A test performed by The Point Staff at Point Loma Nazarene University found that tap water from sinks had high levels of contaminants, up to 331 parts per million. The water bottle refill stations were only slightly better around 302 parts per million. Essentially, this indicates that there are a lot of hazardous substances in PLNU’s tap water. Michaela Harding, a freshman at Point Loma was surprised to find out there was more to the water on campus.
“I assumed it was safe because that was just what I was being given here,” Harding said.
Many other students have had similar responses. Everyday, we drink water with the assumption that it is benefitting our body and helping us thrive in the day to day. However, after taking an in depth look at the San Diego Annual Drinking Water Quality Report for 2018, many students here at PLNU would be surprised to find they are drinking more than just water.
As water passes through different parts of the country, it encounters all sorts of pesticides, bacteria, viruses, metals, petroleum and even radioactive material such as uranium. Once it reaches the water treatment plant, disinfectants are added to the water in order to kill harmful pathogens. Disinfectants include ammonia, bleach and ozone. Often times, these substances leave behind harmful byproducts and carcinogens. Though the water company tries to limit the amount of toxins, many of them remain unless the substance exceeds the maximum contaminant level (MCL) . However, this does not mean the water is safe, even if contaminants are below the MCL. For the water quality to have no known health risk, it must meet the public health goal (PHG), which according to the EPA is “non-enforceable” due to “technological limitations”. For example, arsenic, a carcinogen, is one of the many contaminants monitored in the San Diego area, but the city is only required to report its presence to consumers if it is 500 times above the PHG. Furthermore, they are only obligated to refilter water if the amount of arsenic is 2,500 times as much as the PHG.
Another concern is the amount of fluoride water companies are required to add to tap sources. The San Diego water company supports this action by stating it is in compliance with California laws and helps “prevent dental cavities in consumers”. This raises many ethical questions as to whether or not the government should be allowed to take preventative health measures without most people even realizing it. While fluoride may help keep teeth clean, it is also known to damage certain parts of the body including the brain.
The unfortunate reality is that campus water is no better than tap sources all over the city. One of the ways students can feel more confident about consuming campus water is to have a water filtration pitcher. Depending on the quality of filter, students can purify most or all of the contaminants found in Point Loma’s water. Without these supplemental filters, drinking dirty water may be doing more harm than health in the long run.