Denver, Colorado’s water supply network consists of over 3,000 miles of water mains. Water in Denver comes from several natural sources, most of which are forms of groundwater.
People rely on tap water for bathing, drinking, and cooking. As a result, water filtration in Denver is just as important as anywhere else.
With advances in water filtration technology, it’s easier now to make tap water safe. Water quality in Denver varies depending on several key factors.
With recent events surrounding Denver’s water, you may be wondering how safe your drinking water is. In this article, we’ll examine the history of Denver’s water supply and its water quality today.
Read on to learn everything you need to know about water filtration in Denver!
Water Filtration in Denver Throughout History
In the early 1800s, pioneers started settling in what is now Denver along the Platte River and Cherry Creek. To help distribute water to settlements, settlers dug water channels, and eventually, water companies emerged in the 1870s.
Denver built its first water filtration system in 1871. The primitive system ran well water through a filter of gravel and sand.
As Denver developed and grew, so did its network of water mains. In 1884, Denver became the first large American city to filtrate its water supply with a facility on Mississippi Street.
The city built the Marston Treatment Plant in 1894, and it still operates today. In the early 1900s, Denver began developing ways to use mountain water in addition to river and well water.
Several small water companies collapsed and Denver Water became the city’s major water supplier in 1918. As the city expanded its water sources, it constructed more water treatment plants like Moffat Treatment Plant.
Despite the water treatment facilities and filtration efforts, pollutants from manufacturers have become a huge issue for tap water.
Water Pollution in Colorado
Water can become contaminated in a few different ways. Large plants and factories pollute water supplies, and older water pipes can have toxic materials.
Today, many water pollutants are cause for concern. One of the most common water pollutants is lead.
People used the naturally occurring metal for thousands of years. It wasn’t until just a few decades ago that scientists discovered that lead poses a serious health risk.
Because we only recently learned how dangerous lead can be, many residential service lines use lead piping. Homes built earlier than 1951 have a higher chance of using lead service lines.
To combat the hazard of older lead service lines, Denver Water and the EPA have started the Lead Reduction Program. The purpose of the program is to identify and replace lead service lines.
A home’s service line is part of the homeowner’s property, and records are inconsistent, making it a challenge to identify lead piping. Despite the challenges, Denver Water projects the completion of lead line replacement in roughly 15 years.
PFAS chemicals, better known as “forever chemicals,” are the result of the production of many household products. PFAS stands for “polyfluoroalkyl substances,” which can build up in the body over time.
Common examples of products that may contain PFAS include:
- Paper and cardboard
- Water-resistant fabric
- Fire extinguishing foam
Since manufacturers produce these household items on such a large scale, it’s common for toxic byproducts to end up polluting water sources.
A carcinogen is a compound with the potential to cause cancer. Some carcinogens are cancerous only if ingested, while others can cause cancer just from skin contact.
Carcinogens commonly found in Denver water include:
- Haloacetic acids
- Nitrate and nitrite
The EPA has legal limits for some pollutants, but they are much higher than the levels the Environmental Working Group recommends. Some contaminants have no legal limit at all.
Fortunately, a reliable water filtration system can help remove toxic chemicals from tap water. Keeping your home’s water filtered is essential to your health and safety.
Health Risks of Lead Piping
With the amount of lead piping used for Denver residential service lines, it’s common to see high lead levels in tap water. Lead can cause a range of health problems with prolonged exposure.
Lead is a type of poison known as a neurotoxin, meaning it can cause brain damage with enough exposure. This health risk is especially dangerous for children, and can permanently stunt growth and brain development.
Lead exposure can also cause reproductive issues like reduced sperm count and even miscarriage.
Additionally, lead can cause damage to other organs like the kidney. Other risks include cardiovascular issues like hypertension and anemia.
Legal Action Against Polluters
To improve the quality of drinking water in Denver, it’s essential to reduce pollution. To fight the industrial pollution of Colorado’s water sources, government officials and organizations have been taking legal action.
In addition to lawsuits against polluters, organizations are working to enact laws to protect Denver’s water. While pollutants are at “legal” levels, there are still unsafe amounts in many water sources.
Clean Water Act
The initial form of the Clean Water Act was the Federal Water Pollution Act, passed in 1948. After amendments were made in 1972, it became known as the Clean Water Act.
The Act set up regulations for the discharge of pollutants into waterways. Additionally, it set a requirement for a permit to discharge any such pollutant.
While the Clean Water Act was a good step, the Center for Biological Diversity challenges it. According to the Center, there are loopholes in the Act that allow factory farms to legally pollute water.
The Colorado Office of Administrative Courts agreed to hear the challenge at a hearing on Oct. 31, 2022.
Lawsuit Against Suncor
Commerce City sent a letter to the oil refinery Suncor to notify the company of the city’s intent to file a lawsuit. The city’s attorney believes the oil refinery is responsible for the unlawful discharge of PFAS chemicals into the water supply.
Suncor, on the other hand, blames PFAS levels on the use of firefighting foams, which have historically contained PFAS. Manufacturers of the class B foam have also come under legal review.
Attorney General Filing Lawsuit Against Manufacturers
In February of 2022, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser filed a lawsuit against 15 manufacturers of firefighting foam. The chemicals used to create this foam don’t break down naturally and remain in the human body.
If the court finds in favor of Weiser, the manufacturers will be responsible for all related damages. This award will include cleanup, restoration, and monitoring of areas where people have used the foam.
The type of foam containing PFAS is called aqueous film forming foam, or AFFF.
Is My Tap Water Safe?
Denver Water started working to reduce lead contamination in 2020, and the project involves testing and inspecting residential plumbing. The project is ongoing and requires a vast amount of labor.
To maintain good water filtration in Denver, the company has to work with engineers, local government, and utility technicians. Colorado cites algae, lead, and PFAS as contaminants of concern.
With all of Denver’s efforts to reduce water pollution and rehabilitate unsafe plumbing, tap water is generally safe. However, to ensure your tap water is free of lead and harmful chemicals, you should have a filtration professional test your water.
Signs your tap water may have pollutants include:
- Strange taste or smell
- Oily film on the water surface
Types of Water Filter
There are different types of water filters, each with advantages and disadvantages. Which is right for you depends on your home water situation.
Activated carbon filters are one of the oldest types of filters, dating back thousands of years. Carbon is known to be especially effective for removing tastes and odors from water.
Additionally, carbon is good for removing many common pollutants like mercury and haloacetic acids. Another common kind of filter is the reverse osmosis filter.
Reverse osmosis is a process in which molecules larger than water molecules become trapped. This type of filtration system is known to be more effective at removing pollutants than filters like carbon.
While they are better at filtering water, reverse osmosis filters can also waste much more water.
Keep Your Tap Water Clean and Healthy
Denver’s water supply comes from rivers, wells, and mountains. Over the last few decades, local governments have enacted safeguards against pollution from manufacturers.
In addition to chemical pollutants, outdated lead water service lines can pose a health risk.
The best way to keep your home’s water safe is to install a filtration system. Water filtration in Denver can help you ensure your tap water is safe to drink and cook with.
Clean Water Co has a filtration system for every known water contaminant. Schedule a free 20-minute estimate today to find out how we can help you keep your water safe!