Delaware Public Media

Nonprofit releases new data on Delaware's tap water quality

Oct 23, 2019

A non-profit organization has new information about tap water quality in the First State. 

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has released its updated U.S. drinking water quality database for public utilities covering 2012 through 2017.

It shows radium, nitrate and nitrite were above legal limits in the Forest Park and Pinnacle Rehabilitation and Health Center utilities. The Millsboro facility serves 46 residences and the Smyrna one serves 256.

EWG researcher Alexis Temkin said just because chemical levels don’t exceed legal federal limits doesn’t mean they’re safe to consume.

“When you look at what the federal standards are, those are often too high to protect against public health because they’re a compromise between cost of removal and technology, feasibility of removal and things like that,” she said.

The database also lists days in 2017 when utilities had a high level of lead in its tap water. Wilmington and Newark Water Departments, Artesian Water Company and Bethany Bay Ocean View had days with high lead levels.

EWG researcher Alexis Temkin said the database is a resource to help consumers.

“There’s also places where we note that consumers can talk to local elected officials or directly contact water utilities to ask what they’re doing to address certain contamination issues that may be present in their community,” she said.

Temkin says two toxins found in tap water throughout the state are nitrate and PFAS. 

She says nitrates are seen where there’s high agricultural use and chicken farms. 

PFAS appear near military bases and PFAS contamination has been documented around New Castle Air National Guard Base and private wells near Dover Air Force Base. And federal officials recently started an exposure study of residents around the New Castle base.