Safety For You: Testing your water

(WLNS) – It’s been just over a year since health officials discovered dangerously high levels of lead in the water running through the city of Flint and into homes.

The problem went undetected for 18 months, raising questions about what’s really inside of the water we drink ourselves and give to our children each day.

Another question people are asking is: Do those on-tap filters really work?

And should you being using one?

When you reach for glass of water from your tap does it flow through a filter first?

They’re not new, in fact, they’ve been around for decades.

But in the wake of the Flint water crisis, there’s renewed interest in these gadgets.

But how much of a difference do they make?

We went to the lab to find out.

“The smaller bottle is what we use for the automated partial chemistry, and this larger one we would do for the copper lead testing,” explained Julia Pieper.

Pieper is a manager at the Michigan DEQ testing lab.

The partial chemistry test she’s talking about looks at 7 different common components in drinking water: Sodium, chloride, sulfate, hardness, nitrate, nitrite, and iron.

We also tested for lead and copper.

When you take a “first draw” sample for copper lead, you’ll see all the effects that the plumbing, the faucet, and any service line running to the house would’ve had on the water quality.

First draw samples also require the water to sit in the pipes for six hours.

We opted for the 10 minute flush test which, as the name suggests, requires a 10 minute flush before sampling.

This particular test will tell us more about the water coming in directly.

You want the water to go directly from the faucet into the bottle and not on the outside.

The Lansing samples came from a sink here at WLNS-TV.

And the Jackson Coffee Company allowed us to test the sink behind the counter at their store on Mechanic Street.

After a week of testing here’s what we found.

No trace of lead or copper in any of the four samples.

And when it comes to Jackson city water the filter had no effect on hardness or sulfates but slightly decreased the amount of chloride, fluoride, and sodium.

In Lansing the filter didn’t effect chloride, sulfate, or sodium levels but managed to bring down fluoride, nitrite, and iron levels, but not by much.

“You’ve got fluoride in there, you’ve got chloride in there, the water around here tends to be a little hard so you’ve got some hardness,” explained Linda Vail, director of the Ingham County Health Department.

Vail took a look at our results and recommends testing your water before buying a filter.

The commonly used Brita filter we used isn’t designed to filter a number of elements in the partial chemistry test.

Which is why the levels in our results were nearly un-changed.

Know what it is that you’re trying to accomplish and you need to match a filter to whatever is going on in your home.

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