What you need to know about tap water quality in Michigan before you move
While Michigan is blessed with an abundance of natural water sources – including being surrounded by four of the five great lakes – it does have issues with water contamination in some areas. Most notably, the lead contamination of the city of Flint’s water in 2014, which became a nationwide scandal.
Several other high-profile contaminations have occurred in other regions of Michigan since, including Detroit’s water being contaminated with lead in 2016.
This could easily lead you to believe that Michigan’s tap water is unsafe to drink – but in reality, these are outliers when you look at the overall state. The state of Michigan generally has safe drinking water, although some region’s water quality is better than others.
Let’s take a look at what you need to know about the tap water quality in Michigan, how it relates to buying or renting a home, as well as steps you can take to ensure your home’s water quality is well above federal guidelines.
Issues with Michigan Water Quality
Microplastics are microscopic plastic particles that result from larger pieces of plastic waste breaking down over time. Microplastics refer to plastics less than 5 mm in diameter – and they’re often small enough to be invisible to the naked eye.
The main issue with microplastics is that – unlike other pollutants – they don’t break down into safe particles over time. They simply break down into smaller and smaller particles and eventually end up in the water supply.
The great lakes contain a significant amount of microplastics in them, and currently the effect on human and animal health is largely unknown.
Algae blooms are another area of concern, particularly in Lake Erie. The source of these algae blooms is fertilizer runoff from nearby farmland which along with sun and warm weather fuels the algae bloom.
Theses algae blooms produce cyanobacteria which can produce toxins harmful to both humans and wildlife. Areas of Michigan with tap water sourced in Lake Erie pay an average of $100 more per year just to cover the cost of these algae blooms.
In 2014, the algae blooms became so large and out of control that residents of nearby Toledo were advised not to drink or even touch the water.
Nitrates and nitrites are the result of fertilizers, failing septic tanks, and livestock waste. They are both forms of nitrogen, and can be harmful when they are present in drinking water at excessive levels.
Nitrates and nitrites are particularly harmful to pregnant women and infants. As high levels of nitrites affect the way the body carry’s oxygen, and pregnant women and infants already have reduced capacity, the odds of them becoming ill are much higher.
Ingesting too much nitrate/ nitrite can lead to a condition called Methemoglobinemia. This is sometimes called Blue Baby Syndrome, as it causes the skin around the eyes and mouth to become blue colored.
Another concern for Michigan tap water is arsenic. Unfortunately, Michigan naturally has higher levels of arsenic present in its groundwater than other states.
Ingesting water with high levels of arsenic over a short period can lead to stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, and headaches. Ingesting low levels of arsenic over a long time period can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, nerve problems and even cancer.
Arsenic cannot be tasted or detected in water without laboratory analysis, so the only way to be 100 percent sure of your water’s arsenic content is to have it tested in a lab.
The maximum level of arsenic set by the EPA is 10 parts per billion (ppb). You can check your counties drinking water arsenic levels with this map.
VOCs – short for volatile organic compounds – are common additives to many industrial and commercial products such as gasoline, diesel, paints, varnishes, and cleaning products. They tend to evaporate into the air, however they can also dissolve into groundwater and present a problem.
Unfortunately, VOCs are present in groundwater through the Unites States, so they’re by no means just a Michigan problem. In fact, at least one VOC was detected in 90 of 98 aquifers tested through the U.S. in 2006.
VOCs represent a wide range of chemical additives, and so their potential health effects are numerous.
The good news is, like the other contaminants above, a high-quality water filter can remove most or all of these pollutants.
How to Safeguard Your Home’s Water Quality?
If you want to be 100 percent certain of contaminant levels in your water, then the only sure-fire way to know is getting your water laboratory tested. This will give you precise results of exactly what’s in your tap water, and will help you select the right treatment system to deal with the issue supplying purified H2O throughout your home.
Reverse Osmosis Filter
Reverse osmosis filters are unparalleled for removing non-organic compounds from water. Think lead, nitrates, nitrites, arsenic, fluoride, microplastics, and some VOCs. They are somewhat effective at removing bacteria and organic compounds, but not at the level of a UV water filter.
UV water filters are the ideal choice for removing organic contaminants like bacteria, viruses, and cysts. They work by passing the water through a special UV lamp which disrupts the DNA of these microorganisms – killing up to 99.99 percent of harmful microorganisms.
Carbon filters are fairly simple filters that remove impurities by filtering water through loose carbon which absorbs impurities. They can be very basic – think of a Brita pitcher – or they can use blocks of activated carbon to achieve a high level of filtration. They are effective at removing VOCs, heavy metals, and chlorine from drinking water.
One thing to keep in mind is that higher-end reverse osmosis systems will already feature a carbon filter as part of the filtration process.