A sign warning people to not dump common water contaminants into the nearby water source

Identifying and Preventing Common Water Contaminant

Biohazard Cleanup

Water is a vital resource that affects our daily lives in numerous ways. Hydrating ourselves, preparing meals, and maintaining proper hygiene would be impossible without it. However, water sources can be vulnerable to contaminants that cause harm to our health and well-being and they can cause water damage.

Water pollutants, such as pathogens, pharmaceuticals, and other chemicals, can lead to humans contracting diseases like cancer. Understanding and recognizing the possible sources of contamination and their potential health implications is essential. 

By employing effective preventive measures like water treatment systems, regular testing, and proper disposal of hazardous materials, we can ensure the safety of our households and the people we care about. In this blog, we will explore various types of water contaminants and the appropriate strategies to prevent exposure to them, helping to ensure better health and well-being for all.

Common Types of Water Contaminants

Water sustains life but can harbor various hazards that compromise quality and threaten human health. Microorganisms, heavy metals, chemicals, and other hazards can have far-reaching consequences. Knowing the types of water contaminants is crucial for identifying potential risks and implementing effective preventive measures. 


We need water to survive, but it can be the source of life-threatening illnesses due to harmful pathogens like bacteria, viruses, and parasites. Some well-known water hazards we should watch out for include E. coli, salmonella, hepatitis A, cryptosporidium, and giardia. These dangerous microorganisms found in wastewater and sewage can wreak havoc on our health, causing gastrointestinal infections, flu-like symptoms, and in extreme cases, fatal diseases.

Heavy Metals

Trace amounts of heavy metals, like lead, mercury, arsenic, and cadmium, can be found in water sources due to natural deposits or industrial human activities. Despite being present in small quantities, prolonged exposure to these hazards can lead to serious health issues. People who routinely consume drinking water contaminated with these substances may experience neurological disorders, kidney damage, and, in children, developmental problems. 


Chemical pollutants, such as pesticides, herbicides, industrial solvents, oil, and pharmaceuticals, are serious public health concerns since they can contaminate water supplies. These hazardous substances are not visible to the naked eye, making it challenging to identify whether the water is safe.

Once consumed, these pollutants may cause reproductive issues, hormonal disruptions, and even increase the possibility of certain cancers. It’s crucial to remember that although these substances may not directly harm you, they can gradually accumulate in our bodies and be detrimental in the long run.

Common water contaminants like algae and litter in a stream
Polluted water can appear in all different water systems, from lakes to private wells to public water systems.

Nitrates and Phosphates

Nitrates and phosphates are two common contaminants in water that can originate from a variety of sources, such as agricultural activities, fertilizers, and wastewater. While these nutrients may seem harmless, they can have truly devastating effects on aquatic ecosystems.

In particular, high levels of nitrates and phosphates can lead to excessive growth of algae, which can cause harmful algal blooms that deplete oxygen levels in water bodies and threaten aquatic life. Moreover, drinking water with high levels of these substances can lead to methemoglobinemia, a condition that affects oxygen transport in the blood and is particularly dangerous for infants.

Preventing Water Contamination

Clean and safe water is essential for our well-being and health. While water contaminants pose a significant risk, implementing preventive measures can help mitigate these risks and protect our water supplies. By adopting proactive strategies, we can safeguard our water supply from microorganisms, heavy metals, chemicals, and other contaminants that compromise its quality. 

Regular Testing

Regularly testing your water for contaminants is a crucial step in ensuring the safety and quality of your water supply. Routine tests can identify potential problems and determine the appropriate solutions. 

Several water testing options are available, ranging from simple home water testing kits to professional laboratory analysis. Home testing kits provide a convenient and affordable way to get initial insights into your water quality.

These kits typically include test strips or vials that allow you to check for common contaminants such as bacteria, pH levels, and chemical residues. While they provide a basic indication of water quality, they may not thoroughly detect all potential contaminants. 

A worker in PPE takes samples of common water contaminants
Frequently testing the drinking water quality ensures water systems are clean.

For a more comprehensive evaluation, it’s best to seek professional assistance. Water testing laboratories have specialized equipment and expertise to perform in-depth analysis of your water sample. They can detect a wider range of contaminants, including heavy metals, pesticides, volatile organic compounds, and more. Professional testing can provide you with a detailed report on the composition of your water and help you determine the appropriate preventive measures based on the specific contaminants present. 

Maintaining a Clean Environment

Preventing water contamination begins with adopting responsible practices at home to minimize the introduction of harmful substances into nearby ponds, oceans, streams, and rivers. Proper waste management is a crucial aspect of this effort. 

Responsibly discarding household chemicals, oils, and pharmaceuticals is key. Avoid flushing medications down the toilet or pouring them down the sink, as this can contaminate lakes, rivers, and streams. Instead, check with local pharmacies or waste management facilities for proper disposal methods of expired or unused medications. Many communities organize take-back programs or provide guidelines for safe disposal. Participating in these initiatives can prevent these risk factors from entering water systems.

Moreover, septic systems play a significant role in preventing water contamination. It is important to ensure that septic tanks are well-maintained and regularly inspected to avoid leaks or overflows.

A malfunctioning septic system can release untreated wastewater containing bacteria, viruses, and other contaminants into the groundwater, potentially polluting major water sources. Regular maintenance and timely repairs are necessary to avoid such situations. Additionally, practicing water conservation at home reduces the strain on septic systems and ensures their effectiveness.

Protecting Water Sources

Preserving water quality is a top priority in ensuring the long-term sustainability of public water supplies public drinking water and more natural sources like streams and rivers. One way to contribute to this preservation is by being mindful of using fertilizers and pesticides in our gardens. Excessive use of these chemicals can lead to runoff, as they can be washed away by rainwater or irrigation, eventually seeping into the ground and contaminating groundwater.

To minimize the environmental impact, consider adopting alternative gardening methods, such as organic practices or integrated pest management (IPM), which the Environmental Protection Agency backs. Discarding hazardous materials and chemicals is another critical aspect of preserving drinking water quality and avoiding drinking water contaminants. Many household products, including cleaning agents, paints, batteries, and motor oil, contain materials that can harm human health and the environment if not disposed of properly. 

Oil, a common water contaminant, inside a pond.
Wastewater can negatively affect public drinking water quality.

Follow designated programs or facilities to toss out these items to prevent water system pollution. Many communities organize hazardous waste collection events or have permanent collection sites where residents can drop off these materials. Participating in these programs ensures that dangerous substances are handled and disposed of in an environmentally responsible manner, reducing the risk of water contamination. 

Installing Water Treatment Systems

Consider installing water treatment systems as a proactive measure to remove contaminants and enhance the quality of your tap water supply. Depending on the specific contaminants in your water, you have a range of options. One popular choice is activated carbon filters, which effectively remove common impurities such as chlorine, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and unpleasant odors or tastes. These filters work by adsorbing contaminants onto the surface of the carbon, resulting in cleaner and more palatable water.

You may opt for reverse osmosis (RO) systems for more comprehensive purification. RO systems utilize a semipermeable membrane to remove impurities, including microorganisms, dissolved solids, heavy metals, and select chemicals. By applying pressure to the water, the membrane allows only pure water molecules to pass through while trapping contaminants. The result is highly purified water suitable for drinking and cooking.

Another effective method is ultraviolet (UV) disinfection systems. UV light destroys the DNA of microorganisms, rendering them unable to reproduce, and eliminates the risk of waterborne illnesses. UV disinfection is particularly effective against bacteria, viruses, and parasites that may be present in the water supply. This technology offers a chemical-free and environmentally friendly approach to water treatment.

Water contamination poses a significant threat to our health, increasing health risks and the environment. By understanding the common contaminants and adopting preventive measures, we can protect ourselves and future generations. Regular testing, maintaining a clean environment, protecting water sources, and installing water treatment systems are crucial to ensuring access to clean and safe water.

Contact PuroClean for Water Damage Assistance!

Water damage on your property requires immediate attention. Whether caused by a leaky roof, burst pipe, or even a natural disaster, it can devastate your home or business. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s essential to act fast and call in the professionals at PuroClean.

With our team of trained experts and top-of-the-line equipment, we can quickly and efficiently assess the damage, begin the remediation process, and get you back on the road to recovery. Visit our online office locator to find your local PuroClean, or call (800) 775-7876 today. 

Last edited on 22nd of February 2024