Over the last year many Americans have likely heard of the lead poisoning affecting the drinking water of Flint, Michigan. We have heard the horror stories of children being sickened due to the failure of Flint’s bureaucracies and failing infrastructure. However, a new report from the Natural Resources Defense Council reveals that Americans in every state are suffering because of failing infrastructure, under-reporting of violations, and lax enforcement of drinking water standards.
The report, “Threats on Tap: Widespread Violations Highlight Need for Investment in Water Infrastructure and Protections,” found close to 80,000 violations of drinking water standards in every state in the U.S. “Very small systems found in rural or sparsely populated areas account for more than half of all health-based violations, and nearly 70 percent of all violations,” the NRDC writes.
Rural towns with smaller water systems are often unable to cover the financial and technological burden required to upgrade infrastructure which could reduce the amount of contaminants in the water.
The report concludes that nearly one in four Americans receive their drinking water from systems which fail to meet federal health standards.This failure is exacerbated by a lack of reporting these violations, as well as a lack of enforcement when violations are reported. The council’s report indicates that water contamination is not exclusive to Flint, but rather, Flint is representative of a national water crisis.
“America is facing a nationwide drinking water crisis that goes well beyond lead contamination,” said Erik Olson, Health Program Director at NRDC and a report co-author. “The problem is two-fold: there’s no cop on the beat enforcing our drinking water laws, and we’re living on borrowed time with our ancient, deteriorating water infrastructure. We take it for granted that when we turn on our kitchen tap, the water will be safe and healthy, but we have a long way to go before that is reality across our country.”
Of all the states with health-based violations, Texas comes in at number one, followed by Puerto Rico, Ohio, Maryland, and Kentucky.
The council analyzed data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. This data found some 27 million people are using water-distribution systems which are responsible for around 12,000 health-based violations. These violations involve amounts of contaminants in the water supply well above federal health and safety standards. The contaminants include lead, nitrates, and pesticides.