Flint, Michigan. Hoosick Falls, New York. Jackson, Mississippi. Fort Worth, Texas. Newark, New Jersey. The list goes on and on. What do the residents of these towns have in common? Each has experienced the panic and outrage that comes with drinking tainted water. Countless news articles have come out in recent months, describing one contaminated water supply after another.
The American public was provided with a reasonable expectation that they receive clean drinking water through the passage of the Safe Drinking Water Act in 1974. Since then one thing has become apparent — we really don’t know if our drinking water is safe if we don’t test it. This is why the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association (the Watershed) is launching a new program to help residents of central New Jersey test their drinking water.
Unfortunately, residents of some towns have continued drinking publicly supplied water without knowing it was contaminated. Sometimes for years. In fact, flyers were distributed to Flint residents that convinced them the water was safe to drink — while at the same time, bottled water was provided to their municipal and state employees, indicating that officials were aware of the situation long before they let on.
Most instances of contaminated water have not occurred under such sinister circumstances. The fact is that many of our older pipes are made of lead or were installed using lead solder. Until there are enough resources to replace every line of old plumbing in the country, we must continue to be vigilant to protect ourselves against lead poisoning and other water-borne ailments.
Lead poisoning is a very serious matter. Lead is toxic to many of the body’s organs and interferes with the development of the nervous system, so lead poisoning is a particular concern in children.
But lead is not the only contaminant that can appear in drinking water. Excessive copper can cause liver damage and kidney disease. Arsenic can cause cancer, heart disease, stroke, and other maladies. High nitrate levels in drinking water can cause blood poisoning in infants and liver and stomach illness in older persons.
To better protect residents of Central New Jersey, the Watershed Association is offering a bran new program — TapWatch, a drinking water testing program for the public. Whether your water comes from a well in your backyard or is delivered to your home in a pipe from your municipality or a private water company, this new service will better equip you with the knowledge that what you are putting into your body is safe. Members of the Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association will receive this service at a reduced price, however all are invited to participate.
The program, being launched next month, offers an array of testing options. For residents, who received water from a municipal or private water service, the organization recommends testing for lead, arsenic, and copper. Testing for Escherichia coli, total coliform bacteria, nitrates, and volatile organic compounds is recommended for residents with wells. The Watershed Association’s staff will help you decide which testing is best for you.
TapWatch complements the work the Watershed Association has been doing since 1949 to protect and restore water and the natural environment in central New Jersey. Over the years the organization has successfully advocated for an array of measures to protect our region’s water from pollution and development, manage polluted stormwater runoff, and treat wastewater before it is released to our streams and rivers. The Watershed’s StreamWatch program assesses water chemistry, biological health, and bacteria levels in streams across central New Jersey. The organization’s River-Friendly program works with individual residents, businesses, schools, and golf courses to identify ,encourage, and certify actions that protect our streams and rivers — which are the source of drinking water for most of the people in our region.
The Stony Brook-Millstone Watershed Association (www.thewatershed.org) is a member-supported non-profit organization dedicated to keeping central New Jersey’s water clean, safe, and healthy.