Newsroom > DHHS News Release

For Immediate Release
May 4, 2016

Contact Leah Bucco-White, Communications and Legislative Services, 402-471-9356 or leah.bucco-white@nebraska.gov

Safe Drinking Water is Our Business
It’s Drinking Water Week Through May 7

Note:  Sound bites are available on this topic at www.dhhs.ne.gov/audio

Lincoln—When Nebraskans turn on their taps, they expect their drinking water to be clean and safe. That’s why the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services’ Public Water Supply Program ensures the state’s 1,344 public water systems are tested for a total of 83 contaminants on a routine basis.

“Protecting public health through water quality, that’s my business,” said Howard Isaacs, administrator of the DHHS Office of Drinking Water and Environmental Health. “We’ve been seeing a lot of headlines about drinking water lately and fortunately Nebraska is sitting in a pretty good spot.” 
 
Public water systems provide water to approximately 80 percent of Nebraskans.  Private domestic wells provide water for the rest. More than 90 percent of the state’s public water systems use ground water sources. A handful of systems get drinking water from surface water sources.   
 
Many water sources have such good water quality that it can go straight from the ground to the tank to the tap without any sort of treatment according to Isaacs.
 
The Office of Drinking Water’s role is to inspect every public drinking water system in the state, make sure samples are collected, monitor results, ensure systems are in compliance and if there are issues take appropriate enforcement action. 
 
Public water systems must sample their water either monthly, quarterly, annually or on a three, six or nine year sample cycle and more frequently if there are issues. An administrative order is issued when a public water system is significantly out of compliance.  In 2015, twenty-eight public water systems received administrative orders.
 
The big four – most common violations:
     • Total Coliform Bacteria
     • Nitrates
     • Arsenic
     • Selenium
 
To correct those violations, water systems can switch to a different source, connect to another public water system meeting water quality standards, blend a source meeting standards with the source not meeting standards or treat the water.
 
“The Nebraska Rural Water Association provides critical training and technical assistance to communities and water operators throughout the state and shares the same goal as DHHS - water quality and safety are priority one,” said Tom Goulette, President of the NeRWA Board of Directors.
 
Currently, no systems in Nebraska have high lead levels. However, homes, businesses and schools can have high levels of lead in drinking water even if the public water system is in compliance. Isaacs said that those higher lead levels can occur because of actions taken inside the building like using a water softener or renovations that disturb the plumbing.
 
Not every home in Nebraska can be sampled so it’s important for homeowners to consider testing on their own if they have a concern.
 
Tips to reduce the risk of exposure to lead: 
     • Test your water. Call your local water system, the DHHS Public Health Environmental Laboratory or a private lab. A small fee may apply.
     • Run your water for 15-30 seconds or until water temperature stabilizes before using it for drinking or cooking. 
     • Use cold water for cooking and preparing baby formula. Lead dissolves more easily into hot water.
     • Don’t drink or cook with softened water.
     • Clean the screen on your tap every few weeks. Unscrew the head and remove any debris.
     • Get your child tested for lead if you are concerned about exposure. Contact your local health department or your health care provider.
 
Learn more about drinking water testing and safety -  http://dhhs.ne.gov/publichealth/Pages/enh_pwsindex.aspx.
 

-30-