A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Dorothy Rader: What’s behind the quality of your tap water? Be assured that your tap water is safe to drink

There have been a number of stories in the news lately highlighting the shortcomings of water utilities across the country, including some right here in Kentucky. While the struggles for some water utilities to fund necessary upgrades and maintain reliable, quality service are real, I want to reassure Kentucky American Water customers that there is no reason to worry about drinking your tap water.

Kentucky American Water is proud to operate at a higher-than-the-norm internal standard, to the benefit of our customers. All water utilities are subject to compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act, the federal law that protects public drinking water supplies throughout the nation. Under this law, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sets standards for drinking water quality. That means that our team of water quality specialists and treatment plant operators take measures around the clock to deliver water that meets or exceeds all regulatory standards set by the U.S. EPA and the Kentucky Division of Water.

In our case, though, we go above and beyond what is required by this law, applying guidance set forth by the Partnership for Safe Water, a unique, cooperative effort between the U.S. EPA, the American Water Works Association, Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, National Association of Water Companies, and Association of State Drinking Water Administrators. The Partnership encourages and assists U.S. water suppliers who participate voluntarily to enhance their treatment plants’ performance for greater control of contaminants that could be in the water. While there are thousands of water utilities throughout the U.S., only a few hundred participate in this unique program, and we are proud to have done so for more than 20 years.

So how do we ensure your tap water is safe to drink? First, our company invests in our systems on an ongoing basis so they perform reliably and meet modern standards.

For example, we are currently undergoing upgrades at our two Fayette County treatment plants. Second, we hire qualified, dedicated professionals. Without question, those who work in this field must understand that their work carries with it a tremendous responsibility to ensure public health. After all, we are a utility service that people ingest. Like other licensed professionals, treatment plant operators must achieve appropriate certifications and keep up with industry trends by completing approved continuing education to retain those credentials, in addition to complying with our rigorous internal standards.

Third, we conduct a tremendous amount of monitoring throughout the water treatment process. We continue these efforts after water has left our plants, with staff regularly visiting approved sites throughout our distribution system and obtaining tap water samples to be tested in certified laboratories. The results are submitted to the Kentucky Division of Water in compliance with regulations. More details regarding our monitoring efforts are published annually in a water quality report that is accessible via our website. The report with 2018 monitoring information will be available this spring.

The law rightfully holds those in the drinking water industry accountable for their actions as they pertain to public health, and any attempt to misrepresent or alter drinking water samples or laboratory results is subject to disciplinary action, which can even include incarceration.

Each consumer must make their own decision on how to hydrate themselves and their family members based on personal preferences, health status, location and condition of their home’s plumbing. In the end, some may prefer the taste of one water over another, or feel compelled to purchase a point-of-use device marketed by big box stores and home sales visits. But when one considers the stricter regulations required for tap water versus bottled; the rigorous, ongoing testing and monitoring of tap water that our team members conduct; our voluntary commitment to going above and beyond what is required; and the numerous recognitions we receive at the state and national levels for optimized operational performance, we hope our customers are assured that worrying about the safety of their tap water is one thing they can cross off their list.

Dorothy Rader is the manager of Water Quality and Environmental Compliance for Kentucky American Water. She has more than 20 years of experience in the water industry working at public and private water utilities and is the most recent AWWA Kentucky/Tennessee Section recipient of the American Water Works Association’s George Warren Fuller Award for distinguished service to the water supply field.

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