The Basics of a Municipal Water Test 

Drinking water quality concerns are making headlines across the US. So, it’s no surprise that more people are becoming conscious of what they consume through the water they drink.

The US is fortunate to be one of the countries with access to safe drinking water. While this is true, it is still important to take certain steps to ensure your family is getting the clean water you’re expecting. To understand what filtration to buy or what level of filtration is required for your water source lets look at the basics.

Here are the basics to CCR’s (consumer confidence reports), and Water Tests: 

There are three levels of contaminant classification-

  1. Primary Standards- Are contaminants that are proven Health Risks. Standards have been set that if it exceeds this amount it is a detriment to public health.
  2. Secondary Standards- Are contaminants that have not been proven to pose health risks, or there is insufficient data to put a standard in place. These contaminants may pose aesthetic risks and will have recommendations as to acceptable standards.
  3. Emerging Contaminants- There is insufficient data or insufficient research to show they are a public health risk. Or is not widespread enough for the EPA to set a public health standard.

There Are Three Measurement Levels:

  1. MCL (Maximum Contaminant Level)- This means that a certain substance can not exceed the levels set by the EPA. If it does the water system will be in violation and must use corrective action.
  2. MCGL (Maximum Contaminant Level Goal)- This means that the EPA although acknowledges it shouldn’t be in the water there is no proof that at this level it is a health risk. For instance, lead has a health standard of 15 parts per billion. Any level below that and the water system is in compliance with stated national standards.
  3. Health Levels (see They set levels on acceptable health standards for primary, secondary, and emerging contaminants in water. It is a third party non-profit and has no affiliation with any government agency.

Let’s Look at an example:

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Here is an example of 1 contaminant from the Surface Water Plant in Greensboro, GA.

The Contaminant is Total Trihalomethanes- These are by-products of chlorine disinfection that are classified as carcinogens by the EPA. They are in 100% of drinking water systems across the United States.

Here is the breakdown-

Line 1 (Quarterly 2 sites)- This means the test was done every 3 months at two different sites

Line 2 (PPB or Parts Per Billion)- is the measure standard

Line 3 (MCLG, see above)- The goal of the EPA is 0 ppb, however; is very difficult to attain when using chlorine disinfection

Line 4 (MCL, see above)- Can not exceed this level or you will be in violation by the EPA/EPD

Line 5- Site averages throughout the quarters

Line 6- Total range of tests, you will notice that at some point through out the year the MCL level was exceeded but was corrected

Line 7- Definition of contaminant

Line 8- Violations, in this case the length of time the contaminant exceeded levels was not enough to justify a violation

As a consumer Here are the important questions to ask with this information:

  1. What is my threshold and acceptable level
  2. What are my concerns about my water
  3. What do I know about water and where can I find out more
  4. What are my acceptable ranges
  5. Who are my local professionals to discuss this in further detail

Ned Van Allan is the Director of Business Development at Juturna Water and is 1 of 10 Certified Water Professionals in the State of Georgia by the Water Quatlity Association. He is the only Certified Water Specialist in Central Georgia that is still active with the day to day operations. He can be reached at or @ 706-453-1800 to further discuss water, water testing, or how to read a water test. You can visit the website at