Knowing the Most Common Contaminants

Water is something that many people take for granted, but a steady source of clean water is essential for life. In fact, water is so important to live that humans can only survive for a few days without it. One problem that is now seen frequently – and that regularly features in the news – is contaminated water supplies. There was much discussion of this in recent weeks surrounding the Rio Olympic Games, with the extensive contamination of waters surrounding the Olympic venues.

While pollution and contamination at that level is not common here in the United States, there are still many possible ways that your water could be contaminated and knowing the most common contaminants can help you to protect your family from the effects of tainted water.


Water supplies in most homes and businesses around the U.S. are from either public water systems or private wells. Public water systems may rely on surface water or ground water, depending on the location. Surface water is found on the surface of the ground from sources like lakes, streams, rivers and reservoirs. Ground water is found beneath the surface of the ground in aquifers and other subterranean spaces. Ground water is accessed by drilling a well and pumping the water.

Public water systems that use surface water must also treat the water before delivering it to homes. This is because these sources can often be susceptible to contamination from animal byproducts or manmade wastes, though ground water may also be treated before delivery.

Public water supplies are regulated by the federal and state governments. Standards for drinking water quality are established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and water utilities are required to perform regular testing and make the results of those tests available to the public. Private water systems, like home water wells, are not inspected or treated unless the homeowner chooses to do so.


Drinking water, whether from a public or private water system, may become contaminated from a variety of sources or for a number of reasons. The EPA classifies water contaminants into four broad categories: Physical, chemical, biological and radiological. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the 11 most common outbreak-causing drinking water contaminants from 1971 through 2010 were giardia, legionella, norovirus, shigella, campylobacter, copper, salmonella, hepatitis A, cryptosporidium, E. coli and excess fluoride. While these are the most common, additional contaminants that may be found in water include disinfectants, disinfection byproducts, inorganic and organic chemicals, and radionuclides. Many of these contaminants are already regulated by the EPA, and many more are under consideration for regulation in the future.


There are a number of sources of drinking water contaminants. According to the EPA, the most common sources of drinking water contaminants include naturally occurring chemicals and minerals, local land use practices, manufacturing, sewage and malfunctioning wastewater systems.

Water ContaminationSome of the most common natural sources of drinking water contamination, according to the EPA, include microorganisms, radionuclides, nitrates and nitrites, heavy metals and fluoride. Common contaminants that are a result of human activity include bacteria and nitrates, concentrated animal feeding operations, heavy metals, fertilizers and pesticides, industrial products and wastes, household wastes, lead and copper, and water treatment chemicals that are improperly handled or stored.

Naturally occurring minerals and chemicals that may contaminate drinking water sources include uranium, arsenic and radon which can be found in the soil in certain areas. Land use practices can also cause contamination, most often through concentrated animal feeding operations like feedlots, though livestock, pesticides and fertilizers can also seep into waters. In these cases, runoff from animal waste products or pesticides or fertilizer treatments in area fields may enter surface water or seep into groundwater.

Malfunctioning wastewater systems can also prevent proper treatment of water. On a municipal scale, this can happen due to an equipment failure at a municipal wastewater plant. In private wells, an improperly installed or maintained septic system that is located near the drinking water source can cause cross contamination.

Drinking water contamination may result in obvious symptoms like discoloration of the water or unpleasant odors, though there may be no outward sign at all. Tainted water may also be responsible for a range of medical problems when people are exposed to the contaminants.


Perhaps the most well-known recent example of public drinking water contamination occurred in Flint, Michigan. Residents complained about the quality of public water for months after the city switched water sources before government officials acknowledged a problem. The switch to a new water source resulted in a more corrosive water being fed into homes, allowing aging lead water pipes to leaching lead into the water. Now, more than two years after the problem began, nine government workers have been criminally charged in an ongoing investigation, though the water is still not safe to drink without filters, and children are still being tested for exposure to lead, reports MLive Media Group.

The Flint water situation is an extreme case, but many public and private water systems also have experienced problems with color, taste or odor, while still other water systems are tainted with potentially dangerous contaminants. The Flint case has had one benefit, in that it has drawn people’s attention to the serious nature of water contamination, which means that more and more people are paying attention and being protective about ensuring that their water is safe.

Ozone Pure Water Inc. offers a variety of complete water treatment systems that can eliminate common water quality problems like hazardous chemical byproducts, chemical chlorine taste and odor, color, manganese, sulfur and iron. Our systems utilize the power of ozone to clean up your water and remove harmful materials before the water reaches the tap. We have been providing water treatment solutions that do not involve the service and maintenance requirements of chemical treatment systems for more than three decades, and these ozone water systems are designed to be simple and long lasting, with no moving parts and nothing to regularly refill or replace.

Find out more about how an Ozone Pure Water system can help you ensure clean water at your home or business today by calling 800-633-8469.