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Raleigh, North Carolina Water Quality Report

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Sources Of Drinking Water in Raleigh, North Carolina

Where does Raleigh's water come from?  In most cases, drinking water comes from two sources: surface water or ground water. Surface water sources are bodies of water on the earth's surface, such as rivers, lakes, and reservoirs. Ground water sources are underground aquifers which are geologic formations containing water underground.Water is collected from surface water systems by pumps and piped to a drinking water treatment plant before distributed to homes and businesses. Groundwater is accessed by drilling a well into the underground water source and then pumping the well water up to the surface.Large scale water supply systems, such as for a town or city, typically rely on surface water resources and smaller water systems, such as for an individual home, tend to rely on ground water as the drinking water source. 

The majority of the drinking water in Raleigh comes from the Falls Lake Reservoir located in northern Wake County and is treated at the E.M. Johnson Water Treatment Plant. Raleigh's second water plant is the Dempsey E. Benton Water Treatment Plant in southwest Wake County. 

An underground network of pipes typically delivers drinking water to the homes and businesses served by the water system.  Small systems serving just a handful of households may be relatively simple, while large metropolitan systems can be extremely complex-sometimes consisting of thousands of miles of pipes serving millions of people. 

The City of Raleigh manages approximately 2,500 miles of water distribution lines that provide water service to over 450,000 people.  Drinking water must meet required health standards when it leaves the treatment plant. After treated water leaves the plant, it is monitored within the distribution lines to identify and remedy any problems such as water main breaks, pressure variations, or growth of microorganisms.

The most commonly used processes include coagulation (flocculation and sedimentation), filtration, and disinfection. Typically the water is stored in a separate large tank for each of these different processes. Some water systems also use oxidation, ion exchange, and adsorption. Water utilities select the treatment combination most appropriate to treat the contaminants found in the source water of that particular system.

  • Coagulation (Flocculation & Sedimentation)
    1. Flocculation: This step removes dirt and other particles suspended in the water. Alum and iron salts or synthetic organic polymers are added to the water to form tiny sticky particles called "floc," which attract the dirt particles and clump them together so they will sink to the bottom.
    2. Sedimentation: The flocculated particles then sink down to the bottom of the tank with the cleaner water remaining above the settled particles.
  • Filtration: Many water treatment facilities use filtration to remove all particles from the water. Those particles include clays and silts, natural organic matter, precipitates from other treatment processes in the facility, iron and manganese, and microorganisms. Filtration clarifies the water and enhances the effectiveness of disinfection.
  • Disinfection: Disinfection of drinking water is considered to be one of the major public health advances of the 20th century. Water is often disinfected before it enters the distribution system to ensure that dangerous microbial contaminants are killed. Chlorine, chloramines, chlorinates, or chlorine dioxides are most often used because they are very effective disinfectants, and residual concentrations can be maintained in the water distribution system. Is Raleigh's water safe to drink?

Source: City of  Raleigh, NC

Contaminants Found in Raleigh's Water Supply

(Detected above health guidelines)

Bromodichloromethane

Bromodichloromethane, one of the total trihalomethanes (TTHMs), is formed when chlorine or other disinfectants are used to treat drinking water. Bromodichloromethane and other disinfection byproducts increase the risk of cancer and may cause problems during pregnancy.

Chlorate

Chlorate forms in drinking water as a byproduct of disinfection. Chlorate impairs thyroid function, making chlorate exposure most harmful during pregnancy and childhood.

Chloroform

Chloroform, one of the total trihalomethanes (TTHMs), is formed when chlorine or other disinfectants are used to treat drinking water. Chloroform and other disinfection byproducts increase the risk of cancer and may cause problems during pregnancy.

Chromium (Hexavalent)

Chromium (hexavalent) is a carcinogen that commonly contaminates American drinking water. Chromium (hexavalent) in drinking water may be due to industrial pollution or natural occurrences in mineral deposits and groundwater.

Dibromochloromethane

Dibromochloromethane, one of the total trihalomethanes (TTHMs), is formed when chlorine or other disinfectants are used to treat drinking water.

Dichloroacetic acid

Dichloroacetic acid, one of the group of five haloacetic acids regulated by federal standards, is formed when chlorine or other disinfectants are used to treat drinking water. Haloacetic acids and other disinfection byproducts increase the risk of cancer and may cause problems during pregnancy.

Radiological Contaminants 

This utility detected Radium, combined (-226 & -228), Radium-226. Radiological contaminants leach into water from certain minerals and from mining. Drinking water contamination with radioactive substances increases the risk of cancer and may harm fetal development.

Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs)

Trihalomethanes are cancer-causing contaminants that form during water treatment with chlorine and other disinfectants. The total trihalomethanes group includes four chemicals: chloroform, bromodichloromethane, dibromochloromethane and bromoform.

Trichloroacetic Acid

Trichloroacetic acid, one of the group of five haloacetic acids regulated by federal standards, is formed when chlorine or other disinfectants are used to treat drinking water. Haloacetic acids and other disinfection byproducts increase the risk of cancer and may cause problems during pregnancy. 

Fluoride

Fluoride occurs naturally in surface and groundwater and is also added to drinking water by many water systems. The fluoride that is added to water is not the naturally occurring kind, the main chemicals used to fluoridate drinking water are known as “silicofluorides” (i.e., hydrofluorosilicic acid and sodium fluorosilicate). Silicofluorides are not pharmaceutical-grade fluoride products; they are unprocessed industrial by-products of the phosphate fertilizer industry (Gross!). Since these silicofluorides undergo no purification procedures, they can contain elevated levels of arsenic — moreso than any other water treatment chemical. In addition, recent research suggests that the addition of silicofluorides to water is a risk factor for elevated lead exposure, particularly among residents who live in homes with old pipes.

Potential Health Effects of Consuming These Contaminants

Health risks of Bromodichloromethane in excess of health guideline

Cancer: The health guideline of 0.4 ppb for bromodichloromethane was defined by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment as a one-in-a-million lifetime risk of cancer. Values greater than one-in-a-million cancer risk level can result in increased cancer cases above one in a million people.

Health risks of Chlorate in excess of health guideline: 

Thyroid: The health guideline of 210 ppb for chlorate was defined by the Environmental Protection Agency as a benchmark for testing under the Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule program. This health guideline protects against hormone disruption.

Health risks of Chloroform in excess of health guideline

Cancer: The health guideline of 1 ppb for chloroform was defined by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment as a one-in-a-million lifetime risk of cancer. Values greater than one-in-a-million cancer risk level can result in increased cancer cases above one in a million people.

Health risks of Dibromochloromethane in excess of health guideline 

Cancer & Pregnancy: Dibromochloromethane, one of the total trihalomethanes (TTHMs), is formed when chlorine or other disinfectants are used to treat drinking water. Dibromochloromethane and other disinfection byproducts increase the risk of cancer and may cause problems during pregnancy


Health risks of Chromium (Hexavalent) in excess of health guideline

Cancer: The health guideline of 0.02 ppb for chromium (hexavalent) was defined by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment as a public health goal, the level of a drinking water contaminant that does not pose a significant health risk. This health guideline protects against cancer.

Health risks of Dichloroacetic acid in excess of health guideline

Cancer: The health guideline of 0.7 ppb for dichloroacetic acid was defined by the Environmental Protection Agency as a one-in-a-million lifetime risk of cancer. Values greater than one-in-a-million cancer risk level can result in increased cancer cases above one in a million people.

Health risks of Radiological contaminants  

Cancer: Radium is a radioactive element that causes bone cancer and other cancers. It can occur naturally in groundwater, and oil and gas extraction activities such as hydraulic fracturing can elevate concentrations.  

Health risks of Trihalomethanes in excess of health guideline

Cancer: The health guideline of 0.8 ppb for trihalomethanes was defined by the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment as a draft public health goal, the level of drinking water contaminant that does not pose a significant health risk. This health guideline protects against cancer.

Health risks of Trichloroacetic acid in excess of health guideline

Cancer: The health guideline of 0.5 ppb for trichloroacetic acid was defined by the Environmental Protection Agency as a one-in-a-million lifetime risk of cancer. Values greater than one-in-a-million cancer risk level can result in increased cancer cases above one in a million people.

Contaminant Levels in Raleigh, NC Compared to Other Regions

Bromodichloromethane

- Health Guideline: 0.06 ppb

 - State: 5.83 ppb

 - Raleigh, NC: 5.80 ppb

 - National: 4.38 ppb

Chlorate: 

- Health Guideline: 210.0 ppb

- State: 190.7 ppb

- Raleigh, NC: 230.6 ppb

- National: 4.38 ppb

Chloroform

 - Health Guideline: 1.0 ppb

 - State: 18.3 ppb

 - National: 11.4 ppb

 - Raleigh, NC: 16.2 ppb

Chromium (hexavalent)

 - Health Guideline: 0.02 ppb

 - Raleigh, NC: 0.0560 ppb

 - State: 0.0757 ppb

 - National: 0.782 ppb

Dibromochloromethane 

  - Legal Limit: 4 ppb

 - State: 3.26 ppb

 - National: 0.440 ppb 

 - Raleigh, NC: 2.43 ppb

Dichloroacetic acid

 - Health Guideline: 0.7 ppb

 - State: 8.05 ppb

 - National: 6.00 ppb

 - Raleigh, NC: 10.2 ppb

Radiological contaminants: 

Health Guideline: N/A - No standard exist for this contaminant.

Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs)

 - Health Guideline: 0.8 ppb

 - State: 28.4 ppb

 - National: 23.4 ppb

 - Raleigh, NC: 24.4 ppb

Trichloroacetic acid

 - Health Guideline: 0.5 ppb

 - State: 7.03 ppb

 - National: 4.93 ppb

 - Raleigh, NC: 3.37 ppb

Fluoride

 - Legal Limit: 4 ppb

 - State: 0.305 ppb

 - National: 0.440 ppb 

 - Raleigh, NC: 0.735 ppb

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April Jones

A Colorado based hiker, blogger, and water quality expert...

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