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Water Quality Differs Drastically in the Same Home

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Do you know what's in your home's drinking water? (AdobeStock)
Do you know what's in your home's drinking water? (AdobeStock)
 By Mary Schuermann Kuhlman, Public News Service - IN - Producer, Contact
February 27, 2020

INDIANAPOLIS -- Next time you turn on the faucet for a drink of water, researchers suggest letting the water run for a bit before filling the glass.

A year-long investigation found the water quality in homes can differ in each room and change between seasons.

Researcher Andrew Whelton, an associate professor of civil engineering and environmental and ecological engineering at Purdue University, explains that the study was conducted at a three-bedroom house in West Lafayette, with a condensed plumbing system much like those in other single family homes across the country.

"The chemical levels, such as levels of lead, changed pretty significantly," he relates. "The water as it entered from the utility also changed within the plumbing. The pH increased from about 7.8 to about 9.2, which is a drastic increase."

Whelton says the findings question the notion that the water in a public water system is the same as the water that passes through a building's plumbing at any time of the year.

The research was supported by the Environmental Protection Agency and conducted by Purdue, as well as the University of Memphis and Michigan State University.

Whelton says it was quite an undertaking, with more than 222,000 hours logged and 2.4 billion records collected.

"We sampled that building 58 times by physically going in and collecting water from multiple locations, hot and cold water systems, and then taking that back across the street to the university and analyzing its characteristics," he states.

The study noted that different plumbing materials, a varying number of occupants and other factors could affect the water quality of a home.

And Whelton says much more research is to come.

"If we are trying to predict what the risk is for exposure, we need to understand how variable buildings are so that people can design sampling approaches to go in and test building water," he points out.

Whelton recommends flushing a faucet before taking a drink to help to clear out older water that is more likely to have contaminants.

And when building a home, plumbing designs should be selected that minimize the amount of water and time that the water sits.

Best Practices