Quality of SSF Drinking Water Pass Federal and State Requirements, EWG Relates to Public Health Goals

South San Francisco, CA   August 3, 2017 

Calwater continues to pass water quality testing on state and federal tests

A South San Francisco neighbor recently contacted us after reviewing the report on water quality by Environment Working Group.  “I just read the EWG’s tap water report for SSF and I was very disappointed in our water quality” they wrote “I am looking for water filter suggestions.


Because water filters address different contaminates we checked the reports issued by EWG by using their interactive zip code map. Their report CLICK HERE shows 10 contaminants above their health guide lines which drew a concern. However, further reading the reports on their website shows our local water suppliers are in full compliance with our state and federal regulations as EWG states the following:

‘EWG’s drinking water quality report shows results of tests conducted by the water utility and provided to the Environmental Working Group by the California State Water Resources Control Board, as well as information from the U.S. EPA Enforcement and Compliance History database (ECHO). For the latest quarter assessed by the EPA (January to March 2017), tap water provided by this water utility was in compliance with federal health-based drinking water standards.

This water utility buys or otherwise receives some or all of its finished water from one or more public water utility systems. EWG research suggests that this utility purchases water from a single supplier, San Francisco Regional Water System. Tap water results displayed on the utility page show the water quality testing conducted by the original water supplier and this utility.’


To confirm this information is indeed correct, and to alleviate unfound concerns, we contacted Mike Utz, our Assistant District Manager of California Water Company Services Inc Bayshore District for clarification.  His response is below:

CalWater would like to clarify the information in the Environmental Working Groups Report. Our water meets all of the standards set to protect customers’ health and safety by federal and state public health experts. These standards are called “maximum contaminant levels (MCLs).”

The data provided by EWG is based on public health goals (PHG), not MCLs. PHGs are not regulatory standards, but rather the level of a constituent below which there is no known concern to health over a lifetime of exposure. These goals are set without regard to cost or available detection and treatment technologies. In some cases, the technology may not even exist to treat water to the PHG.

California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), which is composed of toxicologists, epidemiologists, physicians, biostatisticians, and research scientists, confirms that: “As long as drinking water complies with all MCLs, it is considered safe to drink, even if some contaminants exceed PHG levels,” and “A PHG is NOT a boundary line between a ‘safe’ and ‘dangerous’ level of a contaminant.”

Additionally, the data in the EWG database includes raw, untreated source water, not just water that has been treated and is being delivered to customers. It also double-counts certain constituents.

Protecting our customers’ health and safety is our highest priority. We encourage our customers to review the annual Consumer Confidence Report for their water system, which includes every constituent detected in the water delivered to them.


With the recent trespassing onto CalWater’s property and graffiti to the storage tank in South San Francisco last month, we understand neighbors are keenly concerned about our water safety and quality, and rightly so. To CalWater’s credit, and with an abundance of caution, emergency advisories were immediately put in place for the Sunshine Gardens’ neighborhood that included door to door alerts in addition to contacting government agencies as required. Social media was also successfully used as CalWater continued to update the public and alerting neighbors when investigations proved the water source was resolved. While the tanks had not been breached and there had been no contamination, the tanks were drained, appropriately cleaned and refilled with water testing once again passing all state and federal regulations.  In addition free bottled water was made available to those neighbors who were effected during the advisory.


South San Francisco residents are fortunate to have the quality of potable water that we enjoy because not every city in our region, state, or country has this access. The EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency) monitors required reporting and makes the results public (CLICK HERE). While South San Francisco continues to receive excellent reports with no out of compliance marks, our neighboring town of Hillsborough has not been as fortunate with the EPA reporting  non-compliance multiple quarters from 2014 – 2017. This comparison is merely to show that the strict regulations are not manipulated and one locality can have different concerns with their water than a neighboring City.  This is a great resource if you would like to check water quality in different locations.



SSF water provided by Calwater remains in compliance with the US EPA



The US EPA cited Hillsborough Water in non-compliance


Even with rigid testing and reporting there are some folks that use home filtration systems which is what brought us to this subject, our neighbor asking “I am looking for water filter suggestions.” The Environmental Working Group does offer some researched information on their website CLICK HERE for those interested in pursuing this including which filters might work best per contaminate.


If you have any concerns or questions about your water in South San Francisco please contact Calwater at 650/558-7800 or if you are in the Westborough Water District area please contact WWD at 650/589.1435.


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