Learn More About Florida's Drinking Water & Contaminants of Concern

Quality of Water Impacts Human Health

As Florida grows its human population, the water supply will reduce due to consumption and contamination. These water issues impact the ecosystem and human health.

Florida's drinking water ranked among the worst in 2017, according to an NRDC study. By 2018, a United States memo to Florida suggested that Florida wasn't following water monitoring guidance correctly. The EPA had "identified inconsistencies" when officials tested Florida water for harmful chemicals. The problems violated rules on cancer-causing disinfectants, high levels of coliform from human waste, and lead and copper that exceeded safe limits.

Additionally, Florida officials didn't inform residents about the potential dangers of elevated levels of chemicals perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS) in areas next to military bases and at state colleges where fire training took place.

When people turn on their faucets to pour a glass of water, they expect that safety is assured. However, harmful contaminants were in the water provided by hundred of utilities across Florida. This information aims to allow people to learn what's in their drinking water, tell them what steps they can take to protect themselves, and push for stricter federal limits on harmful chemicals in the water.

Florida's nonprofit organization, Fight For Zero's drinking water concern poll found that 88% of Florida are not confident that the tap water in their homes is safe to drink. 

Testing Your Water

Water safe to drink should ideally be clear with no odor or funny taste. One definite way to tell if your water is contaminated is by testing it. Even if you cannot see, taste, or smell the contaminants, resources can help you detect them. Some suggested tests:

Tap Score is an independent lab with which Executive Director, Stel Bailey, has teamed to help her nonprofit organization, Fight For Zero's mission. Tap Score offers city water tests, well water tests, specialized tests, and add-ons. Purchasing a kit with Tap Score in return supports Fight For Zero.

Drinking Water Test Strips: 

Visit the Fight For Zero Amazon List to see do-it-yourself kits.
  • Testing strips change color to indicate the presence of various contaminants in your water. These tests can be ordered online or bought at your local hardware store. These tests will give a basic assessment but will not test for harmful contaminants like PFAS. 

Testing Labs and Kits:

Certified Environmental Testing:

Surface Water Test Kits: 

Finding a Filtration System

It's essential to make sure you're using a filter designed to fit your local needs. When searching for filtration products, we suggest you look for the NSF mark (an independent testing laboratory that performs comprehensive testing and certification of filtration products.) You can visit the link below to search for products on the NSF site and see what contaminates they filter out: http://info.nsf.org/certified/dwtu/

Some systems we suggest:

  • Culligan Water Filter Company
  • Multipure Drinking Water Systems (online)
  • Under Sink System (Home Depot)

Boil Notices

Did you know that boiling kills most parasites, bacteria, and viruses but increases concentrations of other contaminants due to water evaporation? 

Boiling water can concentrate chemicals like PFAS. Chemicals like PFAS in water cannot be broken down, and you can't "kill" chemicals like this. Rhode Island Department of Health says not to boil water for this reason. You can read more by visiting: https://health.ri.gov/water/about/pfas/ 

Above Health Limits: Contaminates Across Florida's Water Supply That Was Detected

Arsenic: Cancer-causing contaminant in drinking water. It causes thousands of cancer cases (skin, bladder, liver, & prostate cancer) each year in the U.S. It can come from wood preservatives, petroleum production, pesticides, industrial deposits, and coal power plants. It also has cardiovascular, pulmonary, immunological, neurological, and endocrine disruption effects.

​Chlorate: Forms in drinking water as a byproduct of disinfection. It is linked to impaired thyroid function, which can be harmful during pregnancy and childhood.

​Chromium (hexavalent): Cancer-causing chemical made notorious by the film "Erin Brockovich." It causes harm to the liver and reproductive system.

​Nitrate: Sources of contamination are human sewage and livestock manure, fertilizers, and erosion of natural deposits. It can cause oxygen deprivation in infants and increase the risk of cancer.

​Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFHPA): A member of perfluorinated chemicals used in many consumer products can cause serious health effects such as endocrine disruption, accelerated puberty, liver and immune system damage, thyroid changes, and cancer.

​Perfluorooctane sulfonate (PFOS): A member of perfluorinated chemicals used in many consumer products. PFOS can cause serious health effects, including cancer, endocrine disruption, accelerated puberty, liver and immune system damage, and thyroids changes.

Perfluorinated chemicals are persistent in the environment, and they accumulate in people.

Strontium: Radiative strontium-90 can cause bone cancer and leukemia, and any form of strontium at high doses can harm bone health.

Thallium: A naturally occurring metal released into the environment from metal smelting and coal burning. Exposure to too much thallium can cause harm loss, liver damage, central nervous system damage, and harm to the male reproductive system.

Total trihalomethane (TTHMs): Cancer-causing contaminants that form during water treatment with chlorine and other disinfectants. It is linked to bladder, skin, and fetal development issues.

Radium-226: A radioactive element that causes bone cancer and other cancers.

Radium-228: A radioactive element that causes bone cancer and other cancers.

Uranium: Source is radioactive decay of uranium and thorium in rocks and soil. The potential health effect is an increased risk of cancer.

Contaminates of Concern

Many people never become suspicious of the drinking water until people in the community start to get sick. Whether you have water near agricultural areas or industrial plants, here are some contaminants of concern:

​Antimony: A naturally occurring metal that enters tap water from plumbing fittings or industrial use. Health concerns are harmful to the liver and change to the stomach and intestines.

​Barium: From manufacturing mineral deposits, smelting of copper, and disposal of drilling wastes. High concentrations of barium in drinking water increase the risk of increased blood pressure, changes in heart rhythm, stomach irritation, brain swelling, and liver, kidney, heart, and spleen damage.

​Cadmium: From corrosion of pipes, erosion of natural deposits, discharge from metal refineries, and runoff from waste batteries and paints. Potential health effects are diarrhea, sensory disturbances, liver injury, concussions, and kidney, liver, bone, and blood damage.

​Carbon Tetrachloride: A volatile carcinogenic solvent used in industrial chemical production and as a dry cleaning ingredient. Health concerns are cancer, harm to the liver, harm to the central nervous system, harm to the kidney, and decreased fertility.

​Chloramine: Comes from municipal treatment. It can cause hemolytic anemia when present in dialysis process water.

​Copper: From industrial discharges, copper plumbing materials due to corrosion, and copper salts used for algae control in reservoirs. Potential health effects are nausea, vomiting, gastrointestinal illness, abdominal and muscle pain, anemia, liver poisoning, and kidney failure.

Di (2-Ethylhexyl) phthalate: A softener added to PVC plastics. Phthalates are hormone disruptors that target the male reproductive system.

Fluoride (hydrofluorosilicic acid): Comes from municipally treated water. Potential health effects are skeletal fluorosis, bone disorder resembling osteoporosis, and abnormal fragility of the bones.

Lead: From lead-containing solder, service lines, and fittings of different industrial processes. Potential health effects are reduced intelligence, impaired hearing, decreased growth in children, and damage to the brain, kidneys, bone marrow, nervous system, and red blood cells.

​Selenium: The contaminant sources are natural deposits and releases from copper smelting. Potential health effects are hair and fingernail changes, damage to the peripheral nervous system, fatigue, and irritability.

Haloacetic acids (HAA5): Formed when disinfectant such as chlorine is added to tap water. Harmful to fetal growth and development and cancer concerns.

Learning More About Safe Drinking Water

To find more data and water quality reports from your local water treatment plant, go to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Documents Management System (Click public OCULUS login to access): https://depedms.dep.state.fl.us/Oculus/

The Safe Drinking Water Act authorizes the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to set national health-based standards for drinking water to protect against contaminants that are naturally occurring or caused by human activity: EPA Laws Regulations

EPA's 1991 Lead and Copper Rule requires systems to monitor drinking water at customer taps. Suppose lead concentrations exceed an action level of 15 ppb or copper concentrations exceed 1.3 ppm in more than 10 percent of customer taps sampled. In that case, the system must undertake several additional actions to control corrosion and safeguard health. Lead and Copper Rule ​

The most prevalent water quality problem is an excess of nutrients (mainly phosphorus and nitrogen) in a body of water. Natural Sciences ​

The Federal Safe Drinking Water Act does not regulate water safety from private wells. More than one in five wells tested from 1991-2004 contained one or more contaminants at concentrations more significant than a human-health benchmark: Pubs.usgs.gov

A 2016 study found that levels of polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)—a widely used class of industrial chemicals linked with cancer and other health problems—exceed federally recommended safety levels in public drinking water supplies for 6 million people in the United States. Pubs.acs.org ​

Coal-burning plants, in particular, discharge some of the most dangerous heavy metals on earth, including arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium, and selenium. PSR.org/sellingourhealth

Waste can introduce pathogens such as Shigella, Salmonella, Cryptosporidium, Giardia, Legionella, and coliform into drinking water, leading to diarrhea and gastrointestinal illness. www.ncbi.gov/articles

Why is Florida's tap water prone to the contamination? Plumbing Today

​View real-time data from USGS, containing information about streamflow, groundwater, water quality, and tide telemetry. http://epa.gove/myenv/mywater

​National Secondary Drinking Water Regulation (NSDWR) is a non-enforceable guideline regulating contaminants that may cause cosmetic or aesthetic effects in drinking water. https://water-research.net/index.php/standards/secondary-standards

Informational Resources

Table of Regulated Drinking Water Contaminants
Other Resources

In the Headlines

Florida may not be testing drinking water correctly, says government memo: WLRN.org

​Deadly toxic chemicals are found in the drinking water of at least 6 MILLION Americans. Florida is on the list: dailymail.co.uk/health

A new study conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) says over 77 million people spread across all 50 states have been drinking from water systems that violate the Safe Drinking Water Act. Florida is #2 on the list

“What's worse than the color of the water what's in the water," said Grant Gilmore, a marine biologist who studied life in the lagoon for more than 40 years. www.tcpalm.com/story/news/local

Florida Legislators OK Plan to Dump Sewage Into Drinking-Water Aquifers: www.miaminewtimes.com/news/florida-bill

"The state of Florida wants to weaken its restrictions on roughly two dozen cancer-causing chemicals that can be discharged into its rivers, lakes, streams, and coastal waters." Tallahassee.com

“The state of Florida wants to weaken its restrictions on roughly two dozen cancer-causing chemicals that can be discharged into its rivers, lakes, streams, and coastal waters.” www.tallahassee.com www.tallahassee.com/

Environmental groups have filed a lawsuit against Florida Power & Light Co., operator of the Turkey Point nuclear facility, saying that the company violated the Clean Water Act by discharging contaminants from the plant, impacting nearby drinking water. www.rt.com/usa/351360

Pancreatic cancer clusters and arsenic-contaminated drinking water wells in Florida: researchgate.net

Sinkhole leaks fertilizer plan's contaminated wastewater into Florida aquifer. www.latimes.com

Public water supplies in 42 state areas are contaminated with 141 unregulated chemicals for which the EPA has never established safety standards. www.thoughtco.com

Florida community raises the alarm about potential cancer links to water contamination. www.abcnews.go.com

Florida is not immune to lead in drinking water. https://www.floridatoday.com/story/news/local/environment/2016/03/18/florida-not-immune-lead-drinking-water/81447772/

​Contaminated Drinking Water in Florida's Lake Belt. Florida-lake-belt

​10 U.S. cities with the worst drinking water. http://www.nbcnews.com/id/41354370/ns/business-going_green/t/us-cities-worst-drinking-water/#.XXcF-S2ZNZo

​Too much contamination, not enough reporting, study finds. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/04/us/tapwater-drinking-water-study.html

Water in the Sunshine State


Rivers, lakes, streams, wetlands, and groundwater are all connected. The water flowing in waterways can come from groundwater migrating into the riverbed. The Floridan aquifer system underlies all of Florida and is the primary source of potable groundwater for much of the state.

​There are four main stages in the water cycle; 1. evaporation, 2. condensation, 3. precipitation, and 4. collection. Water is continually circulating, and the water we consume comes from two primary sources: groundwater and surface water.


Water flow is the lifeblood of the springs. People can harm the springs by pumping too much water from the aquifer and putting fertilizers and pollutants on the land. The biggest consumer of water is landscape irrigation. Issues impacting the health of the springs include population growth, growing demand for groundwater, and the introduction of pollutants (lawn care, development, consumption, and overuse, illegal dumping, livestock farming, golf courses, etc.). There is a strain on the state's aquifer system.


Contaminates get into water sources by absorbing into the ground. Contamination of drinking water sources can occur from raw sewage overflow, septic tanks, leaking sewer lines, and land application of sludge. The absorbed materials contaminate groundwater sources through broken pipes and excess water run-off during heavy rain periods. Seepage overflow into drinking water sources can cause disease from ingesting microorganisms such as E Coli and Hepatitis A.


When a bottled water company goes in and pumps millions of gallons of water out of the ground, there are fewer gallons. When you pump groundwater unsustainably, the water table level drops, and groundwater depletion can negatively impact lakes and wetlands. It takes 3x the amount of water to produce a plastic bottle to fill that same bottle. We're giving giant corporations resources at a bit of cost while the community suffers the impacts. 


Clean water is essential for our health. It helps us stay hydrated, protects our joints, helps excrete waste, maximizes physical performance, aids in digestion, helps with nutrient absorption, improves blood oxygen circulation, helps fight off illness, promotes collagen production, and more. We need safe water for drinking, cooking, and general hygiene purposes. Clean water demands sustainable industrialization, intact ecosystems, and responsible consumption. 

Fight For Zero is a nonprofit organization that works on environmental health projects. We are not a testing lab or service. We use certified labs to analyze the samples taken for our projects. Our goal is to empower advocates and communities to take on water quality challenges through resources and education. Since we have limited funding, we can discuss ways to raise money if you are interested in collaborating on a testing project with Fight For Zero. This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a donation toward testing projects for purchases made through these links. fight4zero.org

Fight for Zero

Our team brings passion and drive to take on environmental health challenges. Our mission is to inform, educate, share resources, and inspire action to protect natural resources.

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