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New app can help determine if water is safe


Now the public can find out if their drinking water is safe with the help of an app. The Environmental Protection Agency has developed a new tool that maps U.S. watersheds online.

For example, when you go to the interactive map and click on Shiprock, N.M., it shows 84 potential sources of water contamination. Shiprock is where hundreds of Navajo farmers live — farmers who rely on the San Juan River for their crops and livestock. In August, the EPA unintentionally released 3 million gallons of mine waste into that waterway.

But the 84 potential sources of contamination on the map aren’t from the spill. They’re things like nearby wastewater treatment plants or industries upstream. If farmers want to check on the spill contamination, they can look where scientists have tested samples. The EPA has posted those results on its website.

An agency spokeswoman says the river has returned to pre-spill conditions but that doesn’t mean the river is clean. Hundreds of old mines have been leaking metals into the waterway for decades. 

For everyone else concerned about their drinking water, the map shows public water systems that have violated EPA regulations. Also, you can ask for a copy of the utility company's Consumer Confidence Report. This report lists the levels of contaminants that have been detected in the water and if they meet state and EPA drinking water standards. 

If you get your water from a private well, EPA recommends testing the well regularly for known contaminants such as nitrates, total coliforms and specific contaminants found in your watershed. In addition, reach out to your local public health department for more information.