Q: Is my water safe to drink?
A: A definitive answer for countries as large as the United States and Canada is impossible, of course, but for the most part, the answer is yes. Nearly all the water supplies in the United States meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standards for safe drinking water. Yes, the City of Gillette's drinking water is safe to drink. Our water meets or is better than all the U.S. EPA's standards for safe drinking water.
Q: What is the definition of safe water? I’ve heard it called "potable water."
A: Water is considered safe to drink if it came from a natural source (river, lake, groundwater, spring) AND it meets or is better than all of the federal, state, and provincial standards that are legally enforceable. In the United States, if your tap water does not meet any one of the standards, according to the law your water supplier must notify all of its customers of the problem. Water is called potable when it is safe to drink.
Q: Is it true that tap water quality is getting worse?
A: It might seem that way from what you read and hear, as chemists and microbiologists are able to find more contaminants than ever before, but actually the opposite is true. Water suppliers must meet many more rules today than they did just a few years ago, and standards for many of the regulated chemicals and microbes are more strict than they were a few years ago. Tap water quality is improving, although it is being talked about more because the general public is more aware of water quality issues and is demanding more information.
Q: Can I tell if my drinking water is okay by just looking at it, tasting it, or smelling it?
A: No. Most of the chemicals or microbes that could make you sick can not be seen, tasted, or smelled.
Q: Is my drinking water completely free of microbes?
A: No, but don’t be alarmed; most microbes are harmless. For example, if you licked your finger, you would get microbes in your mouth, but you wouldn’t get sick. Drinking water contains harmless microbes. It should be free of germs, however. Because most water is germ-free, many pediatricians in metropolitan areas do not think it necessary to boil tap water used in making baby formula. Check with your pediatrician.
Q: How are germs that can make me sick kept out of my drinking water?
A: A chemical called disinfectant is added to drinking water at the water treatment plant. Chlorine is the most common disinfectant used in the United States and Canada. In the United States, chlorine is used in 75 percent of the large systems and 95 percent of the smaller systems. The City of Gillette uses chlorine for disinfection.
Q: Are all chemicals in my drinking water bad for me?
A: No. Some chemicals, fluoride for example, are good for you, and some minerals are accepted by most to be beneficial in drinking water. In addition, many chemicals have no bad effect on your health. Chemicals are not bad simply because they are chemicals. For example, water itself is a chemical, and we depend on chemicals in food to keep us alive.
Q: Is the fluoride in my drinking water safe?
A: Yes. When added or naturally present in the correct amounts, fluoride in drinking water has greatly improved the dental health of American and Canadian consumers. Early studies suggesting that fluoride was a possible cancer-causing chemical proved to be incorrect. A 1993 report by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences, Health Risk of Ingested Fluoride, states, "Currently allowed fluoride levels in drinking water do not pose a risk of health problems such as cancer, kidney failure, or bone disease." The City of Gillette does not add fluoride to the drinking water, however naturally occurring fluoride is present.
Q: Is water with chlorine in it safe to drink?
A: Yes. Many tests have shown that the amount of chlorine found in treated water is safe to drink, although some people object to the taste. If you object to the taste, you can fill a clean jug with water and store it in the refrigerator for drinking.
Q: Why does my drinking water taste or smell "funny"? Will this smelly water make me sick?
A: The most common reasons for bad tasting or smelling water are:
- A funny taste can come from chlorine that is added to the water to kill germs.
- A rotten-egg odor in some groundwater is caused by a nontoxic (in small amounts), smelly chemical called hydrogen sulfide dissolved in the water.
- As algae and tiny fungi grow in surface water sources, they give off nontoxic, smelly chemicals that can cause unpleasant taste in drinking water.
- A defective magnesium anode or "mag rod" in your hot water heater can cause a rotten egg odor.
- None of the contaminants that could affect your health can be tasted in drinking water.
You should report any sudden change in taste or smell in your drinking water to your water supplier. Call the City of Gillette Water Division at (307) 686-5276.
Q: Drinking water often looks cloudy when first taken from a faucet and then clears up. Why is that?
A: The cloudy water is caused by tiny air bubbles in the water similar to the gas bubbles in carbonated soft drinks. After awhile, the bubbles rise to the top and are gone. This type of cloudiness occurs more often in the winter, when the drinking water is cold.
Q: Is it okay to use hot water from the tap for cooking?
A: No. Use cold water. Hot water is more likely to contain rust, copper, and lead from your household plumbing and water heater because these contaminants generally dissolve into hot water from the plumbing faster than they do into cold water.
Q: Is it okay to use hot water from the tap to make baby formula?
A: No. Hot water may contain impurities that come from the hot water heater and plumbing in your house. Use cold water and heat it on the stove or in a microwave.
Q: Should I install home treatment equipment?
A: This is a personal decision. This equipment is not needed to make the water meet federal, state, or provincial drinking water safety standards. In fact, if not properly maintained, the equipment may actually cause water quality problems. If you choose to do so, the setting on your water conditioner should be set for 25 grains of hardness.
Q: What is "hard" water?
A: "Hardness" in drinking water is caused by two nontoxic chemicals (usually called minerals), calcium and magnesium. If calcium and/or magnesium is present in your water in substantial amounts, the water is said to be hard because making a lather or suds for washing is hard to do.
Q: When I put ice cubes that I’ve made in my freezer into a glass of water, white stuff appears in the glass as the ice cubes melt. What is the white stuff and where does it come from?
A: Ice cubes freeze from the outside, so the center of the cube is the last to freeze. Ice is pure water, so as the ice cube freezes, all of the minerals, like the hardness minerals, are pushed to the center. Near the end of the freezing, there isn’t much water left in the center of the cube, so these minerals become very concentrated, and they form the "white stuff" - the technical name is precipitate. The hardness minerals that cause the white stuff are nontoxic. If you have a water softener on the cold water supply you will also see salt deposits from the soft water on your ice cubes. For best results, a water softener should be connected to the hot water supply only.
Q: What is that white stuff in my coffeepot and on my showerhead and glass shower door? How can I get rid of it?
A: Minerals dissolved in water tend to settle out when water is heated or are left behind when it evaporates. These minerals are white and accumulate in coffeepots and on showerheads and glass shower doors. To remove these minerals, fill the coffeepot with vinegar and let it sit overnight, or soak the showerhead overnight in a plastic bowl filled with vinegar. White spots on glass shower doors are difficult to remove with vinegar because the spots dissolve very slowly. A better idea is to prevent the spots from forming by wiping the glass door with a damp sponge or towel after each shower.
Q: Should I buy bottled water?
A: Remember that US bottled water is less regulated than municipal drinking water from the tap. You don’t need to buy bottled water for health reasons if your drinking water meets all of the federal, state, or provincial drinking water standards. The City of Gillette meets or is better than all applicable drinking water standards. If you want a drink with a different taste, you can buy bottled water, but it costs up to 1000 times more than municipal drinking water. You can purchase 6 gallons of city water for 1 penny. Of course, in emergencies bottled water can be a vital source of drinking water for people without water.
Q: My drinking water is reddish or brown. What causes this? Is it safe to drink?
A: The reddish-brown color is nontoxic, but it is not harmless. It can stain clothing in the wash and it looks bad. The drinking water pipes, in the street or in your home, may be rusting, creating rusty, brown water. Also, your hot water tank may be rusty. Let the water run to allow it to clear up. Save the rusty water for watering plants. Please call the City of Gillette Water Division at (307) 686-5276 to inform us of any rusty water problems.