The treatment of drinking water was first borne in 4000 B.C. from the desire to improve the aesthetics of water (taste, odor and appearance). It wasn’t until much later that water treatment focused more on the need to improve the health of populations.
Though regulations have existed in the United States for over 100 years, it has only been within the last few decades that consistent guidelines, practiced enforcement and widespread technology have resulted in reliable water quality for the majority of municipal water supplies.
A variety of natural and anthropogenic contaminants have been identified to cause ailments that range from minor gastrointestinal distress to high fever to acute toxicity or chronic morbidity. Industrialization, the development of modern agricultural practices and the disposal of wastes into surface water and in the ground greatly increased exposure to biological, chemical and physical pollutants.
Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sets standards for more than 100 potential contaminants in drinking water. And, as our environment changes and the potential threats to water quality change, the EPA updates its regulations based on scientific research. They research a number of unregulated contaminants as well to determine if they pose a concern for water quality.
The following case study requires the student to engage in a careful review of the data presented, research potential causative agents and report on conclusions drawn.