Coliforms, reported as “Total Coliform,” are bacteria that are naturally present in the environment and are used as an indicator that other potentially harmful bacteria may be present. Standards for compliance vary depending on the size of the distribution system. In larger systems (including Evergreen, Edenvale and Coyote Valley), 95 percent of all samples taken each month must be free of coliforms. In smaller systems (including North San José and Alviso), no more than one sample per month may test positive for the presence of coliforms.
Disinfection of surface water is necessary to destroy disease-causing organisms for the protection of public health. In Evergreen, North San José and Alviso, water is disinfected using chloramine. Except for a slight chlorinous taste or odor, chloramine is not harmful to the general public. However, it must be removed for kidney dialysis machines and aquariums. If you are receiving kidney dialysis treatment, please contact your doctor or dialysis technician. For pet fish, contact your local fish store for more information about special water treatment.
Fluoride is added to the treated water supplies in Evergreen, North San José and Alviso to help prevent dental cavities in consumers.
In Evergreen, Muni Water began fluoridating the treated water it received from Valley Water following an Evergreen community advisory vote in the early 1960s. Valley Water became responsible for fluoridating the water supply in 2016 and now provides fluoridation of the water supply at their water treatment plants.
SFPUC has been fluoridating its water supplies since November 2005. The fluoride levels in the treated water are maintained within the range required by state regulations.
In 2018, some areas of Evergreen, North San José and Alviso may have received a blend of treated water and non-fluoridated groundwater. As a result, some customers periodically received water with fluoride levels slightly below the recommended range.
At present, additional fluoride is not added in Edenvale or Coyote Valley service areas. Consult your doctor or dentist if you are considering additional fluoride supplements or treatments.
Hardness consists mainly of calcium and magnesium salts. Although it does not pose a health risk, it may be considered undesirable for other reasons. Some benefits to reducing hardness by using water softeners are reductions in soap usage, longer life for water heaters, and less incrustation of pipes. Some disadvantages are an increase in sodium intake (depending on the type of softener used), proper maintenance and servicing requirements, and potential adverse effects on plants and landscaping.
Turbidity is a measure of the water’s cloudiness. It is monitored because it is a good indicator of the effectiveness of the water treatment process. The turbidity standard for unfiltered supplies (e.g., Hetch Hetchy) is 5 NTU. The turbidity for filtered water supplies (e.g., Valley Water treated water) must be less than 0.3 NTU 95 percent of the time and at no time higher than 1 NTU.
Cryptosporidium and Giardia Lamblia are parasitic microbes found in most surface water. The SFPUC and Valley Water regularly test for these waterborne pathogens and found them at very low levels in source and/or treated water in 2018. However, current test methods approved by the EPA do not distinguish between dead organisms and those capable of causing disease. Ingestion of Cryptosporidium or Giardia lamblia may produce symptoms of nausea, abdominal cramps, diarrhea and associated headaches. Cryptosporidium must be ingested to cause disease, and it may be spread through means other than drinking water.
Lead, if present at elevated levels, can cause serious health problems, especially for pregnant women and young children. Lead in drinking water is primarily from materials and components associated with service lines and home plumbing. Muni Water is responsible for providing high-quality drinking water, but cannot control the variety of materials used in plumbing components. When your water has been sitting for several hours, you can minimize the potential for lead exposure by flushing your tap for 30 seconds to two minutes before using water for drinking or cooking. If you are concerned about lead in your water, you may wish to have your water tested. Information on lead in drinking water, testing methods, and steps you can take to minimize exposure is available from the Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800-426-4791 or at www.epa.gov/lead.
By 2018, the water at all 20 public K-12 schools in the Muni Water service area was tested, and results showed no detections of lead.
UCMR4 is the EPA’s Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule. Once every five years, the 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act amendments require the EPA to issue a new list of no more than 30 unregulated contaminants to be monitored by public water systems. The fourth Unregulated Contaminant Monitoring Rule (UCMR4) was published in the Federal Register on Dec. 20, 2016. UCMR4 requires monitoring of 30 chemical contaminants between 2018 and 2020 using analytical methods developed by the EPA and consensus organizations. This monitoring provides a basis for future regulatory actions to protect public health. The detected contaminants are shown in the data table.