Contaminants That Affect Your Water

Our drinking water is filled with vitamins and minerals, but also many contaminants. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a legal limit for over 90 different contaminants in drinking water. These include things in our water that do not pose a general health risk and contaminants that are not harmful at certain levels.

In 1964, the EPA passed the Safety Drinking Water Act (SDWA) to protect the water we drink by regulating public water systems. With over 155,000 public water systems to regulate, they must set a standard for what is defined as “clean drinking water,” as well as the definition for contaminants. According to the SDWA, “contaminant” means any physical, chemical, or radiological substance in water.

Here are the top three contaminants you should know about:

E. coli

Escherichia coli, otherwise known as E. coli, is one of the most common contaminants for early detection. It’s a type of fecal coliform bacteria commonly found in the intestines of animals and humans. If found in a water test, this could mean that your water was contaminated by sewage or animal waste.

The main symptoms for ingested E. coli are bloody diarrhea, stomach cramps, and vomiting. Many healthy adults generally do not have an issue recovering from ingested E. coli, however, younger children and older adults may have a greater risk of developing life-threatening kidney failure. At the very least, your water should be tested for this contaminant.


Lead and copper are two types of chemical contaminants found in your water, usually from plumbing materials. Since 1991, the Lead and Copper Rule put a cap on lead concentration not to “exceed an action level of 15 ppb (parts per billion) for lead and 1.3 ppm (parts per million) for copper.” While this regulation has gone under many revisions, these two contaminants have been a hot topic in the news, especially regarding better regulation in schools’ water testing.


Arsenic is another type of chemical contaminant. By the Arsenic Rule, the EPA set the standard for 10 ppb, which actually replaced the previous standard of 50 ppb. This contaminant presents long-term health risks such as cancer, organ damage, circulatory damage, and reproductive system disorders. Short-term effects include stomach pain, nausea, diarrhea, and blindness.

Whether you’re a homeowner or an office manager who needs regularly water testing, it is good to know what kind of contaminants are in your water and to ensure that it’s safe for drinking.

Note: The U.S. EPA does not regulate private water systems. If you own a private water well system, we recommend you get your water testing immediately and annually.

Nova Biologicals is Texas’ largest independent water testing laboratory. It performs residential, as well as, commercial water testing with a quick turnaround time.

Contact us if you have water testing needs or questions, and keep yourself up-to-date on water news and regulations with us on Twitter or the EPA website.

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