Detecting Contaminated Drinking Water: Harnessing Consumer Complaints
ARMY CENTER FOR HEALTH PROMOTION AND PREVENTIVE MEDICINE ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND MD
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Based on previous contamination incidents, civilian and military water supply personnel have improved their drinking water surveillance practices. One of the biggest challenges though is that no single device can detect all chemical, biological, and radiological contaminants in the distribution system. The absence of a universal detector has forced water utility managers to increase their awareness and rely on conventional and unconventional system indicators. In particular, managers rely upon monitoring physiochemical parameters e.g., chlorine, pH, conductivity, and turbidity, pressure readings at various points in the distribution system, and visual surveillance of water system assets. While these monitoring practices are useful, many water utilities do not have the funds to install real-time monitoring devices at every point or even a few points throughout their system. This paper provides 1 insight into why consumers report complaints, 2 a list of chemical and biological contaminants and their physiochemical and aesthetic water quality effects, 3 examples of how consumer complaints have been used to identify intentionally and unintentionally contaminated water, 4 a structured approach for investigating complaints, and 5 guidance on harnessing consumer feedback to better gauge water quality and potential for contaminations in the distribution system.
- Physical Chemistry
- Civil Engineering
- Water Pollution and Control
- Environmental Health and Safety