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County Water Takes Part in EPA Survey

The survey tests for the presence of unregulated contaminants.

What's in that drop of water? WSSC is testing to find out. Patch file graphic.
What's in that drop of water? WSSC is testing to find out. Patch file graphic.

Montgomery County's drinking water is being tested as part of the Environmental Protection Agency's third survey of unregulated contaminants in the nation's drinking water, according to a news release from the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission.

WSSC is collecting and analyzing four sets of quarterly drinking water samples taken between July 2013 and April 2014. The data will go to the EPA, along with "other health information to determine if there is a potential health risk and whether any of these chemicals should be regulated in drinking water," WSSC stated. 

The survey—the Unregulated Contaminants Monitoring Rule (UCMR3) program—is the third such survey ever carried out by the EPA. The previous two surveys were started in 1999 and 2007, according to WSSC's website. The EPA already has regulations for more than 90 contaminants, and these surveys help to determine if new contaminants should be added to the regulation list, WSSC's website stated.

The contaminants WSSC detected in the second quarter of the survey (last October) are similar to those found last summer—vanadium, strontium, chlorate and total chromium, according to a WSSC data table. (A fifth contaminant category, chromium-6, is listed in the table, but it is a WSSC-monitored contaminant.)

"Only four of the 28 tested contaminants were detected in drinking water in October, and all detections were at low levels... ." WSSC sampled water sources, and found that the "contaminants appear to be present in the source water at low levels," according to the WSSC news release.

But, the tests do not conclude whether or not the four contaminants are harmful. The EPA will determine that in the future, after comparing contaminant data with health information. 

The EPA requires utilities to report any contaminants detected from this monitoring in annual water quality reports. Recent Maryland legislation, however, "requires WSSC to also report any contaminants detected from the quarterly sampling to the public and the county executives of Prince George’s and Montgomery counties within 30 days of receiving the results," WSSC's news release added.

Read more about the detected unregulated contaminants on WSSC's website.

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