News Feature | March 8, 2018

Amid Water Quality Doubts, Philly Water Fires Back

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,
@sarmje

philly reg new

The Philadelphia Water Department is under fire for allegedly high contaminant levels in its drinking water supply, but officials say the claims are flawed.

“Since launching its water test kits in August 2017, Tern Water tested some 200 tap water samples from seven states as part of its Know Your Water offering. Half of those tests were conducted in Philly. The results are in: 90 percent of the 200 samples had at least one ‘risky’ contaminant,” Technical.ly Philly reported.

“The results show 60 percent of samples had some level of chromium-6 (also known as hexavalent chromium) a substance known to cause cancer. Fifteen percent of samples had risky levels of chlorine, while another 40 percent showed high levels of fluoride,” the report said.

In response, Philadelphia Water Department officials spoke out this month encouraging residents to feel safe about their water.

“First off, they’re not an accredited lab,” said Joanne Dahme, general manager of public affairs for the city agency, per Technical.ly Philly. “All results that relate to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency must come from accredited lab. They seem to not to understand EPA guidelines and take a lot of license.”

“We take a lot of pride in the fact that we deliver top quality drinking water, with levels that are always better than what the EPA recommends,” Dahme added, noting that Philadelphia ratepayers who have used the test kits have called with concern.

Philadelphia’s yearly report on drinking water quality tells a positive story.

“The water that leaves our treatment plants is better than what is required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Our water is monitored 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to ensure that it consistently remains of the highest quality,” the report states.

Tern Water, based in Philadelphia, provides water testing kits for individuals.

“We want to simplify the process for the way people can get information about their water,” said founder Mohammed Zerban, per Techical.ly Philly. “It’s user awareness, but in an actionable way.”

Image credit: "philadelphia skyline," r’lyeh imaging © 2008, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/