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Tap Water continued...

But the EPA and your water bureau can only tell you about the quality of the water when it gets to your house.

“They don‘t know what kind of building you live in and what pipes you have,” Karrh says. “The majority of pipe systems are just fine, but I have had plumbers tell me about going into renovated buildings and it’s pretty gunky in there. It’s probably not something to worry about unless you have medical conditions or a reason to be suspicious, like a really old piping system.”

If you’re worried, order a do-it-yourself water testing kit online or arrange for a water quality test from a water filtration company.

Filtered Water

“There are many places where you don’t need to filter what comes out of the tap; it’s just fine. If you look at some of the reasons people drink filtered water or bottled water, often it’s because they don’t like the chlorine taste that is in city water, which has to be put in as a residual disinfectant to keep water safe after it travels through all the pipes to get to your house,” says Craig Mains, an engineering scientist at the National Environmental Services Center at West Virginia University.

If your tap water is safe but you don’t like the taste, you can get around that in several ways:

  • Fill a pitcher and refrigerate for about half an hour. “The chlorine will dissipate quickly,” Mains says.
  • Purchase a filtration system that attaches to your tap (and/or refrigerator water dispenser) or a filtered-water pitcher, from companies like Brita or PUR Water.
  • Install a carbon filter under the sink. These filters generally cost less than $50 and, Mains says, can be more economical because they don’t have to be replaced as frequently (between every three months and annually, depending on how much water you use). “They’ll also remove some other contaminants you have, like in an area where there might be some volatile organic chemicals.”
  • Purchase a whole-house filtering system, such as Culligan’s popular reverse-osmosis systems. These cost approximately $1,000 to install, along with service fees starting at $20 a month (which includes annual filter changes).

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