A Drop To Drink

Jun 29, 2007 at 3:42 pm

source: www.chemistryland.com

Drink up.

From our friends at the mothership, STLog:

In a town thirsty for good news, it's no surprise Mayor Francis Slay is crowing about St. Louis' latest triumph. What's the cause for celebration? The U.S. Conference of Mayors recently named St. Louis as the city with the "Best Tasting City Water in America."

Take that, Cahokia!

But before we sip from this cup of civic nectar, let's consider the source. Per the press release: The blind taste test was conducted by "hundreds" of mayors, who tested waters for their "taste, clarity and aroma."

Putting aside for the moment the fact that blinded mayors would likely make extremely poor judges of beverage clarity, consider that this panel of jurors lavished praise on the tap water that flows from faucets in Long Beach and Toledo -- not exactly Evian country.

In fact, after a five-year investigation (1998-2003), the Environmental Working Group, a Washington D.C.-based nonprofit, found that Long Beach's tap water contained up to thirteen different pollutants. Among them: arsenic,(4) and thallium, a poison used to kill rodents.

Toledo fared even worse. The Environmental Working Group found that Ohio's fourth-largest city had sixteen different pollutants in its municipal water pipe. Toledo's top contaminants? Phosphorus, a chemical element used in fertilizers; bromodichloromethane and dibromochloromethane, both byproducts of chlorine.

Compared to Toledo and Long Beach, St. Louis comes out looking like a champ. The Environmental Working Group found that our city's municipal well had a mere six contaminants. Again bromodichloromethane and dibromochloromethane topped the list (in concentrations that exceeded unenforcible EPA recommendations), but St. Louis' water had one thing that our competitors didn't: vinyl chloride, an industrial chemical associated with plastic manufacturing. Not only that, our water had such a generous dose of the chemical that we ranked ninth overall in vinyl chloride concentration.

Still, the St. Louis Water Division is proud of its work. The division processes roughly 150 million gallons of water it pulls each day from the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers, and it tests for 150 possible contaminants. Last year the division found a mere fourteen offending pollutants -- all at concentration levels below required limits. "In fact, we have never violated a water quality regulation in 100 years of testing," the city's 2006 Water Quality Report informs us in a bold font.

So who cares that last year one of the city's 60 water filters failed, resulting in an EPA minor monitoring violation? The country's mayors have spoken -- and how could a roomful of politicians be wrong?

-Malcolm Gay