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Common Water Pollutants

Below are some common pollutants that harm our nation’s water supply. We will need to test your water to find the exact treatment for your needs. Installing an Anderson Water System will protect your family and home by removing contaminants from your water.

The above EPA diagram shows how some contaminants end up in the water supply.



Lead, a metal found in natural deposits, is commonly used in household plumbing materials and service lines. The greatest exposure to lead is swallowing or breathing in lead paint chips and dust. Lead in drinking water can also cause a variety of adverse health effects. In babies and children exposure to lead in drinking water above the action level can result in delays in physical and mental development, along with slight deficits in attention span and learning disabilities. In adults, it can cause increases in blood pressure. Adults who drink this water over many years could develop kidney problems or high blood pressure. Lead is rarely found in source water but enters tap water through corrosion of plumbing materials. Homes built before 1986 are more likely to have lead pipes, fixtures and solder. However, new homes are also at risk, as even legally marketed 'lead-free' plumbing may contain up to 8% lead. -Source: EPA


The gaseous or liquid form of chlorine is a water additive used by municipal water systems to control microbes. It is relatively inexpensive and has the lowest production and operating costs and longest history for large continuous disinfection operations. Chlorine is a powerful oxidant. Although chlorine is vital for stopping the spread of many diseases, its benefits have a price and chlorine is no longer necessary once the water reaches your home. Chlorine tastes and smells bad, dries out skin and hair, fades clothes and dries out rubber seals in appliances; shortening the life of appliances. Some people who use water containing chlorine in excess of the maximum residual disinfectant level could experience irritating effects to their eyes and nose and even stomach discomfort. Furthermore, when chlorine mixes with organic materials in the water, it creates trihalomethane, a volatile organic compound, that is associated with a 21 percent higher risk of bladder cancer and a 38 percent higher risk of rectal cancer. -Source: EPA


Iron in water can stain and deteriorate appliances, bathtubs, showers, washing machines, dishwashers, laundry and other water using fixtures. Iron can also cause a metallic taste in your water.


Arsenic is a semi-metal element in the periodic table. It is odorless and tasteless. It enters drinking water supplies from natural deposits in earth or from agricultural and industrial practices. The major sources of arsenic in drinking water are erosion or natural deposits; runoffs from orchards and runoff from glass and electronics production wastes. Some people who drink water containing arsenic for many years could experience skin damage or problems with their circulatory system and may have an increased risk of getting cancer. -Source: EPA


Fluoride compounds are salts that form when the element fluorine combines with minerals in soil or rocks. Many water systems add fluoride to drinking water. High levels of fluoride are also found naturally in some areas. Studies have emerged that show excessive consumption of fluoride can damage bone tissue and discolor or mottle teeth. -Source: EPA


The use of chlorine to disinfect water for the purpose of drinking produces low levels of various disinfection by-products. When chlorine mixes with organic materials in the water, it creates trihalomethane, a volatile organic compound that is associated with a 21 percent higher risk of bladder cancer and a 38 percent higher risk of rectal cancer. -Source: EPA


The term 'hard water' refers to the minerals deposits of calcium and magnesium dissolved in water. These minerals cause numerous problems, including plugged pipes, ruined faucets and water using appliances, soap scum build-up on shower curtains and doors, dry skin, bathtub rings, spots on glass, silverware and fixtures and dull, dingy clothing. Most homes have hard water, whether a well or a municipality supplies it.

Bacteria & Nitrates

These pollutants are found in human and animal wastes. Septic tanks can cause bacterial and nitrate pollution. So can large numbers of farm animals. Both septic systems and animal manures must be carefully managed to prevent pollution. Sanitary landfills and garbage dumps are also sources. Children and some adults are at higher risk when exposed to water-borne bacteria. These include the elderly and people whose immune systems are weak due to aids or treatments for cancer. Fertilizers can add to nitrate problems. Nitrates cause a health threat in young infants called 'blue baby syndrome.' This condition disrupts oxygen flow in the blood. -Source: EPA


High nitrite levels are usually due to human activities and are also found naturally in ground water. They come from the breakdown of nitrogen compounds in the soil. Flowing ground water picks nitrites up from the soil. Drinking water with large amounts of nitrites or nitrates is particularly threatening to infants (for example: when mixed in baby formula). -Source: EPA


Sulfur, or hydrogen sulfide, is a colorless, corrosive gas that creates a “rotten egg” smell. Sulfur can cause major corrosion problems for anything metal in your home, including: copper plumbing, electrical wiring, faucets, refrigerator condensers, silverware and other metal items. In high concentrations sulfur may leave an unpleasant odor on hair and clothing.


Methane is the major component of natural gas, about 87% by volume. At room temperature and standard pressure, methane is a colorless, odorless gas. Methane is not toxic; however, it is extremely flammable and may form explosive mixtures with air. Methane is violently reactive with oxidizers, halogens, and some halogen-containing compounds. Methane is also an asphyxiant and may displace oxygen in an enclosed space. Asphyxia may result if the oxygen concentration is reduced to below 19.5% by displacement. The concentration of methane where asphyxiation risk becomes significant is much higher than the 5-15% concentration that forms flammable or explosive mixtures. When structures are built on or near landfills, methane off-gas can penetrate the buildings' interiors and expose occupants to significant levels of methane.


Radon is a gas that is a natural product of the breakdown of uranium in soil and can pose health threats. Radon is most dangerous when inhaled and contributes to lung cancer. Although soil is the primary source, using household water containing radon contributes to elevated indoor radon levels. -Source: EPA

Heavy Metals

Activities such as mining and construction can release large amounts of heavy metals into nearby ground water sources. Some older fruit orchards may contain high levels of arsenic, once used as a pesticide. At high levels, these metals pose a health risk. -Source: EPA

Viruses & Microorganisms

Bacteria, viruses, parasite and other microorganisms are at times found in water. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there could be as many as 12 million cases of waterborne acute gastrointestinal illness annually in the United States. These illnesses are caused by bacteria, viruses and protozoa that make their way into the water supply. Shallow wells, those with water close to ground level, are most at risk. However, even well operated water utilities cannot ensure drinking water is entirely free of microbial pathogens. Runoff, or water flowing over the land surface, may pick up these pollutants from wildlife and soils. This often occurs after flooding. Some of these organisms can cause a variety of illnesses. Symptoms include nausea and diarrhea. These can occur shortly after drinking contaminated water. The effects could be short term yet severe (similar to food poisoning) or might recur frequently or develop slowly over a long time. -Source: EPA


Radionuclides are radioactive elements such as uranium and radium. They may be present in underlying rock and ground water. -Source: EPA

Animal Wastes

Large amounts of animal wastes/manure from farms can threaten water supplies. Strict and careful manure management is needed to prevent pathogen and nutrient problems. Salts from high levels of manure can also pollute ground water. -Source: EPA

Fertilizers & Pesticides

Farmers use fertilizers and pesticides to promote growth and reduce insect damage. These products are also used on golf courses and suburban lawns and gardens. The chemicals in these products may end up in ground water. Many fertilizers contain forms of nitrogen that can break down into harmful nitrates. Some underground agricultural drainage systems collect fertilizers and pesticides. This polluted water can pose problems to ground water and local streams and rivers. In addition, chemicals used to treat buildings and homes for termites or other pests may pose a threat. -Source: EPA

Industrial Wastes

Many harmful chemicals are used widely in local business and industry. These can become drinking water pollutants. The most common sources of such problems are:

Local businesses: these include nearby factories, industrial plants and even small businesses such as gas stations and dry cleaners. All handle a variety of hazardous chemicals that need careful management. Spills and improper disposal of these chemicals and industrial wastes threaten ground water supplies.

Leaking underground tanks and piping: petroleum products, chemicals and wastes stored in underground storage tanks and pipes may end up in ground water. Tanks and piping leak if they are not constructed or installed properly. Steel tanks and piping corrode with age.

Landfills and waste dumps: modern landfills are designed to contain any leaking liquids. However, floods can carry them over the barriers. Older dumpsites have a wide variety of pollutants that can seep into ground water.

Household Wastes

Improper disposal of many common products can pollute ground water. These include cleaning solvents, pharmaceuticals, used motor oil, paints and paint thinners. Even soaps and detergents can harm drinking water. -Source: EPA


Tap water from 31 of 35 U.S. Cities tested contains hexavalent chromium (or Chromium 6), the carcinogenic 'Erin Brockovich chemical,’ according to laboratory tests commissioned by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) there is mounting evidence of the contaminants toxic effects, including a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) draft toxicological review that classifies it as 'likely carcinogenic to humans' when consumed in drinking water. The EPA has not set a limit for Chromium 6 in tap water and does not require water utilities to test for it. Hexavalent chromium is commonly discharged from steel and pulp mills as well as metal-plating and leather-tanning facilities. It can also pollute water through erosion of soil and rock. The national toxicology program has found that hexavalent chromium in drinking water shows clear evidence of carcinogenic activity in laboratory animals, increasing the risk of otherwise rare gastrointestinal tumors (NTP 2007, 2008).


Household plumbing materials are the most common source of lead and copper in home drinking water. Corrosive water may cause metals in pipes or soldered joints to leach into your tap water. Your water's acidity or alkalinity greatly affects corrosion. Temperature and mineral content also effect how corrosive it is. Lead and copper are often used in pipes, solder or plumbing fixtures. Lead can cause serious damage to the brain, kidneys, nervous system and red blood cells. The age of plumbing materials - in particular, copper pipes soldered with lead is also important. Even in relatively low amounts these can be harmful. - Source: EPA


In chemistry, pH is a measure of the acidity or basicity of an aqueous solution. Pure water is said to be neutral, with a ph close to 7.0 at 25 c (77 f). Solutions with a pH less than 7 are said to be acidic and solutions with a pH greater than 7 are basic or alkaline. The pH of your water greatly affects corrosion of plumbing and household appliances and may cause staining of surfaces the water comes in contact with.