Health Issues

Health Issues

Photo of KylePrimary maximum contaminant level

A Primary Maximum Contaminate Level is a health related issue that is a legally enforceable national standard set by the EPA to protect the public from exposure to water contamination hazards. Standards only apply to public drinking water systems, but they serve as a guide for individual water supplies. ESS laboratories can test all Primary Maximum Contaminants.


The EPA drinking water standard for copper is 1.3 mg/l, or parts per million. Levels above this may cause acute gastrointestinal illness or nervous disorders. Lower levels of dissolved copper may give water a bitter or metallic taste and produce blue-green stains on plumbing fixtures. The copper content of the source water is generally quite low or non-existent, rather; it typically comes from the plumbing materials of the house. The leaching of copper from copper and brass materials is generally accelerated when the water is acidic, or has a low pH value. Any excessive amounts of copper from the water source itself may indicate contamination from industrial wastes or landfills.

Fecal Coliform Bacteria

A test for fecal coliform is necessary when a Total Coliform Bacteria is present. This is typically waste of humans and/or other warm-blooded animals (mammals and birds). A positive result reported as “present” indicates that waste from a septic system or animal may be contaminating the water supply and should be treated as a major health concern.

Total Coliform Bacteria

Microbiological contamination of drinking water may cause short-term gastrointestinal disorders, resulting in cramps and diarrhea that may be mild to severe. Other diseases of concern are viral hepatitis A, salmonella infections, dysentery, typhoid fever and cholera. Coliform bacteria are always present in the digestive systems of humans and animals and do not themselves cause disease. However, when present in drinking water, they indicate the possible presence of disease bacteria. Soil or decaying vegetation may also be a source for coliform contamination of water supplies. Analysis for total coliform bacteria is the EPA standard test for microbiological contamination of a water supply. A positive test result reported as “present” indicates the presence of coliform bacteria.


The primary source of lead in drinking water is leaching from lead faucets and lead solders used in plumbing, especially if the water is acidic. Lead is also found naturally in some areas in ground water. In 1986, the federal Safe Drinking Water Act banned the use of lead on public drinking water systems and limited to 8% the amount of lead permissible in brass fixtures. Children and fetuses are especially sensitive to lead poisoning, and the EPA maximum contaminant level is 15 µg/l, or parts per billion.


Nitrates occur naturally in water, but the major sources of nitrate include commercial fertilizers, the wastes from grazing land and feedlots, and septic systems. Although the EPA has set a maximum contaminant level for nitrate at 10 mg/l, it is recommended that water with levels greater than 1 mg/l be used with caution for feeding infants. High levels of nitrate may cause methemoglobinemia (“blue-baby” syndrome) in infants.

Actual equipment recommended is based on overall water test results. Please contact us ( or 540-825-2781) with any questions regarding which equipment may be right for your water problem.


EPA: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
mg/1: Concentration unit of milligrams per liter of water, equivalent to parts per million (ppm)
µg/l: Concentration unit of micrograms per liter of water, equivalent to parts per billion (ppb)