How safe is Baton Rouge tap water? Water company and environmental group disagree

Updated: Oct. 23, 2019 at 7:32 PM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - A new 2019 database report released Oct.22 by the national environmental non-profit, Environmental Working Group (EWG), says Baton Rouge tap water contains four different contaminants that are over EWG’s health guidelines, but well below federal limits (where applicable). The organization says Baton Rouge’s levels of arsenic, a contaminant they say can lead to cancer, are 38 times higher than their guidelines. They also say the levels of chloroform, radium, and total trihalomethanes are past EWG guidelines.

“A lot of these are below the legal limits and some of them don’t have legal limits, but they’re at levels that research has found has been linked to an elevated risk of cancer, even at levels that are legal,” said EWG research scientist, Sydney Evans.

However, Baton Rouge Water Company Senior VP and CAO Hays Owen says there’s nothing wrong with Baton Rouge’s water.

“Baton Rouge water meets or exceeds all of the rigorous scientific safe drinking water act contaminants,” Owen said.

When comparing the levels of contaminants on the EWG database, Baton Rouge’s levels of the four listed contaminants are significantly lower than almost every major city in the country and crush the national average.

“The legal limits and the maximum contaminant levels that have been set by the EPA, a lot of them are out of date,” said Evans. “They were set decades ago, many of them based on not only health-related consequences, but also cost of treatment laboratory capabilities. They’re not necessarily health protective.”

Owen says he doesn’t know what the basis for the guidelines is and points to a Men’s Health article from a few years back that shows Baton Rouge as having the second best water in the country behind Denver. In the 2019 database report from EWG, Baton Rouge tap water is shown to contain fewer contaminants than Denver.

“So I don’t know where this group is coming up with their own guidelines,” Owen said. “As I appreciate it, that would just be a matter of opinion. What I do know is that we meet in Baton Rouge all primary guidelines that are set down that we must meet."

Evans encourages people to question whether the legal limits are enough.

“I think everyone should check what’s in their water. We know that these federal levels, these legal limits are not necessarily health protective," he said.

According to the EWG website, a reverse osmosis filter would help eliminate all four of the listed contaminates in Baton Rouge water.

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