Equal access to clean, potable drinking water is crucial for our society’s health and advancement. In 2014, the infamous water crisis in Flint, Michigan, shed light on the widespread water quality issues impacting numerous communities in America. In response to the Flint water crisis, Union College established the Union College Water Initiative, providing free drinking water analyses to the public. This initiative aims to raise awareness and educate people by analyzing heavy metals commonly found in drinking water—specifically lead, copper, and zinc.
As a part of this initiative, I collected over 300 cold drinking water samples from residences, schools, and businesses across Eastern Massachusetts and beyond. Samples were analyzed by ICP-MS and compared with US-EPA drinking water limits. The EPA limits for copper, zinc, and lead in drinking water are 1300, 5000, and 15 ppb, respectively. Of the unfiltered samples, 2.1% exceeded the copper limit (2,125 to 7,155 ppb), 4.9% exceeded the zinc limit (5,382 to 42,444 ppb), and 6.3% exceeded the lead limit (15.9 to 889 ppb). Samples were also found above the EPA limits for uranium (to 63 ppb), arsenic (to 12.4 ppb), cadmium (to 49 ppb), and antimony (to 17.5 ppb). This study examines issues of water quality and its larger implications in the Environmental Justice Movement. Further research into distribution and sources of heavy metal contamination in particular areas will provide insight into health and equity issues, adding to our understanding of drinking water contamination across the United States.