Is Florida Tap Water Safe to Drink
The safety of Florida’s tap water has come under security in recent years. Concerns over harmful contaminants and disinfectants in the water have drawn criticism from Floridians and water safety advocates alike. Floridians should have safe tap drinking water just like the rest of the country. Check out my guide which covers the current state of safety for Florida’s tap water.
Safe Drinking Water Standards
All throughout the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is tasked with the job of setting safety standards for drinking water and ensuring that they are met. The standards for clean water are rooted in the agency’s Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA).
Despite the fact that the government sets safety standards, many states including Florida often disregard drinking water safety standards. Additionally, Florida’s drinking water reserves are more prone to dangerous contamination than reserves in other states. The inability of the EPA to enforce its own standards plus the vulnerability of Florida’s fragile ecosystems is more than enough to cause concerns over water safety.
Florida Groundwater Contamination
About 90% of Floridians get their drinking water supply from groundwater aquifer sources. While groundwater is typically seen as a safer water source than surface water, the specific geology of Florida makes its groundwater more susceptible to contamination. The specific factors of Florida’s geology that make its water more susceptible to contamination include:
- Thin soil
- High water table
- Highly porous limestone
These factors combined with regular heavy rainfall and high levels of pollutants seeping into the environment sets the groundwater up in Florida to be more highly contaminated.
Contaminants Found in Florida Drinking Water
The primary cause of contamination in Florida’s drinking water is pollution from human activity. These polluting activities keep getting worse due to consistent population growth in Florida over the past decade. The majority of the state’s pollution comes from:
- Pesticide runoff
- Toxic algae blooms
- Leaking septic tanks
In states other than Florida where the groundwater is less penetrable, these pollutants might not be as much of a concern. However, in Florida, each of these activities is likely to cause serious water quality problems.
Contaminants Found Above the Legal Limit
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a US-based nonprofit organization that regularly conducts tests to determine water quality and compliance with safe drinking water standards across the country. In their most recent water quality report from 2019, they found 96 contaminants in the samples of drinking water they received from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Of those 96, 5 of them were found in amounts over the legal limits set by the EPA.
The 5 contaminants they found above the EPA’s legal limits in Florida’s water included:
- Trihalomethanes (TTHMs)
- Haloacetic acids (HAA5)
This means that Florida’s water systems did not do a good enough job at removing contaminants to ensure that the water was safe to drink.
Water Well Arsenic Contamination
A few years ago, the Florida Department of Health did a study into the health and quality of the state’s water wells. They found that one in three well water samples in Florida contained elevated levels of arsenic. When exposed to arsenic over a long period of time, certain health risks arise including elevated risks of developing:
- Skin lesions
- Certain cancers
- Cardiovascular disease
As part of a mission to prevent toxic poisoning from arsenic, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) oversaw a year-long public health study that looked at whether kitchen water faucet filters could effectively reduce one’s exposure to arsenic. It turned out that the basic filtration systems did effectively reduce exposure to elevated arsenic levels.
Chemicals Added to Florida Drinking Water
The final step of the drinking water treatment process is disinfection. During disinfection, chemical disinfectants are added to the public drinking water systems including:
Each of these disinfectant chemicals helps remove and deactivate any remaining water contaminants in the water before it enters the public water systems. While the purpose of these chemicals is to further ensure the safety of the water, the safety of these chemicals themselves has been called into question in recent years.
First off, chlorine and chloramine are the two most commonly added disinfectant chemicals. According to the CDC, water that contains up to 4 milligrams per liter of either chlorine or chloramine is considered safe. As long as their levels stay at or below that 4 mg/L, then the water shouldn’t cause any health issues.
However, some people might be more sensitive to chlorine or chloramine and have a reaction from drinking it even within these normal levels. Additionally, chlorine and chloramine have been implicated as causes in the creation of disinfection byproducts which have been shown to increase your likeliness of developing certain cancers.
Fluoride is another chemical commonly added to drinking water during disinfection. Water treatment plants first started adding fluoride to the water as a means to prevent tooth decay. While fluoride has done well for people’s teeth, new research is showing that exposure to fluoride over long periods of time can lead to numerous health defects including brain and nerve cell damage.
Adding chlorine, chloramine, and fluoride to drinking water does help to decontaminate the water but comes with its own set of health risks. For most Floridians, these chemicals shouldn’t pose too much of a problem. However, people with sensitivities to certain chemicals or those who generally worry about how natural their water is should be more concerned about the effects of these chemicals in their water.
The Bottom Line: Is Florida Tap Water Safe to Drink?
In conclusion, Florida’s tap water has tested positive for elevated levels of certain contaminants and contains chemicals that are used as a means for disinfection While the elevated levels of contaminants are certainly a cause of concern, the EPA has not yet ruled Florida’s tap water as being overall unsafe to drink.
If you live in Florida, the best thing that you can do to ensure that your water is safe is to use a countertop or faucet water filter to remove contaminants that make it past your municipal water treatment center or well water filtration system.
Bonus tip: Check out our top picks for the best faucet water filters in order to maximize the safety of your drinking water.