As some express concerns regarding the safety of public drinking water, some citizens wonder if bottled water is a safer option than tap water.
According to Howard Gamble, Wheeling-Ohio County Health Department administrator, "the Ohio County water supply is safe. It meets local, state and federal standards for human consumption."
Noting that drinking water decisions are ultimately "a personal choice" for citizens, Gamble recognizes that there are both benefits and risks associated with bottled water. Although bottled water is a modern convenience that is easy to transport and offers a taste that some prefer, Gamble said there is a cost.
Photo by Rebecca Olsavsky
Many residents purchase bottled water for drinking, even though local officials believe the public water supply is safe.
"Financially, some people can afford it," Gamble said. "Financially, some cannot."
"Bottled water contains less fluoride," Gamble continued. "The benefits of water are still there, but the concern is a generation brought up on bottled water is not getting fluoride unless through other sources like toothpaste or foods cooked in fluoridated tap water."
Fluoride, which prevents early tooth decay, is not a required component of West Virginia water sources. Gamble said, however, that 90 percent of water systems in the state do fluoridate water if they are capable of doing so.
"Fluoride provides a huge public health benefit," Gamble stated. "Overall, the goal is to provide clean drinking water to the community."
Recognizing that there are regulations for all types of water, Gamble noted that Wheeling water must follow requirements, in addition to being approved and tested, to produce water for the community. Also, for those that bottle and sell water, state departments of health must give approval.
Treatments for bottled water include reverse osmosis, filtration and distillation. Public sources already have filtration.
Referring to local individuals who profess concerns over water issues and health impacts regarding the future GreenHunter Water treatment plant in Wheeling, Gamble believes that it is "important that we have concerned citizens who want to know about the industry."
Ben Stout, a biology professor at Wheeling Jesuit University, is one of those individuals who notes concerns. Claiming that selecting bottled or tap water is a "personal choice," Stout believes there is a right choice for his family.
"I buy bottled water for my family," Stout said.
Stout understands that there are "still other means of exposure" to tap water , such as showering, yet believes that "other exposure pathways are not as consequential as direct ingestion."