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Salt Lake City Water Quality Report

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Sources Of Drinking Water in Salt Lake City, Utah

Where does Salt Lake City get its water from? Multiple source waters feed our system. We have also built redundancy into our system to avoid disruption in service. Our source waters include mountain streams, surface water reservoirs, and a network of groundwater wells and springs. SLC Public Utilities owns and operates three surface water treatment plants and purchases water from other water districts and conservancies. We typically use our network of wells in the summer months to meet high demand. Because of our multiple sources and treatment facilities, water in our distribution system is blended from these sources. Also, the sources may vary throughout the year depending on supply and demand. 

SURFACE WATER. Our primary source waters are from mountain streams (i.e., City Creek, Parley's Creek, Big Cottonwood Creek, and Little Cottonwood Creek), which are in the protected watersheds located north and east of Salt Lake City in the Wasatch Mountains. Salt Lake City Ordinances 17.04 and 17.08 were adopted to protect these mountain streams from pollution. In addition, we have invested in and receive treated water from the Provo River watershed. Like many public water systems around the country, the surface water treatment for SLC Public Utilities uses a multi-step treatment process, including coagulation, flocculation, sedimentation, filtration, and disinfection. The primary disinfectant used is chlorine. After the water leaves the treatment plants, SLC Public Utilities routinely collects samples throughout the distribution system to monitor the quality of water as it travels through more than 1,300 miles of pipe to your tap.

GROUNDWATER. SLC Public Utilities' wells and springs are spread across the valley from Cottonwood Heights to the mouth of City Creek Canyon. The quality of our groundwater is impacted by what happens on the ground above. Salt Lake City zoning ordinance 21A.34.060 was adopted to help protect our groundwater resources. Never dispose of chemicals or hazardous materials on the ground. These materials can migrate through the soils and impact groundwater. Because of SLC Public Utilities' excellent groundwater resources, groundwater does not require special treatment. Similar to the filtration process of surface water, groundwater is continually filtered through a natural process as it passes through the subsurface geology. SLC Public Utilities routinely monitors the quality of the groundwater and remains a concerned and active stakeholder for sites where groundwater contamination has been identified. As such, we work with the Utah Department of Environmental Quality, the EPA, and other stakeholders to protect our citizens and their interests. Does Salt Lake City put fluoride in its water? Is Salt Lake City's water safe to drink?

Source: Salt Lake City Department of Public Utilities

Contaminants Found in Salt Lake City's Water Supply

(Detected above health guidelines)

 

Arsenic

3rd party independent testing found that this utility exceeds health guidelines for this drinking water contaminant. Arsenic occurs naturally in soil and bedrock in parts of the United States. Commercial activities that could have left arsenic in our soil and water include, apple orchard spraying, coal ash disposal, use of pressure treated wood. Arsenic has no smell, taste, or color when dissolved in water, even in high concentrations, so only laboratory analysis can detect its presence and concentration.  What are the risks of drinking tap water with arsenic? Cancer. Chronic exposure to arsenic is also associated with an increased risk of skin, bladder, and lung cancer. There is also evidence that long-term exposure to arsenic can increase risks for kidney and prostate cancer. Find out more about this contaminant and how to remove it here.

Chromium (hexavalent)

3rd party independent testing found that this utility exceeds health guidelines for this drinking water contaminant. The movie Erin Brockovich alerted the public to the great suffering the little town of Hinkley, California experienced due to hexavalent chromium in their drinking water. Today, Hinkley is little more than a ghost town thanks to continued water contamination, health concerns, and plummeting property values. 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. What are the risks of drinking tap water with Chromium (hexavalent)? Cancer. A 2008 study by the National Toxicology Program, part of the National Institutes of Health, found that chromium-6 in drinking water caused cancer in laboratory rats and mice. That study and other research led scientists at the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment to conclude that chromium-6 can cause cancer in people. Find out more about this contaminant and how to remove it here.

 

Radiological Contaminants  

3rd party independent testing found that this utility exceeds health guidelines for this drinking water contaminant. Radiological contamination of water is due to the presence of radionuclides, which are defined as atoms with unstable nuclei. In an effort to become more stable, a radionuclide emits energy in the form of rays or high-speed particles. This is called ionizing radiation because it displaces electrons, which creates ions. The three major types of ionizing radiation are alpha particles, beta particles and gamma rays. Radiological contaminants leach into water from certain minerals and from mining. What are the risks of drinking tap water with Radiological contaminants? Cancer. Over and over again, regardless of the source, long-term exposure or brief exposure in high doses, leads to cancer. Cancers of the bone, liver, stomach, lungs, skin, kidneys, thyroid gland, and most other tissues are common, and medical science is still discovering other maladies that may be cancer-related. Find out more about this contaminant and how to remove it here.

 

Fluoride

There is a drinking water standard of 4 ppm for fluoride but there is no health guideline for this contaminant and much is not known about the effects of fluoride long term on the human body. This water utility did not exceed the drinking water standard for fluoride but fluoride was found in their water. 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 — more so 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. What are the risks of drinking tap water with Fluoride? Unknown. A growing body of evidence reasonably indicates that fluoridated water, in addition to other sources of daily fluoride exposure, can cause or contribute to a range of serious effects, including arthritis, damage to the developing brain, reduced thyroid function, and possibly osteosarcoma (bone cancer) in adolescent males. Find out more about this contaminant and how to remove it here.

 

What are the best type of filters to remove these contaminants?

 

Water sources can contain contaminants that impact your long term health, the taste & smell of the water and other microbiological contaminants that can actually make people sick shortly after drinking. Fortunately, there are water filtration products that remove many of the impurities from water. These filters often use activated carbon. Activated carbon is a form of carbon processed to have small, low-volume pores that increase the surface area available for adsorption of contaminants or chemical reactions. Two dominant carbon filter choices are solid activated carbon blocks and granular activated carbon filters.

Filter Design

Granular activated carbon filters have loose granules of carbon that look like black grains of sand. These black grains of carbon, are dumped into a container and the water is forced to travel through the container to reach the other side, passing by all of the grains of carbon. Solid block carbon filters are blocks of compressed activated carbon that are formed with the combination of heat and pressure. These filters force the water to try to find a way through the solid wall and thousands of layers of carbon until the reach a channel which leads the water out of the filter. Both filters are made from carbon that’s ground into small particulate sizes. Solid carbon blocks are ground even further into a fine mesh 7 to 19 times smaller than the granular activated carbon filters.

Flow Channels & Less Contact Time

As water continually pass through Granular Activated Carbon filters, flow channels begin to develop that allows the water to flow around the carbon. Flow channels also develop between the granules, leading to less effective filtration as there’s less contact between the water and carbon. Solid carbon blocks are much tighter and won’t even let through microbial cysts like giardia and cryptosporidium (7 to 10 Microns in size). However, solid carbon block filters are so tight that they can often get plugged up with organic & non-organic matter, forcing owners to replace them on a more regular basis. This is why when you are using a Brita water pitcher filter (granular activated carbon), the filter will keep going and going long after it has stopped removing any water contaminants.

Carbon Block vs Granulated Activated Carbon

The granular activated carbon filters are cheap and simple to manufacture, which is why most water filtration companies choose this method for manufacturing (ex: Brita, Woder). Solid Carbon Block Filters on the other hand take longer to manufacture and are more expensive but with this expense, you get superior contaminant removal because the water must take a tortured path through thousands of layers of compressed carbon before it reaches your drinking glass.

Better Filtration

The solid carbon block filters like the one used in the Epic Smart Shield & Epic Water Filter pitchers, remove more contaminants than the granular activated carbon filters due to the larger surface area and the tighter filters, this is why Epic Water Filters has standardized on the solid carbon block design for our water pitchers and our under the sink water filter. Unfortunately, granular activated carbon filters do not do enough to reduce contaminants, this is why they are not used when there is a chance of bacteria or cysts in the water. They are truly not "Epic" so that is why we have passed on this design and let our competitors like Woder, Brita, Pur, and Invigorated Water use these loose packed carbon filters for sub-par contaminant removal.

Solid carbon block filters, on the other hand, have millions and millions of different sized pores that cause the water to take a long slow path to get through the filter, increasing the contact time that the contaminated water has with the carbon. During this contact time is when contaminants adhere to the carbon and are removed from water. This happens during a process called adsorption, the other filtration method that carbon blocks use is called depth filtration where the thickness of the filter comes into play to help remove contaminants as they have to pass through this carbon walls.

With solid carbon block filters the contaminants are in contact with more carbon for a longer period and therefore have more time to remove stubborn contaminants like lead (Epic Pure Pitcher 99.9% removal), fluoride (Epic Pure Pitcher 97.8% removal), and PFCs (Epic Pure Pitcher 99.8% removal). Carbon blocks can remove chlorine more effectively, eliminate undesirable odors, and removal of endocrine disruptors like volatile organic compounds. Granular activated carbon filters, on the other hand, have small particles that move around under the pressure of water so they do not have as much uniformity throughout and therefore less contact time with the water and less contaminant removal.

What about Reverse Osmosis?

RO filters are good at contaminant removal. The downside of RO is that it wastes a lot of water. Each RO system wastes an average of 5 to 6 gallons for every gallon it produces of drinking water. Also RO systems remove trace minerals and other beneficial substances found in water that your body needs (calcium, manganese, iron and other important nutrients). This is why RO water is considered by many in the natural health world to be dead water and it is said that demineralized water is detrimental to general health due to vitamin and mineral depletion. The last downside of RO systems is that after your water passes through the filter process, it sits inside of steel drum that is lined with a butyl rubber bladder which is made from polyisobutylene. The filtered water sits in this butyl rubber bladder until it is used. All rubber and plastic containers leach into water at some level. Carbon block filters do not have this issue. 

 

Epic Pure Pitcher

April Jones

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

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