Residents of Omaha may be more inclined to purchase water filters after learning of the dubious safety of the city's water supply. Omaha ranked seventh on a list of the top ten U.S. cities with the lowest quality of drinking water published by Daily Finance. However, the Metropolitan Utility District disputes the results.
Researchers collected water samples from several locations throughout the city over a period of five years. The water quality was ranked based on “the percentage of chemicals found based on the number that were tested for, the total number of contaminants found, [and] the most dangerous average level of a single pollutant.”
Omaha water contained 42 out of the 148 chemicals tested for. Half of the chemicals surpassed health guidelines, and four exceeded the legal limit set by the EPA. Those detected in illegal amounts “were atrazine, trihalomethanes, nitrate and nitrite, and manganese. Atrazine is an herbicide that has been shown to cause birth defects. Nitrate is found in fertilizer, and nitrite is used for curing meat. Manganese was detected at 40 times the legal limit during one month of testing. ”
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) complied data from 45 states and 48,000 communities. Five states, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Georgia, did not submit sufficient data and were discluded from the study. Detroit, Salt Lake City and Washington, D.C. also failed to provide enough data. The article noted that “among the contaminants [from all the data in the study] were 202 chemicals that aren't subject to any government regulation or safety standards for drinking water.”
The Metropolitan Utility District said the study reported “raw” water samples and reported them as “treated,” as well as drawing samples from an unused well. EWG admitted to the Omaha World Herald that some of the data “did not pertain to water that reached Omaha taps,” but argued that their mis-collections “might not ultimately impact the outcome of its test results.”