The question of whether New Orleans tap water is safe to drink is a common one, especially among new residents and visitors. The short answer is yes, it is safe to drink. However, like any municipal water supply, it’s not without its issues.
While the water meets federal and state standards for potability, there are still concerns about the presence of certain contaminants.
Also Check Out: Best Home Water Test Kits
This article aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the quality of New Orleans tap water, the contaminants found in it, and how to ensure you’re drinking the safest water possible.
Can You Drink New Orleans Tap Water
Yes, you can drink New Orleans tap water. The water in New Orleans is treated and tested regularly to ensure it meets the safety standards set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
However, it’s worth noting that these standards are based on what is considered safe for a healthy adult to consume. Certain individuals may be more susceptible to potential contaminants in tap water, including:
- Those with compromised immune systems
- Pregnant women
- The elderly
Learn more about the contaminants found in New Orleans tap water to make your own judgment call in the next section.
Contaminants Found in New Orleans, LA Water Supply
While tap water in New Orleans is generally safe to drink, it’s not entirely free of contaminants.
Here is a quick look at some of the contaminants that have been detected in the water supply in New Orleans:
|Contaminant||Level in New Orleans Tap Water||EWG Health Guideline||EPA Legal Contaminant Limit|
|PFAS||Below health advisory level||N/A||No Legal Limit|
|Arsenic||0.207 ppb||0.004 ppb||10 ppb|
|Bromodichloromethane||5.64 ppb||0.06 ppb||80 ppb (for total trihalomethanes)|
|Chloroform||16.0 ppb||0.4 ppb||80 ppb (for total trihalomethanes)|
|Dibromoacetic Acid||0.407 ppb||0.04 ppb||60 ppb (for total haloacetic acids)|
|Dibromochloromethane||1.08 ppb||0.1 ppb||80 ppb (for total trihalomethanes)|
|Dichloroacetic Acid||13.7 ppb||0.2 ppb||60 ppb (for total haloacetic acids)|
|Haloacetic Acids (HAA5 & HAA9)||21.1 ppb (HAA5)|
20.9 ppb (HAA9)
|0.1 ppb (HAA5)|
0.06 ppb (HAA9)
|Microplastics||Not currently regulated||N/A||No legal limit|
|Nitrate and Nitrite||1.42 ppm||0.14 ppm||10 ppm|
|Radium (-226 & -228)||0.35 pCi/L||0.05 pCi/L||5 pCi/L|
|Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs)||23.1 ppb||0.15 ppb||80 ppb|
|Trichloroacetic Acid||5.84 ppb||0.1 ppb||No legal limit|
|Fluoride||Within safe range||N/A||4.0 mg/L|
It’s worth noting that the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has created standards of its own, under the pretense that legal does not necessarily equal safe when it comes to drinking water. The EWG Health Guideline for New Orleans comes as a result of tests conducted by the water utility, with results provided to the EWG by the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals.
According to the most recent quarterly assessment by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which covers the period from January 2021 to March 2021, the tap water supplied by this utility adhered to the federal health-based standards for drinking water.
Now, let’s take a closer look at each of the contaminants.
Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are a group of man-made chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products worldwide since the 1950s. They are not naturally found in the environment.
Due to their widespread use and their persistence in the environment, they are often found in water supplies. However, the levels found in New Orleans tap water are well below the EPA’s health advisory level.
Arsenic is a naturally occurring element that can find its way into groundwater from natural deposits in the earth or from agricultural and industrial practices. The level of arsenic found in New Orleans tap water is 0.207 ppb, which is well below the EPA’s maximum contaminant level of 10 ppb.
Bromodichloromethane is a byproduct of the disinfection process and is part of a group of chemicals known as trihalomethanes. It is associated with an increased risk of cancer. The level found in New Orleans tap water is 5.64 ppb.
Chloroform is another byproduct of the disinfection process and is also part of the trihalomethanes group. It is associated with an increased risk of cancer. The level found in New Orleans tap water is 16.0 ppb.
Dibromoacetic acid is a byproduct of the disinfection process and is part of a group of chemicals known as haloacetic acids. It is associated with an increased risk of cancer. The level found in New Orleans tap water is 0.407 ppb.
Dibromochloromethane is a byproduct of the disinfection process and is part of the trihalomethanes group. It is associated with an increased risk of cancer. The level found in New Orleans tap water is 1.08 ppb.
Dichloroacetic acid is a byproduct of the disinfection process and is part of the haloacetic acids group. It is associated with an increased risk of cancer. The level found in New Orleans tap water is 13.7 ppb.
Haloacetic Acids (HAA5 & HAA9)
Haloacetic acids are byproducts of the disinfection process. They are associated with an increased risk of cancer. The levels found in New Orleans tap water are 21.1 ppb for HAA5 and 20.9 ppb for HAA9.
Microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic that have found their way into the environment, including water supplies. While they are not currently regulated, there is growing concern about their potential impact on human health.
Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs)
Total trihalomethanes are a group of byproducts of the disinfection process. They are associated with an increased risk of cancer. The level found in New Orleans tap water is 23.1 ppb.
Fluoride is added to the water supply to help prevent tooth decay. The level in New Orleans tap water is within the range considered safe by the EPA.
Where Does New Orleans Source Their Water From?
New Orleans sources its water primarily from the Mississippi River, a vast waterway that stretches over 2,300 miles from its source in Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. The river has been the lifeblood of New Orleans since the city’s founding in 1718, providing a crucial source of water for drinking, agriculture, and industry.
The process of turning river water into safe drinking water begins at the city’s two water purification plants: the Carrollton Water Purification Plant and the Algiers Water Purification Plant. These facilities serve the east and west banks of the city, respectively.
Multi-Step City Water Treatment Process
At these plants, the water undergoes a multi-step treatment process to remove contaminants and ensure it meets or exceeds federal and state water quality standards.
- Step 1: Coagulation – First, the water goes through coagulation, where chemicals are added to the water to make tiny particles stick together and form larger particles that are easier to remove.
- Step 2: Sedimentation – Then, the water goes through a sedimentation process where the water is allowed to sit so the larger particles can settle to the bottom and be removed.
- Step 3: Filtration – Next, the water is filtered to remove any remaining particles. The filtration process typically involves passing the water through layers of sand, gravel, and charcoal to trap and remove particles.
- Step 4: Disinfection – Lastly, the water is disinfected to kill any remaining bacteria, viruses, or other microorganisms. This is typically done by adding chlorine to the water, although other disinfection methods may also be used.
Once the treatment process is complete, the water is pumped into a network of pipes that distribute it to homes and businesses throughout the city. Along the way, the water is stored in water towers and reservoirs to ensure a steady supply is always available, even during times of high demand.
What Is the Best Way to Filter Out These Contaminants?
While tap water in New Orleans is generally safe to drink, those who are concerned about potential contaminants may wish to use a water filter. Different types of filters can remove different contaminants, so it’s important to choose a filter that is designed to remove the specific contaminants you are concerned about.
For example, activated carbon filters can remove many organic compounds and chlorine byproducts, while reverse osmosis filters can remove a wider range of contaminants, including heavy metals and nitrates.
Here’s a quick look at the different types of water filtration systems that are available and the contaminants they are capable of removing:
|Contaminants Above EWG Health Guidelines||Activated Carbon Filtration System||Reverse Osmosis Filtration System||Ion Exchange Filtration System|
|Haloacetic Acids (HAA5 & HAA9)||X||X|
|Nitrate & Nitrite||X||X|
|Radium (-226 & -228)||X||X|
|Total Trihalomethanes (TTHMs)||X||X|
|Other Contaminants Detected|
|Uranium, combined (pCi/L)||X||X|
Now, let’s take a closer look at each type of filtration system.
Activated Carbon Filtration System
The activated carbon works by adsorption, a chemical reaction where certain particles are attracted to activated carbon and bond with it. The effectiveness of activated carbon filters can depend on the amount and type of carbon used, the amount of time the water is in contact with the carbon, and the particle size of the contaminants.
While activated carbon filters are effective at removing many types of contaminants, they are not effective at removing minerals, salts, and dissolved inorganic compounds. Therefore, if these are a concern, you may need to consider a different type of filter.
Reverse Osmosis Filtration System
Reverse osmosis systems are another common type of water filter. They work by forcing water through a semipermeable membrane that filters out a wide range of contaminants, including heavy metals, salts, and nitrates.
Reverse osmosis systems are highly effective at removing contaminants, but they also remove beneficial minerals from the water. Additionally, they produce a lot of wastewater – for every gallon of purified water, they can produce 3-5 gallons of wastewater.
Despite these drawbacks, reverse osmosis systems can be a good choice if you are concerned about a wide range of contaminants in your water.
Ion Exchange Filtration System
Ion exchange filters work by exchanging ions in the water with ions in a resin. They are particularly effective at removing dissolved salts, such as calcium and magnesium, which are responsible for water hardness.
There are two types of ion exchange filters: cation exchange, which are commonly used in water softeners, and anion exchange. Cation exchange filters exchange positively charged ions (like calcium and magnesium) in the water with sodium or potassium ions. Anion exchange filters work in a similar way, but they exchange negatively charged ions.
Ion exchange filters can be very effective at removing certain types of contaminants, but they do not remove organic compounds, pathogens, or particulates. Therefore, they are often used in combination with other types of filters.
Ultimately, the best type of water filter for you depends on the specific contaminants in your water you are concerned with. You may need to use a combination of filters to effectively remove all the contaminants of concern.
In conclusion, while the tap water in New Orleans is generally safe to drink, it’s not entirely free of contaminants. However, these are typically present at levels considered safe by federal standards. If you are concerned about potential contaminants in your tap water, you may wish to use a water filter for added peace of mind.