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Is Tampa Tap Water Safe To Drink?

Tampa’s tap water is safe to drink, according to Tampa Bay Water. “The drinking water we provide our member governments is safe: it meets or is better than all local, state, and federal drinking water regulations. We recognize the tremendous responsibility to provide our region with high-quality drinking water 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” the organization states. However, there are several contaminants that have been found in Tampa’s water including lead, arsenic, chromium, PFAS and more.

While Tampa’s tap water may meet local legal standards, that doesn’t necessarily mean the tap water is safe. Legal guidelines and health guidelines do not always align. According to the Environmental Working Guidelines (EWG), Tampa’s legal limits for contaminants have not been updated in nearly 20 years.

Common Contaminants Found in Tampa’s Water

It is crucial to regularly test your water to identify contaminants and take the necessary steps to remove them. Contaminants commonly found in Tampa drinking water are:

  • Lead: In Tampa, Florida, the issue of lead-contaminated water is a pressing concern, particularly for older homes constructed before 1986, which often have lead pipes. Lead exposure poses serious health risks, especially for children who are more susceptible. The EPA warns that even low levels of lead exposure in children can lead to learning problems, lower IQ, hyperactivity, slowed growth, hearing issues, and anemia.
  • Arsenic: Arsenic is a common, naturally occurring chemical found in soil and rock. It can enter your drinking water and cause skin irritation, circulatory system issues, and an increased risk of cancer. According to Tampa’s water quality report, common causes of arsenic contamination in Tampa’s water supply is erosion of natural deposits, runoff from orchards, and runoff from glass and electronic wastes. Tampa’s tap water exceeds the EWG’s health guideline of arsenic contamination by 198x.
  • Chromium: Chromium in tap water can be caused by natural occurrences such as mineral deposits and groundwater, or by industrial pollution. Chromium is considered an essential trace element for humans in small amounts, playing a role in glucose metabolism. However, excessive exposure to hexavalent chromium, particularly through contaminated drinking water, can pose health risks. The United States’ Occupational Safety and Health Administration warn, “Adverse health effects associated with Cr(VI) exposure include occupational asthma, eye irritation and damage, perforated eardrums, respiratory irritation, kidney damage, liver damage, pulmonary congestion and edema, upper abdominal pain, nose irritation and damage, respiratory cancer, skin irritation, and erosion and discoloration of the teeth.”
  • Haleoacetic Acids (HAAs): Haleoacetic Acids, HAA5 and HAA9 represent groups of acids that are formed by treatment byproducts such as chlorine when added to tap water. HAA5 exceeds the EWG health guideline by 134x, while HAA9 exceeds the guidelines by 254x. According to the National Library of Medicine, HAAs are mutagenic, cytotoxic, genotoxic, teratogenic, and carcinogenic.
  • Radium: Radium is a naturally occurring radioactive metal. According to the Center for Disease Control, “There is no clear evidence that long-term exposure to radium at the levels that are normally present in the environment (for example, 1 pCi of radium per gram of soil) is likely to result in harmful health effects. However, exposure to higher levels of radium over a long period of time may result in harmful effects including anemia, cataracts, fractured teeth, cancer (especially bone cancer), and death.” The EWG reports radium levels in Tampa’s drinking water to exceed their health guidelines by 15x.
  • Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs):  Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs) are a group of four chemical compounds that are considered disinfection byproducts commonly found in treated drinking water. TTHMs are formed during the water disinfection process, primarily when chlorine or other disinfectants react with organic matter present in the water. The Florida Department of Health reports high levels of TTHMs can cause liver, kidney or central nervous system damage. Tampa’s drinking water exceeds the EWG’s health guidelines of TTHMs by 122x.
  • Nitrates: The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry reports high levels of nitrates in drinking water can pose significant health risks, especially to infants, pregnant women, and individuals with certain medical conditions. Nitrates can interfere with the body’s ability to transport oxygen in the blood, leading to a condition called methemoglobinemia or “blue baby syndrome” in infants, which can be life-threatening. In adults, excessive nitrate consumption has been linked to increased risk factors for certain health issues, such as cancer and thyroid problems. According to Tampa’s water quality report, common causes of nitrate contamination are runoff from fertilizer use, leaching from septic tanks, and erosion of natural deposits.
  • PFAS (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances): Areas around manufacturers are more likely to have elevated levels of PFAS, known as ‘forever chemicals,’ which cannot naturally decay in nature or the human body. Depending on the contaminant and the level of exposure, these contaminants can affect individuals in many ways, ranging from skin irritation and nausea to more serious concerns like organ damage and cancer. Infants, children, and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable.

How Algae Blooms and Red Tide Effect Tampa’s Drinking Water

In Tampa, the bodies of water naturally host various types of algae. While most are harmless, some types can be problematic when they multiply excessively, creating what we call “blooms,” which can impact the quality of local drinking water.

Blue-green algae, also known as cyanobacteria, are commonly found in freshwater sources like rivers and lakes. Blooms of blue-green algae often occur due to an abundance of nutrients like phosphate and nitrogen in the water, often stemming from wastewater, stormwater runoff, and agricultural activities. When temperatures rise, it provides an ideal environment for these algae to thrive and multiply. But are these algae blooms harmful? The CDC shares reported symptoms include: abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, headache, diarrhea, sore throat, blistering around the mouth, pneumonia, neurologic symptoms, including numbness, tingling, burning sensation, drowsiness, salivation, and speech disturbances.

Red tide, on the other hand, is a different type of algal bloom that occurs in the marine waters of Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. It’s caused by certain naturally occurring algae. These blooms can release toxins that are harmful to both humans and marine life. Consuming fish or shellfish during a red tide event can be dangerous, and it can also lead to fish kills and harm to wildlife. The growth and movement of red tide blooms are influenced by various factors, including coastal currents, wind patterns, temperature, nutrient levels, and salinity of the water. According to the National Ocean Service, red tide algal blooms can cause respiratory illness and eye irritation.

How Can I Make My Tap Water Safe to Drink?

There are several ways to filter and treat your tap water to ensure it is safe for consumption. The first step to safer water is to schedule a free water test to identify exactly what contaminants are in your home’s tap water. Once the contaminants are identified, your Culligan Man will recommend the right system for your water.

Reverse Osmosis Filter Systems

RO filters are one of the most reliable methods of eliminating drinking water contaminant(s) that can be harmful to your health.  These are pervasive in many water supplies across the country and include lead, PFAS, arsenic, volatile organic compounds, and other emerging problems that store-bought filters will not remove.

Whole House Water Filters

“Problem water” is typical of areas with well water or municipal systems that have hard water, iron, sulfur and other bad odor, turbidity, or low pH. Whole house filtration brings these problems to a halt, improves water taste and overall quality, and can lower your utility costs. Likewise, you’re backed by the best water treatment service in the industry.

Having safe drinking water is a necessity for every household. By scheduling a free at-home water test with Culligan, you can receive a detailed report of all the contaminants in your home’s tap water and receive recommendations for solutions. You will have safe, drinkable tap water before you know it! Don’t compromise on the quality of your water; take the first step towards cleaner, safer water today.

Where Does Your Contaminated Tampa Water Come From?

As stated in Tampa’s water quality report, 98.24% of Tampa’s water comes from the Hillsborough River. The Hillsborough River originates from the Green Swamp. This vast, mostly untouched natural ecosystem encompasses cypress swamps, hardwood forests, marshes, pine flatwoods, and sandhills. Covering approximately 560,000 acres in the Florida backcountry, the Green Swamp spans across parts of Polk, Lake, Sumter, Hernando, and Pasco counties. The other 1.76% of Tampa’s water comes from Tampa Bay Water during exceptionally dry periods.

The safety of drinking water in Tampa can vary depending on various factors, including the source of the water and the treatment processes it undergoes. However, it’s important to note that even though the water in Tampa may meet safety standards, it can still contain certain impurities or contaminants that may affect its taste or quality.

Schedule a free water test today to begin your journey to safer drinking water with Culligan.