Local scientists: no need to buy bottled water - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Local scientists: no need to buy bottled water

April 27th, 2020 development
Local scientists: no need to buy bottled water

By Janelle Molony

Gilbert resident Stefan Walston and Chandler resident Jennifer Elton – both water science experts – say people should avoid bottled water hoarding during the pandemic.

“I’m a scientist [not a psychologist], so I don’t know the reasoning behind that behavior,” said Walston, who holds a master’s degree in soil, water, and environmental science from the University of Arizona and has worked as a chemist at an East Valley environmental water quality laboratory with Elton for five years while teaching as an adjunct faculty member of Grand Canyon University’s Environmental Science Department.

“Water is an essential element for life, so people are scared and rightfully so. There are so many unknowns happening in the world. I can’t blame people for worrying at a time like this,” he added, saying there’s no need, nor has there ever been, to panic-purchase bottled water.

Walston acknowledged there’s a convenience factor with regards to the potability of bottled water, but asserted the virus can’t hide in tap water.

“Let’s demystify that,” he said. “There’s been no reports to show COVID-19 is in treated drinking water. Conventional treatment is shown to eliminate that exposure.”

The Environmental Protection Agency echoed this sentiment April 15, declaring: “Americans can continue to use and drink water from their tap as usual. Coronavirus, which causes COVID-19, is a type of virus that is particularly susceptible to disinfection and standard treatment and disinfectant processes are expected to be effective.”

Earlier in the month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated, “The virus that causes COVID-19 has not been detected in drinking water. Conventional water treatment methods that use filtration and disinfection, such as those in most municipal drinking water systems, should remove or inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19.”

This disinfection process is where a team of scientists comes into play.

“This is something we pride ourselves on,” Walston said, noting that community water quality is monitored “from the moment it leaves our facility, to the moment it runs through your taps.”

Elton, who specializes in microbial factors and chemicals found in the region’swater supply, added, “We perform hundreds of tests monthly and essential testing daily. One person monitors the metal levels, another does gas chromatography, and others are watching for mercury and sodium-chloride. We each have a specialty.”

Elton, who holds a master’s in environmental technology from Arizona State University and a bachelor’s degree in microbiology, has worked at the water quality laboratory for eighteen years.

If any potentially harmful component were to enter the system either “upstream” or “downstream” of the treatment center, they’d know about it, claimed Walston.

“We monitor from the raw influence, to the pre-sedimentation basins, secondary sedimentation basins, after filtration, through disinfection, through the reservoir, and out in the community,” he said. “We are constantly monitoring the data to ensure we deliver the highest quality water.”

In accordance with federal law, suppliers of tap water must provide a detailed report to residents about the quality of the water they are provided.

This Consumer Confidence Report has an extensive breakdown of chemicals or other factors that influence the safety and drinkability of the water supplied. Currently, all major East Valley water suppliers are preparing their 2019 reports, which must be distributed (by print or online) to the public by or before July 1.

For a more up-to-date inquiry, Walston suggested calling the local municipality. He says he fields questions from concerned residents daily.

On the flavor of Arizona’s water, the oft cited reason for choosing bottled over tap, Elton explained, “Sunlight can affect the taste of water in our state. Naturally occurring algae in the water blooms with the increased daylight, and releases a byproduct that is not harmful to us, but it is more noticeable in the flavor of water during the summer.”

To modify the flavor, Elton suggests using a carbon filter on the faucet or in a pitcher.

She also questioned the logic behind spending extra money on the bottled products during an economic downturn.

“It’s a fraction of a penny for the same amount of tap water that comes in a bottle for a dollar,” she said.

Walston added, “I’m highly confident that we will continue to deliver clean water every single day to residents. Through this pandemic, we have never wavered one bit.”

Where to check

Here is where to find water quality reports in the East Valley.

Gilbert: gilbertaz.gov/departments/public-works/water/reports

Phoenix: phoenix.gov/waterservices/waterquality/water-quality-reports

Chandler: chandleraz.gov/residents/water/water-quality

Queen Creek: queencreek.org/departments/utilities/water/water-quality

Mesa: mesaaz.gov/residents/water-resources/services/water-quality

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