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How to Read Your Water Quality Report

Example:

The chart below is from the Scituate Water Department’s 2017 Water Quality Report.

(1) Tetrachloroethylene is found in the Scituate water system. It’s (2) Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) is 5 parts Tetrachloroethylene per billion parts water. It’s (3) Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCGL) is 0. The (4) amount detected in the water is 0.6 parts per billion, this means that the contaminant amount is in the very (5) low, or Not Detectable range. This chart shows the source of Tetrachloroethylene in the water is the result of (6) discharge from factories and dry cleaners.

Example:

The chart below is from the Scituate Water Department’s 2017 Water Quality Report.

(1) Tetrachloroethylene is found in the Scituate water system. It’s (2) Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) is 5 parts Tetrachloroethylene per billion parts water. It’s (3) Maximum Contaminant Level Goal (MCGL) is 0. The (4) amount detected in the water is 0.6 parts per billion, this means that the contaminant amount is in the very (5) low, or Not Detectable range. This chart shows the source of Tetrachloroethylene in the water is the result of (6) discharge from factories and dry cleaners.

Definitions

90th Percentile: Out of every 10 homes sampled, 9 were at or below this level. This number is compared to the Action Level to determine lead and copper compliance.

LRAA (Locational Running Annual Average): The average of sample analytical results for samples taken at a particular monitoring location during the previous four calendar quarters. Amount Detected values for TTHMs and HAAs are reported as the highest LRAAs.

AL (Action Level): The concentration of a contaminant that, if exceeded, triggers treatment or other requirements that a water system must follow.

MCL (Maximum Contaminant Level): The highest level of a contaminant that is allowed in drinking water. MCLs are set as close to the MCLGs as feasible using the best available treatment technology.

MCLG (Maximum Contaminant Level Goal): The level of a contaminant in drinking water below which there is no known or expected risk to health. MCLGs allow for a margin of safety.

MRDL (Maximum Residual Disinfectant Level): The highest level of a disinfectant allowed in drinking water. There is convincing evidence that addition of a disinfectant is necessary for control of microbial contaminants.

MRDLG (Maximum Residual Disinfectant Level Goal): The level of a drinking water disinfectant below which there is no known or expected risk to health. MRDLGs do not reflect the benefits of the use of disinfectants to control microbial contaminants.

NA: Not Applicable

ND (Not Detected): Indicates that the substance was not found by laboratory analysis.

ppb (parts per billion): One part substance per billion parts water (or micrograms per liter).

ppm (parts per million): One part substance per million parts water (or milligrams per liter).

SMCL (Secondary Maximum Contaminant Level): SMCLs are established to regulate the aesthetics of drinking water like appearance, taste and odor.

View Your Town’s Water Quality Report

For your town’s information, click on the map to view your towns Water Quality report for 2017. You can contact your town water department for current and additional information.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a Water Quality Report?

A water quality report, also called a consumer confidence report, lets you know what contaminants, if any, are in your drinking water and how these contaminants may affect your health. It lists all the regulated toxicants that were detected in your water over the preceding calendar year.

Who Gets a Water Quality Report?

A water quality report is available for every customer of a community water system, which is one that provides year-round service to more than 15 households or more than 25 people.

When Is a Water Quality Report Issued?

You should receive your water quality report by July 1 of each year.

Why Is a Water Quality Report Important?

Your water system must tell you about any violation of EPA water quality standards at the time it occurs and again in the annual report. You should not drink water that fails to meet EPA standards because it may be unsafe. Thankfully, public utilities have worked hard to improve water quality, and today, more than 90 percent of water systems meet all EPA regulations.

Another important part of the report is the list of all detected regulated contaminants. EPA sets the maximum level of contaminants — the MCL — that it will allow in drinking water based on the filtering and treatment capabilities of today’s technology. The water quality report also tells you about potentially harmful substances found in your water at levels below their legal limit, which often is or approaches the agency’s more stringent, optimum human health goal for the maximum level of contaminants, the MCLG.

What Does a Water Quality Report Tell You?

Every water quality report must contain certain information:

  • The source of the drinking water, be it a river, lake, groundwater aquifer or some other body of water;
  • A brief summary of the state’s source water assessment of the susceptibility of the source water to contamination and how to get a copy of the complete assessment;
  • EPA regulations and health goals for drinking water contaminants;
  • A list of all detected regulated contaminants and their levels;
  • Potential health effects of any contaminant detected at a level that violates EPA’s health standard;
  • An educational statement for people with weakened immune systems about cryptosporidium and other microbial contaminants;
  • Contact information for the water system and EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline

How Is a Water Quality Report Distributed?

This depends on the size of the water system. All large water systems mail out the reports, often as an insert in the bill, and very large systems must both mail and post them online. Small systems serving fewer than 10,000 people can have the mailing requirement waived. In this case, however, they must publish the report in at least one local newspaper and make it available to the public upon request.

Water systems also must make a “good faith effort” to reach renters, workers and other consumers who do not receive water bills. These systems should use a combination of different outreach methods, such as posting the reports online, mailing them and advertising in local newspapers.

More Information

More information is available online on the EPA website. For general queries about water quality reports and other safe drinking water issues, you can contact EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline toll-free at 1-800-426-4791.

Questions? You can always ask Jim the Water Expert! Email Jim and he will get back to you as soon as possible.

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