Special Report

American Cities With the Most Contaminated Water

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Access to clean water is limited in many nations around the world, but even in the United States, water quality is an issue. Contamination from chemical toxins, heavy metals, and microbial pathogens has affected water supplies from coast to coast. (These are the companies polluting our water the most.)

Most recently, Flint, Michigan, and Jackson, Mississippi, have been in the news for this problem. From April 2014 to June 2016, Flint’s water was deemed extremely dangerous to drink. Last summer, flooding in Jackson triggered a warning that drinking water there was risky, and residents were told to boil water before they use it.

In March 2022 when the EPA made an unprecedented move: It put forth a groundbreaking proposal for the establishment of the inaugural national drinking water standard. This standard aims to address the perilous presence of six synthetic chemicals that pose a significant threat to human health.

To compile a list of the 30 American cities with the most contaminated water, 24/7 Tempo reviewed data collected by WaterFilterGuru, a site that tests and reports on water filtration products. Using data from the Environmental Working Group, an activist NGO, analyzing water quality in 70 cities across the U.S., the site created an index giving a weight of 20 to the number of contaminants that exceed EWG health guidelines, total contaminants, and violations issued in each quarter from April 2019 to March 2021. Other factors, such as the levels of specific contaminants in the water, drawn from the environmental testing and data site SimpleLab, were given a weight of 8.

Click here to see the American cities with the most contaminated water

The specific hazardous contaminants vary among cities. Among the notable chemicals found to be concerning are bromodichloromethane, total haloacetic acids, total THMs (trihalomethanes), and chloroform. These substances have been associated with an increased risk of developing cancer in various organs. (These are the most common cancers in America, and their survival rates.)

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30. Chicago, Illinois
> Total score: 32.16
> Health guideline violations score (0-20): 8.13 – 18th worst out of 70 cities
> Most prevalent contaminant compared to other cities: Bromodichloromethane – 48th worst out of 70 cities

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29. San Jose, California
> Total score: 33.58
> Health guideline violations score (0-20): 9.38 – 6th worst out of 70 cities
> Most prevalent contaminant compared to other cities: Strontium – 12th worst out of 70 cities

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28. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
> Total score: 33.93
> Health guideline violations score (0-20): 6.88 – 31st worst out of 70 cities
> Most prevalent contaminant compared to other cities: Total THMs – 10th worst out of 70 cities

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27. Columbus, Ohio
> Total score: 34.44
> Health guideline violations score (0-20): 8.13 – 18th worst out of 70 cities
> Most prevalent contaminant compared to other cities: Strontium – 5th worst out of 70 cities

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26. Colorado Springs, Colorado
> Total score: 34.50
> Health guideline violations score (0-20): 6.25 – 41st worst out of 70 cities
> Most prevalent contaminant compared to other cities: Chloroform – 10th worst out of 70 cities

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25. New Haven, Connecticut
> Total score: 34.59
> Health guideline violations score (0-20): 7.50 – 23rd worst out of 70 cities
> Most prevalent contaminant compared to other cities: Total haloacetic acids – 11st worst out of 70 cities

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24. San Antonio, Texas
> Total score: 34.96
> Health guideline violations score (0-20): 9.38 – 6th worst out of 70 cities
> Most prevalent contaminant compared to other cities: Strontium – 2nd worst out of 70 cities

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23. Omaha, Nebraska
> Total score: 35.05
> Health guideline violations score (0-20): 8.13 – 18th worst out of 70 cities
> Most prevalent contaminant compared to other cities: Bromodichloromethane – 9th worst out of 70 cities

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22. Billings, Montana
> Total score: 38.95
> Health guideline violations score (0-20): 8.75 – 13th worst out of 70 cities
> Most prevalent contaminant compared to other cities: Strontium – 8th worst out of 70 cities

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21. Baltimore, Maryland
> Total score: 36.02
> Health guideline violations score (0-20): 5.63 – 49th worst out of 70 cities
> Most prevalent contaminant compared to other cities: Total haloacetic acids – 2nd worst out of 70 cities

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20. Reno, Nevada
> Total score: 36.74
> Health guideline violations score (0-20): 10.00 – 3rd worst out of 70 cities
> Most prevalent contaminant compared to other cities: Total haloacetic acids – 29th worst out of 70 cities

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19. Birmingham, Alabama
> Total score: 37.10
> Health guideline violations score (0-20): 6.25 – 41st worst out of 70 cities
> Most prevalent contaminant compared to other cities: Total THMs – 36th worst out of 70 cities

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18. Knoxville, Tennessee
> Total score: 37.22
> Health guideline violations score (0-20): 5.63 – 49th worst out of 70 cities
> Most prevalent contaminant compared to other cities: Chloroform – 53rd worst out of 70 cities

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17. Jacksonville, Florida
> Total score: 37.37
> Health guideline violations score (0-20): 3.13 – 65th worst out of 70 cities
> Most prevalent contaminant compared to other cities: Strontium – Worst out of 70 cities

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16. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
> Total score: 37.40
> Health guideline violations score (0-20): 6.88 – 31st worst out of 70 cities
> Most prevalent contaminant compared to other cities: Total haloacetic acids – 9th worst out of 70 cities

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15. Virginia Beach, Virginia
> Total score: 37.72
> Health guideline violations score (0-20): 6.88 – 31st worst out of 70 cities
> Most prevalent contaminant compared to other cities: Chloroform – 7th worst out of 70 cities

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14. San Diego, California
> Total score: 37.80
> Health guideline violations score (0-20): 10.00 – 3rd worst out of 70 cities
> Most prevalent contaminant compared to other cities: Strontium – 4th worst out of 70 cities

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13. Atlanta, Georgia
> Total score: 38.00
> Health guideline violations score (0-20): 6.25 – 41st worst out of 70 cities
> Most prevalent contaminant compared to other cities: Total haloacetic acids – 3rd worst out of 70 cities

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12. Norfolk, Virginia
> Total score: 39.10
> Health guideline violations score (0-20): 7.50 – 23rd worst out of 70 cities
> Most prevalent contaminant compared to other cities: Chloroform – 9th worst out of 70 cities

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11. Flint, Michigan
> Total score: 39.17
> Health guideline violations score (0-20): 7.50 – 23rd worst out of 70 cities
> Most prevalent contaminant compared to other cities: Bromodichloromethane – 14th worst out of 70 cities

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10. Salt Lake City, Utah
> Total score: 39.39
> Health guideline violations score (0-20): 8.75 – 13th worst out of 70 cities
> Most prevalent contaminant compared to other cities: Strontium – 13th worst out of 70 cities

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9. Houston, Texas
> Total score: 39.60
> Health guideline violations score (0-20): 8.75 – 13th worst out of 70 cities
> Most prevalent contaminant compared to other cities: Strontium – 10th worst out of 70 cities

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8. Des Moines, Iowa
> Total score: 41.58
> Health guideline violations score (0-20): 9.38 – 6th worst out of 70 cities
> Most prevalent contaminant compared to other cities: Bromodichloromethane – 4th worst out of 70 cities

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7. Jersey City, New Jersey
> Total score: 41.90
> Health guideline violations score (0-20): 7.50 – 23rd worst out of 70 cities
> Most prevalent contaminant compared to other cities: Bromodichloromethane – 8th worst out of 70 cities

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6. Bridgeport, Connecticut
> Total score: 43.59
> Health guideline violations score (0-20): 7.50 – 23rd worst out of 70 cities
> Most prevalent contaminant compared to other cities: Total haloacetic acids – 5th worst out of 70 cities

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5. Tulsa, Oklahoma
> Total score: 45.91
> Health guideline violations score (0-20): 6.88 – 31st worst out of 70 cities
> Most prevalent contaminant compared to other cities: Bromodichloromethane – 7th worst out of 70 cities

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4. Wilmington, Delaware
> Total score: 52.60
> Health guideline violations score (0-20): 20.00 – Worst out of 70 cities
> Most prevalent contaminant compared to other cities: Bromodichloromethane and total THMs – Worst out of 70 cities

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3. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
> Total score: 53.35
> Health guideline violations score (0-20): 7.50 – 23rd worst out of 70 cities
> Most prevalent contaminant compared to other cities: Bromodichloromethane – 3rd worst out of 70 cities

2. Las Vegas, Nevada
> Total score: 55.33
> Health guideline violations score (0-20): 9.38 – 6th worst out of 70 cities
> Most prevalent contaminant compared to other cities: Bromodichloromethane – 2nd worst out of 70 cities

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1. Newark, New Jersey
> Total score: 57.17
> Health guideline violations score (0-20): 6.88 – 31st worst out of 70 cities
> Most prevalent contaminant compared to other cities: Total haloacetic acids and Chloroform – Worst out of 70 cities

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