Is Tap Water in Maryland Safe To Drink or Not? 3 Solutions for Greater Peace of Mind!

By Mengning Heil

January 21, 2022

Water Quality

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Recent water quality issues such as the Flint, Michigan water contamination and the ongoing lead in Baltimore City School’s drinking water have caused many of us to think twice before we drink what comes out of our faucets. Such stories and others like it should leave us pondering whether we have an adequate answer to the question: is tap water in Maryland safe to drink? Thankfully there are precautions that we can take to determine and even ensure the safety of our drinking water. 

Is Tap Water In Maryland Safe To Drink? How to Know!

If you live in Montgomery or Prince George’s County, your public water is treated and distributed by WSSC, a public utility. As a public utility, WSSC must regularly test the water they process under EPA guidelines. The EPA’s guidelines set limits on over 90 different chemical and microbial contaminants such as arsenic, lead, copper, and coliform (see here). The good news is that as of the writing of this article, WSSC and the water in Montgomery County and Prince George’s County have consistently hit the EPA standards. Therefore, in a general sense, your water is safe to drink. You should not expect to get dysentery or another immediate illness from the water.

However, many consider the EPA standards to be merely the bare minimum. The EPA has been slower to develop updated standards to keep up with the latest research on pollution and chemical contaminants. It has been noted that preliminary research indicates chemicals in our water from outdated pipes, old plumbing fixtures, agricultural runoff, and industrial pollution can create risks such as cancer, hormone disruptions, and fertility difficulty if there is long-term exposure. You can check out EWG’s Tap Water Database to see what’s in your city’s water. 

If you are concerned about drinking from your tap water, you can choose from three different types of home water treatment systems.

How Activated Carbon Filters Water

The first and simplest type of filtration you can use is activated carbon. Activated carbon is a highly porous material that adheres to contaminants like chlorine to remove it from the water. Activated carbon filters can be easy as having a pitcher filter (think Brita or Pur) or you can have one to filter the water for the entire house (called a Whole House Filter). Activated carbon, unfortunately, fails to remove inorganic pollutants such as arsenic, fluoride, hexavalent chromium, nitrate, and perchlorate. For those contaminants, you will need a reverse osmosis system. 

Is Tap Water In Maryland Safe To Drink

How Does A Reverse Osmosis System Work?

A reverse osmosis water filtration system is the most effective because it works by only allowing molecules the size of water or smaller to pass through a semipermeable membrane. Reverse osmosis systems often combine a sediment filter with an activated charcoal filter. The downside to a reverse osmosis system is that it discharges a lot of water. As a result, most homeowners choose to install a reverse osmosis system under the kitchen sink instead of the whole house.  

how does a reverse osmosis system work

Do I Need A Water Softener?

The last type of water treatment system is a water softener often in the form of an ion exchanger. A water softener will remove calcium and magnesium along with barium and radium by exchanging those elements with sodium (aka salt). Although calcium and magnesium do not typically result in health issues, they most certainly result in plumbing issues.

If you have a high amount of calcium and magnesium in your water, you have “hard water”. Hard water will leave mineral deposits on any surface that the water touches. Do you have water spots after washing the dishes? Do you have a frosty residue on the glass door of your shower? This is caused by water hardness. Homeowners who live in the western half of Montgomery County in areas like Rockville, Silver Spring, Potomac, Chevy Chase, Bethesda, and Gaithersburg have hard water. Over time, the mineral buildup can cause issues in your pipes and fixtures. A water softener can take care of your water hardness problem. 

do I need a water softener

In conclusion, although Maryland tap water is safe to drink, home water treatment systems can almost always offer you another layer of protection. Activated carbon filters, reverse osmosis systems, and water softeners can ensure you are consistently benefitting from high-quality water, not simply water that meets the bare minimum requirements. If you still have questions, call an expert.

Are you looking for an expert plumber in Ellicott City, MD or the surrounding areas? Heil Plumbing offers a range of reliable plumbing services, including sewer line repair in Baltimore County and hydro jetting in Baltimore County.

Heil Plumbing is a family-run company owned by a third-generation master plumber. We can help you with a full range of plumbing services, including toilet installation and repair, leak detection and pipe repair, faucet repair and installation, drain cleaning, and water heater repair in Baltimore County and the surrounding areas.