What's in your water? Database looks at chemicals in Mississippi's tap water

What's in your water? Database looks at chemicals in Mississippi's tap water

PINE BELT (WDAM) - When you turn on the faucet, do you wonder what chemicals may come out?  Do you rely on bottled water for you and your family?

A new database is available for you to look at chemicals in water samples from thousands of utility companies from across the country, including over 50 in Mississippi.

The Environment Working Group, out of Washington, D.C.,  analyzed data from almost 50,000 public water systems in all 50 state and the District of Columbia.

In Mississippi, the EWG analyzed samples from over 50 utility companies from 2010 to 2015.  Research showed more than 20,000 residents were drinking water that could have cancer-linked contaminants.

"Just because your tap water gets a passing grade from the government doesn't always mean it's safe," said EWG President Ken Cook.  "It's time to stop basing environmental regulations on political or economic compromises, and instead listen to what scientists say about the long-term effects of toxic chemicals and empower Americans to protect themselves from pollutants even as they demand the protective action they deserve from government."

Water samples from six utility companies in the Pine Belt are included in the database:  City of Hattiesburg, City of Laurel, North Lamar Water Association, West Lamar Water Association and Hiwanee Water Association #1 and #2 in Wayne County.  Those utility companies serve over 103,000 residents.

According to the EWG, Hattiesburg, Laurel, North Lamar and West Lamar were all in compliance with federal health-based drinking water standards.  The EWG detected one contaminant above the legal limit in samples from Hattiesburg, Laurel and North Lamar.  That contaminant was radium, combined (-226 & -228) and Radium-226.

"Radiological contaminants leach into water from certain minerals and from mining. Drinking water contamination with radioactive substances increases the risk of cancer and may harm fetal development," per EWG.

Zero Contaminants were detected in the samples from the West Lamar Association.  Waterworks Operator Joey Wilson said each water system in the state works on a different classification system when adjusting to pollution sources like industries or treatment byproducts.

"There are some issues that happen, from time to time with the water. It's nothing that we're adding into the water to cause the issues, it's just the good lord put it in the water and we are pumping it out," said Wilson.  "If there any contaminants we do add chlorine to add any bacteriological contaminants in the water."

Wilson said West Lamar Water Association does a monthly test bacteriological test, required by the state health department and EPA.

The four water utility companies were all found to be in compliance with federal regulations.  The water was also tested earlier this year, from January to March.  The EWG did not find any violations.

However, in Wayne County, that is not the case.  The EWG detected 13 contaminants above the legal limit between the Hiwanee Water Association #1 and #2.  According to the EWG, the water utility was also in violation of health-based drinking water standards from January to March of 2017.  About 4,000 people use water from the association.

Across the county, EWG detected these contaminants  in the nation's tap water:

  • 93 linked to an increased risk of cancer. More than 40,000 water systems had detections of known or likely carcinogens exceeding established federal or state health guidelines – levels that pose minimal but real health risks, but are not legally enforceable.
  • 78 associated with brain and nervous system damage.
  • 63 connected to developmental harm to children or fetuses.
  • 45 linked to hormone disruption.
  • 38 that may cause fertility problems.

The EWG said while the vast majority of utilities are in compliance with federal regulations, their water still often contains contaminants in concentrations exceeding the levels that scientists say pose health risks.

Residents can type their zip code or local utility's name into the EWG Tap Water Database, residents will find all contaminants detected in tests by the utilities themselves and reported to federal or state authorities.  All residents have to do is type in their zip code or local utility's name.