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Water Quality

Water Quality (Potential Aesthetic Concerns)

In the area of water supply, there are program components which are very difficult to define, and, in fact, may impact differently on distinct environmental health program areas. From a public health related standpoint, several maximum contaminant levels have been established to serve as a basis for acceptable water quality for use for drinking and household purposed, including bacteriological quality, turbidity, radiochemicals, organic chemicals, and inorganic chemicals. These contaminant levels are prescribed by Act No. 399 of the Public Acts of 1976, and administrative rules promulgated by the Michigan Department of Public Health, pursuant to authority of that Act. It is important to not that very few of the recent ground water contaminant levels have been established.

There are no established standards, however, other than recommended criteria, for the aesthetic quality of drinking water or the quantities of water that should be available to adequately serve the needs of the consumer or user. The aesthetic parameters include constituents in drinking water which do not have any known or direct health effects, but which, in certain concentrations, can render water unsuitable for normal drinking and household purposes. These constituents include chloride, sulfate, sulfide, hardness, iron, manganese, sodium, color (tannins), and total dissolved solids. The biggest problem associated with these constituents is that different concentrations of each, or a combination of more than one, result in different reactions by the consumer. Some people tolerate higher levels that others and, accordingly, it is most difficult to establish specific levels for water quality "acceptability". Furthermore, some aesthetic related constituents can be economically and effectively treated, whereas other cannot.

Because of the recognized need to develop a more consistent approach relative to aesthetic parameters of drinking water, and to assure uniform decision making in many environmental health programs, a "Task Force on Water Quality" was established within the Bureau of Environmental and Occupational Health of the Michigan Department of Public Health. Staff participants on the task force represented many disciplines, including food service sanitation, land subdivisions control, public and private water supply, and other community environmental health program considerations. Such as campgrounds, mobile home parks, schools and marinas. The specific charge to the task force was to develop some recommended parameters related to aesthetic water quality which can be applied to serve as the basis for decision making on proposed facilities or establishments under the jurisdiction of the aforementioned environmental health program areas.

At the outset, it is important to define the basis upon which levels of acceptability of water quality can be determined. For that reason, the task force agreed that, in developing guidance material relative to water quality, the use of water for drinking and household purposes, as defined by the State "Safe Drinking Water Act", Public Act 399 of 1976, would serve as basis. Accordingly, the task force proceeded to develop ranges of water quality based on parameters of an aesthetic concern and classified water quality into three or four major areas:

    1. Good quality
    2. Marginal quality
    3. Poor quality
    4. Very poor quality (chloride and sulfide)

In making its determinations, the task force considers whether the water could be treated and, if so, the economics involved relative to treatment. If treatment costs are exorbitant, for example, this is discussed in defining the overall quality of the water as it relates to the proposed use for "drinking and household purposes."

The basic guidance material was developed by the task force in a tablular format whereby the water quality issues are summarized as to the impact of the water quality, the effect of the water quality, the treatment aspects, whether or not a disclosure of water quality should be required, and recommended program actions to be taken based upon the quality of the water. Explanatory material on each constituent accompanies the charts. With regard to program actions, decisions will vary from the type of facility or establishment for which the water is intended to be used, and my include requirements for disclosures on aesthetic water quality, effect, significance, and/or treatment needs.

Copyright © 2004 by the Dickinson-Iron District Health Department
818 Pyle Drive, Kingsford, MI 49802 - Phone: 1-906-774-1868
601 Washington Ave, Iron River, MI 49935 - Phone: 1-906-265-9913
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