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Charlotte NC Water Quality Downtown View Lake

May 2024

Get the Facts About Charlotte NC Water Quality

Key Takeaways

  • Charlotte, NC gets its water from the Catawba-Wateree River Basin and treats it at one of three water treatment plants.
  • Although it meets the EPA’s drinking water guidelines, some contaminants, such as forever chemicals, may still be present when it comes out of the tap.
  • Residents can use an activated carbon filter or reverse osmosis filter to improve the taste and quality of Charlotte’s water.

Charlotte, North Carolina, added 15,000 new residents in 2022, making its metropolitan area one of the fastest-growing regions in America. Millennials in particular are moving to Charlotte, NC for its affordable homes, strong economy, and comfortable quality of life. But how does the city’s water quality compare to other American cities?

Each year, Charlotte Water releases an Annual Drinking Water Quality Report to show that it complies with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)’s federal drinking water standards. Here’s what you need to know about Charlotte water quality, and whether any contaminants of concern can be found in the public water supply.

Where Does Charlotte, NC’s Tap Water Come From?

Charlotte Water, the local water utility, supplies tap water to over 1.1 million people. It gets most of this water from Catawba-Wateree River Basin, specifically Lake Norman and Mountain Island Lake, located in the north of Mecklenburg County.

Charlotte Water maintains three treatment plants, which deliver 118 million gallons of water through the system every day.

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) runs a Source Water Assessment Program (SWAP) to ensure that these water sources remain free of any major contaminants like agricultural runoff and fertilizer.

Is the Water Hard or Soft in Charlotte, NC?

Water hardness refers to the concentration of minerals like calcium and magnesium, which can affect the color and taste of tap or bottled water. Water with 125 parts per million (ppm) of these minerals is considered “hard.”

Charlotte’s water is soft, with only around 32 ppm of hardness. It has low levels of sodium, sulfate, chlorine, and other trace minerals.

How Is Charlotte’s Drinking Water Treated?

Every water system uses a slightly different treatment process depending on the quality of the source water. Charlotte’s drinking water goes through the following steps:

1. Water is delivered to one of three treatment plants.

2. Activated carbon is used to improve the smell and taste of the water.

3. Aluminum sulfate is added to cause dirt and sediment to stick together so it can be removed more easily.

4. Additional particles are removed during the water filtration process.

5. Chlorine is used to disinfect the water and kill viruses and bacteria.

6. Fluoride is added for its role in dental health.

7. Lime is used to optimize the pH level to reduce leaching and corrosion as clean water passes through pipes.

Although the treatment process removes many contaminants, it also introduces some disinfection byproducts that are associated with negative health effects.

Charlotte, NC’s Drinking Water - Check for Contaminants

What Contaminants Are Found In Charlotte, NC’s Drinking Water?

According to the annual water quality report, Charlotte Water tests for over 150 different contaminants, including unregulated contaminants that don’t have a legal limit, such as PFAS, hexavalent chromium, and perchlorate.

Although Charlotte’s water quality meets the standards of the EPA, levels of some contaminants exceed the recommendation levels of nonprofits like the Environmental Working Group (EWG) and may present health risks. These include:

Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs)

Total trihalomethanes (TTHMs) are a group of four chemicals — chloroform, bromoform, bromodichloromethane, and dibromochloromethane — that arise during the disinfection process. These chemicals are carcinogens that can cause cancer when ingested over long periods or in large quantities.

Charlotte’s tap water has 50.8 parts per billion (ppm), so it meets the EPA’s guidelines, but exceeds the EWG’s maximum by 338 times:

  • EPA maximum allowance: 80 ppb
  • EWG recommended maximum: 0.15 ppb
  • Charlotte maximum contaminant level: 50.8 ppb

Haloacetic acids (HAA5)

Haloacetic acids (HAA5) also arise during the disinfection process, and are associated with cancer and harm to fetal growth. HAA5 levels can be significantly reduced using a high-quality activated carbon or reverse osmosis home water filter.

Charlotte, NC’s water systems contains 14.2 ppb HAA5, which is 142 times the EWG’s recommended maximum:

  • EPA maximum allowance: 60 ppb
  • EWG recommended maximum: 0.1 ppb
  • Charlotte maximum contaminant level: 14.2 ppb

Haloacetic acids (HAA9)

Haloacetic acids (HAA9) refers to another group of chemicals that includes HAA5, plus four more disinfection byproducts. According to the EWG, they can cause cancer and DNA damage, and Charlotte’s tap water exceeds safe levels by 413 times:

  • EPA maximum allowance: No legal limit
  • EWG recommended maximum: 0.06 ppb
  • Charlotte maximum contaminant level: 24.8 ppb

Chromium (hexavalent)

Chromium-6, or hexavalent chromium, is a known carcinogen that can enter the water supply from industrial sites, including power plants. Although public health agencies like the California Office of Health Hazard Assessment recommend keeping chromium-6 levels below 0.02 ppb, there’s no legal limit enforced by the EPA.

Charlotte’s drinking water contains 0.0668 ppb, 3.3 times this recommendation:

  • EPA maximum allowance: No legal limit
  • EWG recommended maximum: 0.02 ppb
  • Charlotte maximum detected level: 0.0668 ppb

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA)

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is a type of perfluorinated chemical that’s one of the six “forever chemicals” identified by the EPA. Serious health effects include disruptions to the immune and endocrine systems, as well as thyroid and liver damage.

The EPA’s proposed legal limit is 4 parts per trillion. Although PFOA levels in Charlotte are below this limit, they exceed the EWG’s recommended maximum by 17 times:

  • Proposed legal limit: 4 ppt
  • EWG recommended maximum: 0.007 ppt
  • Charlotte maximum contaminant level: 0.119 ppt

Charlotte, NC Water Contain PFAS Clean Lake View Photo

Does Charlotte, NC Water Contain PFAS?

If you’ve been reading the latest news, then you know that industrial facilities may have been dumping forever chemicals into the North Carolina water supply for decades. Are these chemicals turning up in Charlotte’s drinking water?

According to Charlotte Water, chemicals like PFAS and PFOA have been detected at “very low levels,” well within the EPA’s proposed maximum of 4 ppt. They test for more than 70 chemicals in the per- and poly-fluorinated category, and post the test results online alongside the levels of other unregulated contaminants.

Whether or not this reassures you will depend on how much tap water you drink and your risk tolerance. You can use a home water filter to remove PFAS from your tap water — just look for one with an NSF rating of 53 or 58.

According to the National Sanitation Foundation, both activated carbon and reverse osmosis are effective at removing PFAS. Activated carbon filters remove 29-78% of forever chemicals, while reverse osmosis filters can remove up to 100%.

Does Charlotte Drinking Water Contain Lead?

Charlotte Water runs a Lead Reduction Program designed to eliminate lead from the water supply. Since Charlotte’s distribution system doesn’t contain any lead or copper pipes, the problem is mainly in home plumbing systems that contain lead pipes or copper pipes with lead solder.

If your home was built before 1986, or you have brass faucets installed before 2014, you may have an elevated risk of lead contamination. Fortunately, recent sampling programs have only detected low levels of lead below the action level.

Charlotte Water is currently taking an inventory of private service lines and will offer testing kits and water filters to any affected residents.

Is Charlotte Water Fluoridated?

Yes, Charlotte’s water supply contains 0.7 milligrams per liter, or 1 ppm, of fluoride. In fact, Charlotte was one of the first cities to start fluoridating its water. It began in 1949, two years before the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) made it an official policy.

Charlotte’s water supply contains the optimal fluoride concentration recommended by the PHS, and less than the EPA’s maximum contaminant level of 4 ppm.

How Often Is Charlotte Drinking Water Tested?

Charlotte, NC tests its water on a regular basis, with over 170,000 tests performed each year. It monitors 150 regulated contaminants and 740 unregulated contaminants.

Each year, Charlotte Water releases a water quality report so residents can see exactly what’s in their drinking water. It also posts a monthly mineral analysis of samples from the Franklin Water Treatment Facility reporting hardness, alkalinity, pH, and more.

Should You Test Your Own Tap Water?

Although Charlotte, NC’s water quality meets the EPA’s standards, tap water can pick up additional contaminants on its way from the treatment plant to your faucet, such as rust and bacteria. If you want to know exactly what’s in your water, or if you have a private well in North Carolina, it’s a good idea to test your tap water from time to time.

Testing strips, powder tests, and electronic TDS readers will all tell you different things about your tap water quality. If you find anything of concern, you can use the EPA’s database to find a certified lab for further testing and advice.

Which Water Filters Will Improve Charlotte, NC Water Quality?

Different kinds of water filters are effective at removing different types of contaminants. Activated carbon filters are great for removing unwanted tastes and smells, since they contain porous carbon matter with a lot of surface area that can absorb contaminants like chlorine, pesticides, and some disinfection byproducts.

However, activated carbon filters don’t remove microorganisms, nitrates and nitrites, and fluoride, and aren’t as effective at removing PFAS as reverse osmosis filters.

Reverse osmosis filters work by filtering water through a membrane, allowing them to remove heavy metals, total dissolved solids (TDS), and many other contaminants.

Other home water treatment methods include UV water filters, water softeners, and deionizers, but these probably aren’t necessary for Charlotte’s tap water.

Contaminants From Your Water Happy Lady with Fresh Glass

Remove Contaminants From Your Water Today

Charlotte’s tap water is generally considered safe to drink because it meets the criteria set by the EPA. However, some unregulated contaminants don’t yet have a legal limit, and organizations like the EWG recommend more cautious contaminant levels.

In addition, reports about PFAS in North Carolina have left some residents concerned about forever chemicals in their drinking water. To remove PFAS, choose a water filter with an NSF 58 rating, such as the HomeWater 4-Stage Reverse Osmosis Under Counter Water Filter, which can filter up to 50 gallons of water per day.

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