Treating contaminants that present a health risk or other problems

There is no such thing as “pure” water. All water contains gases or minerals. Various techniques have been designed to remove unwanted substances from water, but the amount and type of substances removed depends on the treatment method.

Water is polluted by both nature and human activities. In most cases, the pollution is hardly severe and is not particularly detrimental to health. However, some substances that are health hazards do occur in water. Other substances are merely undesirable because they create bad tastes and odors, stain clothing and fixtures, or ultimately cost money. Still others have little or no effect in water used for most purposes.

Following is information that may be helpful as you are considering water treatment for your home.

1. Match the system to the specific contaminants
There is no one-size-fits-all treatment technology to make all drinking water safe or aesthetically acceptable. Rather, a water treatment system or systems should mediate the specific contaminants at the concentrations at which they exist in your well water.

Start by comparing your laboratory drinking water test to the treatment system specifications to see if the system is a good match. The company trying to sell you a system can help you with that. If you are still uncertain or want a second opinion, show your water test results and the treatment system specifications to your county health department, county extension office, or some other qualified person who can help you understand the proper treatment for your home.

2. Use a certified product
A product certified by an independent testing agency such as the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) or the Water Quality Association (WQA) has been tested and found to meet standards for drinking water treatment. This is a protection for you that the system is effective for what it is supposed to treat. 
3. Other considerations
When shopping for a treatment system, discuss your overall needs with the water treatment specialist. For instance:

  • Do you want to treat all the water entering the house or just the water from certain taps? This could be a practical issue or it could relate directly to providing the protection you require.
  • Will the treatment device produce a sufficient quantity of water to meet your household needs—including at times of peak water use?

Also, in addition to the purchase cost, ask on the front end what the system operation and maintenance costs are for the system you are considering.

4. Testing the water after treatment system installation
Talk to the water treatment system dealer about testing the system at intervals after installation to determine if it is working properly. Ask the dealer what recourse you will have if for whatever reason the system isn’t effective in treating your water quality problems to acceptable levels—and get it in writing.
5. Treatment system maintenance
Maintaining a treatment system is critical if it is to continue providing safe drinking water. Know what maintenance is required, and follow the manufacturer’s directions on maintenance. The company that sold and/or installed the system may have a maintenance plan you can purchase.
6. Ongoing water testing
Test your water periodically according to the manufacturer’s recommendations to make sure the treatment system is working properly, including after the treatment system is serviced.

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Information on home water treatment also is available at the: * National Sanitation Foundation, www.nsf.org * Water Quality Association, www.wqa.org