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Chicago is a great city known for plenty of things. They are a food city that boasts a number of ethnic delights from Polish cuisine to world-class pizza. The quality of the water is generally considered to be good, most of the time, but it is not without its problems. Is Chicago tap water safe to drink? Keep reading and you’ll find out where Chicago tap water comes from and what contaminants are coming out of your faucet.
Where Does Chicago Tap Water Come From?
As you might have guessed, Chicago tap water originates in Lake Michigan. It’s then treated at two water treatment plants in the city — Jardine Water Purification Plant and Sawyer Water Purification Plant. Given the proximity of Lake Michigan and the fact that it’s one of the largest lakes in the entire world, it makes a lot of sense that this is where Chicago gets its drinking water.
Unfortunately, Lake Michigan does have a lengthy history of pollution issues, including a recent toxic chromium spill from U.S. Steel that lead to a major lawsuit.
Can You Drink Chicago Tap Water?
If you’re going to drink Chicago tap water straight from the faucet, we recommend using a water filter before you take a drink.
While all cities see some form of contaminants in their water, Chicago has found toxic levels of lead in waters that were drawn in as much as 70% of homes in the last two years. Lead in the water is especially dangerous for young kids, infants, and fetuses as it can cause serious damage to the central and peripheral nervous system, according to the EPA and CDC.
A great way to combat this particular issue is with a water filter that specializes in removing lead from your water. You can check find the best water filter by reading reviews on a wide range of filters based on price, size, and the number of contaminants they remove.
What Contaminants are Found in Chicago Drinking Water?
Overall, Chicago drinking water has 19 detectable contaminants present, according to the EWG Tap Water Database. 9 of these contaminants are considered to be higher than the recommendations found in health guidelines. The other ten contaminants are at detectable, but supposedly at safe levels.
First let’s look at contaminants that are present at the highest levels. Eight of the nine contaminants bring a risk of cancer with them. These include:
- Bromodichloromethane – This is a TTHM or a total trihalomethane. These contaminants are formed in drinking water when chlorine or another disinfectant is used to treat the water to make it acceptable for consumption.
- Chloroform – Like the mention above, Chloroform is a TTHM.
- Chromium (hexavalent) – This contaminant is commonly found in drinking water in cities across America. It’s generally a cause of industrial pollution or due to mineral deposits and ground water.
- Dibromochloromethane – This is another TTHM, which carries the same issue as the others we’ve mentioned. Along with cancer, these could cause problems experienced during pregnancy.
- Dichloroacetic Acid – Like many of the mentioned contaminants, this is one of five haloacetic acids that can cause both pregnancy complications and cancer.
- Radiological contaminants – They have found a bunch of different forms of Radium in Chicago tap water. Caused by some mining procedures, water with these types of contaminants not only cause cancer but can be a detriment to fetal development.
- Total trihalomethanes – Like the TTHMs already mentioned, this is a group of four chemicals that can all cause various types of cancer. The chemicals include bromoform, chloroform, dibromochloromethane, and bromodichloromethane.
- Trichloroacetic acid – This is another of the five haloacetic acids, most of which have already been mentioned.
The ninth contaminant that is present in higher levels are hormones. Chicago tap water has been found to have two hormones present. These hormones include 4-Androstene-3,17-dione and Testosterone. Hormones are found in drinking water when animal and human wastewater mix with water sources we use for drinking.
The additional ten contaminants found in Chicago tap water include:
- Barium – This mineral, often found in rocks and water can cause hypertension and heart disease if consumed in higher levels.
- Chromium (total) – Chromium is a metal, but it can be found in drinking water due to industrial usage.
- Dibromoacetic acid – This is one of the five haloacetic acids that were mentioned above. These are byproducts of disinfection and can cause cancer and other health problems.
- Fluoride – Fluoride is added to the water in many cities and is also found in groundwater.
- Haloacetic acids or HAA5 – Another haloacetic acid, this is also caused when water is disinfected as chlorine and other disinfectants are added to tap water.
- Molybdenum – This metal is found in minerals and water. Larger amounts have been known to cause symptoms similar to gout along with an increase of uric acid.
- Nitrate – This fertilizer chemical can be found in water due to urban or agricultural runoff. One of the more problematic health problems include oxygen deprivation in infants.
- Nitrate and nitrite – These two contaminants are a product of runoff from septic tanks and fertilizer or urban runoff. Along with oxygen deprivation in infants, it can cause cancer, as well.
- Strontium – This is a type of metal that can collect in your bones. It causes cancer, leukemia, and can be a problem with overall bone health.
- Vanadium – Another metal, vanadium is often used in alloys and/or steel. Too much exposure can be toxic for children and pregnant women.
Water Filter Recommendations
If you’re worried about the contaminants found in Chicago drinking water, you can add a water filter to clean out many impurities and make your drinking water much safer to drink. A whole house water filter is a great way to cover all your bases. Of course, there are many different options where water filters are concerned. You can also get single faucet water filters or something as basic as a countertop water filter pitcher.
Some available water filters that can help improve your Chicago tap water include:
- Whole House Filter – iSpring WGB32B
- Faucet Filter – Aqua Elegante
- Water Filter Pitcher – Amazon Basics model
- Water Filters that Remove Lead – Filtrete Maximum
You can also find water filters that specialize in removing Chlorine, Fluoride, or other specific contaminants.
So, can you drink Chicago water? The water is supposed to be safe to drink, but the quality and taste will improve with the use of a water filter. This will remove or reduce the number of contaminants in your Chicago tap water and make it even safer to drink. If you have any other questions, you can leave them in the comments.
Ph.D. graduate working as a water quality consultant for many government agencies helping them find solutions to the ever-growing problem of polluted water. Loves a good coffee!