The water in Atlanta is among the safest in the United States. Although most cities that rely on rivers for their water supply test positive for heavy metals such as arsenic and many inorganic chemicals, this isn’t the case for Atlanta.
However, the low presence of heavy metals doesn’t necessarily mean that the water is completely free of contaminants. Like many cities in the United States, houses built before the 1980s have lead components in their piping systems that dissolve into the water over time.
Additionally, you should also be mindful of disinfection byproducts in the water (albeit below legal limits).
Atlanta Water Quality Report: What is in the Water?
|Contaminants||Atlanta levels||EPA action limits||EPA’s public health goals|
|Lead||2.4 ppb (average)||15 ppb||Zero|
|TTHMs||25 to 60 ppb||80 ppb||Zero|
|HAA5||25 to 43 ppb||60 ppb||Zero|
|Fluoride||0.51 to 0.96 ppm||4 ppm||4 ppm|
The latest water quality report by the City of Atlanta Department of Watershed Management shows impurities in trace amounts within the legal safety guidelines.
Here are the prevalent contaminants in Atlanta’s water:
- Lead: The report shows that Atlanta tap water has an average lead level of 2.4 parts per billion (ppb). This level is below the action limit the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) set under the National Primary Drinking Water Regulations (NPDWRs). But EPA also establishes that no amount of lead is safe in drinking water. The lead in Atlanta’s tap water is due to aging water piping systems.
- Disinfection byproducts: Also known as total trihalomethanes (TTHMs) and haloacetic acids (HAA5), disinfection products result from chlorine’s chemical reactions with organic substances in water. As the EPA’s NPDWRs table pointed out, these byproducts increase cancer risk. So, although the action limits for TTHMs and HAA5 are 80 ppb and 60 ppb, respectively, the agency’s public health goal is zero. The water in Atlanta has 25 ppb to 60 ppb of TTHMs and 25 ppb to 43 ppb of HAA5.
- Fluoride: Atlanta’s municipal authorities pump lead into the water to improve the teeth health of its citizens. The fluoride levels in the water, 0.51 to 0.96 parts per million (ppm), don’t surpass the EPA standards, with its action level and public health goal set at 4 ppm.
Is The Water Hard or Soft?
Georgia water is considered soft, with an average water hardness of around 60 ppm. Atlanta has an even lower water hardness level of 21 ppm, regarded as very soft by the United States Geological Survey’s water hardness standards.
Where Does Atlanta Get its Water From?
Georgia relies on aquifer-derived groundwater, lakes, rivers, and reservoirs. Most groundwater is pulled from the Floridan Aquifer and is distributed to cities in southern Georgia, such as Albany and Brunswick.
Atlanta, Georgia’s most populous metro area, gets its water from the Chattahoochee River, the city’s only local surface water supply.
How is Tap Water Treated in Atlanta?
Atlanta’s tap water undergoes a rigorous treatment process before it reaches your faucet. First, the water is drawn from the Chattahoochee River and pumped to one of two water treatment plants.
The water is then passed through a time-consuming filtration process involving various chemicals and water filtration systems to remove toxins and other harmful substances.
Coagulation and Flocculation
Coagulation and flocculation denote a chemical water treatment that helps improve a treatment process’s ability to remove particles. These are steps through which sand, bacteria, dirt, and wood are separated from the rest of the water.
Coagulation is a process that uses gelatinous mass to trap (or bridge) particles, resulting in a group large enough to settle or be trapped in the filter.
During flocculation, the water is gently churned or agitated to stimulate the formation of particles large enough to settle or be filtered from the solution.
After Coagulation and Flocculation, the water is then moved to a sedimentation basin. Sedimentation is the process of separating small particles and sediments in the water. This method utilizes gravity, pulling the heavier deposits to the bottom of the water to form a sludge layer.
The process should occur naturally but can be artificially stimulated through mechanical assistance during the water treatment. This additional process is referred to as thickening. The sludge is consequently hauled away to a landfill site.
After sedimentation, the water is filtered using rapid gravity filters. This filter commonly uses sand to remove additional sediment or particles from the water.
The Water is Disinfected
Water treatment plants in Atlanta may add one or more chemical disinfectants like chlorine after the water has been filtered to kill any remaining pathogens that may cause waterborne diseases such as typhoid and paratyphoid fevers, cholera, and salmonellosis.
At this point, the water is ready to circulate through the city’s pipe network. However, water departments in Atlanta tests the water for various chemicals and contaminants before making it available to the public.
They use specific parameters to aid in the detection of potentially harmful contaminants. Each parameter has an acceptable limit that if exceeded, would deem the water unsafe for consumption. Some of the most common tap water parameters are as follows:
- pH: A normal pH range is 6.5 to 8.5. This metric measures acidity.
- Turbidity: Cloudy water could indicate contamination.
- TDS: An ideal Total Dissolved Solids (TDS) level is 50 to 150 PPM for tap water.
- Water Hardness: Soft water is thought to be better for cleaning because it doesn’t leave mineral residue like hard water. However, there is no scientific evidence that shows the effect of hard water on the human health.
Do They Have the Cleanest Tap Water?
With such a rigorous treatment process, it’s clear that Atlanta has some of the cleanest tap water in the US. Besides, the water treatment plants/process meets safety standards mandated by the Safe Drinking Water Act and EPA guidelines.