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Washington D.C. Water Quality Report

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Sources Of Drinking Water in Washington DC

Where does Washington DC get its water from? All the water in Washington DC comes from the Potomac River near Great Falls, is treated at the Dalecarlia Reservoir by the Washington Aqueduct (a division of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers), and is then sold to DC Water. That water is then pumped to reservoirs all over the city. The reservoirs are located at different elevations, and they supply water to points below them. From those reservoirs, the water flows downhill (via gravity) to houses and businesses. Is Washington DC water safe to drink?

Source: DC Water

Contaminants Found in Washington DC'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.

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 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 Washington DC Compared to Other Regions

Bromodichloromethane

- Health Guideline: 0.06 ppb

 - Washington DC 11.1 ppb

 - National: 4.38 ppb

Chlorate: 

- Health Guideline: 210.0 ppb

- Washington DC: 260.6 ppb

- National: 114.0 ppb

Chloroform

 - Health Guideline: 1.0 ppb

 - National: 11.4 ppb

 - Washington DC: 24.0 ppb

Chromium (hexavalent)

 - Health Guideline: 0.02 ppb

 - Washington DC: 0.0863 ppb

 - National: 0.782 ppb

Dibromochloromethane 

  - Legal Limit: 4 ppb

 - National: 0.440 ppb 

 - Washington DC: 3.17 ppb

Dichloroacetic acid

 - Health Guideline: 0.7 ppb

 - National: 6.00 ppb

 - Washington DC: 12.8 ppb

Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs)

 - Health Guideline: 0.8 ppb

 - National: 23.4 ppb

 - Washington DC: 38.9 ppb

Trichloroacetic acid

 - Health Guideline: 0.5 ppb

 - National: 4.93 ppb

 - Washington DC: 11.9 ppb

Fluoride

 - Legal Limit: 4 ppb

 - National: 0.440 ppb 

 - Washington DC: 0.713 ppb

Epic Pure Pitcher

April Jones

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

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