Water and soil quality are critical to the health of our communities and the environment. The presence of certain contaminants in our water can lead to serious health consequences including gastrointestinal illness, reproductive issues, and neurological disorders. Infants, young children, pregnant women, the elderly, and immunocompromised persons may be especially vulnerable to becoming ill after consuming contaminated water. For instance, elevated levels of lead can cause serious ailments, most saliently for gravid women and young children. Federal law requires that systems reduce certain contaminants to set levels, in order to protect human health.
There can be many sources of contamination in our water systems including the following:
- Naturally occurring chemicals and minerals (for example: arsenic, radon and uranium)
- Local land use practices (fertilizers, pesticides, livestock and concentrated animal feeding operations)
- Manufacturing processes
- Sewer overflows
- Malfunctioning wastewater treatment systems (for instance, local septic systems)
Every community water supplier must provide an annual report, sometimes called a Consumer Report or “CCR” to its customers. This report offers information on your area’s drinking water quality including the following: the water’s source, contaminants found in the water and how consumers can become proactive in protecting the integrity of their drinking water.
Many people wonder how often our water is tested: Drinking water can be tested around the clock; including hourly, monthly, quarterly, and annually, depending on the locations and size of the public water system. Certain contaminants are tested with far more regularity than others, as determined by the Safe Drinking Water Act. Compliance testing is conducted once a year, prior to Consumer Confidence Reports being mailed out to consumers.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets standards and regulations for the presence and amount of more than 90 various contaminants in public drinking water, including E. coli, Salmonella, and Cryptosporidium species.
In addition to water, soil can become tainted when man-made chemicals come into contact with clean soil. Other sources of soil contamination may be refuse that leaches from operational or closed landfills, runoff from livestock manure, direct dumping of hazardous industrial waste, waste piles from mining operations, septic systems and leach fields that breach their boundaries, as well as storage cisterns which burst underground. Contaminated particles pollute soil either by becoming adhered to the soil itself or by residing in the spaces between the soil particles. At times, the contamination may be from a “point source,” such as when pollutants are dumped directly on soil or buried underneath. In other occurrences, soil becomes contaminated as liquids or gasses from point sources migrate elsewhere, infiltrating residential properties downstream. The three most-prevalent pollutants in urban and rural residential soils alike are lead, arsenic and cadmium. These elements were in widespread use in paints and construction practices in the past and persist in soils today because, as heavy metals, they do not easily decompose.
Sullied soil, like vitiated water has a deleterious effect on humans and animals alike. People are at a high risk for poisoning when they come into direct contact with adulterated soil. This may transpire when a person conducts any activity in the soil, such as digging, gardening and landscaping, and when soil is tracked into the home. Soil contaminants may be inhaled when soil is kicked up in the air; for instance, while mowing the lawn. Children are at an especially high risk due to their proclivity for putting objects in their oral cavity and for inserting their hands into their mouths without washing. Pets and wildlife can also come into contact with debased soil when burrowing or eating and drinking from the ground. Alterations in soil chemistry affect critters, at the lower spectrum of the food chain, such as arthropods and tiny micro-organisms: This has dire consequences, since it puts the entire ecosystem in peril as it may cause a domino effect to spiral throughout the food chain.
The importance of accurate environmental testing cannot be overemphasized as it serves to identify and quantify compounds and pollutants in water, soil and air. In addition, environmental testing can verify that a product or piece of equipment will perform as desired once it is out in the world. Environmental test equipment is used in a variety of areas including the following: environmental chemical testing, agriculture, public health and safety, field testing, petroleum, and many others. These sophisticated environmental testing devices serve a vital role in making safe the air we breathe, the water we drink and the soil in which our children and animals play and wherein we grow our food. Please click here to find out more information about Koehler Instrument Company’s line of analyzers and accessories which serve the environmental industry.