BUFFALO, N.Y. — Every year, a nonprofit organization called the Environmental Working Group issues its report of contaminants found in drinking water. This year, it found some in the water here in Erie County, but is this something you at home should be concerned about?
Our sources for this Verify report are the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that's been publishing this database since 2005 and the Erie County Water Authority, which is where hundreds of thousands of us get our water from.
The EWG compiles water quality tests from almost 50,000 water utilities in the United States, which include results for 517 contaminants or contaminant groups. Even though the Erie County Water Authority says it is in compliance with federal health-based drinking-water standards, the EWG says eight contaminants were detected that exceed its own health guidelines, which are not the same as the federal government's.
“The government has pretty strict standards, and those standards are developed by scientists and by health professionals, so they've made a decision that the contaminants that are being regulated are those that are most important to have a healthy society and healthy drinking water," says Erie County Water Authority COO Russell Stoll. "So, beyond that, until there's maybe different science or different studies, that's the regulations I suspect they'll follow."
The Erie County Water Authority says it tests its water 24/7, more than 70,000 times a year. The EWG claims some of the contaminants, though, could potentially cause cancer. So, should we be concerned?
“Health professionals and scientists have looked at those small amounts and determined that, right now, they're not being regulated because they're not of concern,” says Stoll.
The EWG also points out federal limits for new contaminants in tap water have not been updated in almost twenty years.
“If there's new standards that come up, then we would certainly try to meet them, but the guidelines that are being presented by the group, aren't being regulated right now, and so we really can only do what the regulators ask us to do, but the customers should feel comfortable knowing that it's good safe drinking water,” Stoll said.
So overall, we can Verify that, no, these numbers aren't something you should worry about based on the federal drinking water standards.
2 On Your Side requested a Skype interview last week with the Environmental Working Group to ask its researchers questions about its findings. After giving a spokesperson the list of cities we were interested in talking about, we never heard back despite contacting her two more times.