both Group A and Group B surface water sources are subject to requirements identified in Part 6 of the Washington State Board of Health drinking water regulations, Chapter 246-290 WAC. These regulations comply with the federal Surface Water Treatment Rule (SWTR) and include filtration, disinfection, operating, monitoring, and reporting requirements.

What treatment is required for surface water sources?

Studies of waterborne disease outbreaks have shown that properly designed and operated treatment systems, which include both filtration and disinfection, are effective in preventing waterborne illness.

If surface water is not adequately treated, what is a public water system’s
responsibility to inform the people who drink it?

Everyone who might use the water needs to be told that it is not safe to drink. The system must give written notice to every user and repeat it every three months. All new users must be informed immediately.

DOH PUB. # 331-207
This and other publications are available on the Internet:

Is there an aquifer in Whatcom County that could provide a safe, reliable source of drinking water for 95,000 or more citizens?


There is an aquifer (source of groundwater) that is large enough to serve all 95,000 current users, if we choose to use it.

Why are we avoiding exploring this alternative?

Beats me.

Please see GW Quantity study for WRIA 1:

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