Cleaning up our Tap Water

A recent New York Times article, part of an ongoing series called Toxic Water, exposed the levels of chemicals in our drinking water, and the fact that many are not prohibited by federal regulations.  The Safe Drinking Water Act was passed in 1974 and, according to many environmentalists and regulators, the law is now out of date and fails to protect Americans from many chemicals associated with a risk of cancer and other diseases.

Since 2004 more than 62 million Americans have been exposed to drinking water that did not meet at least one commonly used government health guideline intended to help protect people from cancer or serious disease, according to The New York Times’ analysis.  However, these guidelines were never officially incorporated into the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the vast majority of that water never violated the law.

Contaminated water is a global concern, and this series of articles reveals that the Safe Drinking Water Act, while protecting many, is not eliminating contaminated water as a concern in the United States.  Follow the Toxic Waters series in the New York Times and get up to date news on water issues on a global and international level at Brown and Caldwell’s Water News and at Circle of Blue.

In addition, read the latest edition of the World Savvy Monitor on water to find out more about contaminated water and similar issues are having a global impact.  Find resources for teaching about water in the Classroom Companion.

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Discussion Questions:

1. What is the Safe Drinking Water Act and what does it do?

2. How many contaminants are regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act?  How many contaminants were found and reported in the New York Times article?

3. Why are these contaminants still legal?

4. Some cities are taking action to protect residents from these chemicals, but why are some residents upset?

5. What do you think should be done about the number of harmful chemicals found in America’s drinking water?  Who should take action – government, environmentalists, business, citizens?  Why?


One Response

  1. Safe drinking water advocates blast Washington state cities for not providing residents options to purchase water line insurance

    A recently published report in Washington state is critical of several municipalities for not providing insurance options to help residents repair or replace broken water lines or sewer lines

    Seattle, Wash. – The Washington State Access to Safe Drinking Water Council (WSASDWC) has recently published a report which is highly critical of municipalities in Washington State for not providing residents options to purchase water or sewer line insurance. The WSASDWC report gave several communities an “F” for failing to carry any insurance products that would help residents insure their water and sewer lines for breaks or leaks. Specifically in the study, Seattle, Tacoma, Yakima, Spokane, Pasco, Bellevue, Vancouver, Everett, Wenatchee and Kennewick received the worst scores.

    The WSASDWC was particularly critical of the City of Kennewick after a local news station aired the following reports which detailed how the Benton County Public Utility District and other municipal entities (i.e…City of Kennewick) would not fix a broken water pipe despite the fact Benton PUD broke the pipe. The residents in Kennewick were left without adequate drinking water supplies for several days.;

    According to data in the study collected from public works departments, about 50,000 property owners a year in Washington state face repair or replacement bills for busted or broken water and/or sewer lines that range from $1,500 to $6,000. Additionally, most water and/or sewer lines were installed between 1900 to 1970 in Washington state and are over 40 years old.

    As cities and communities age across Washington State and the United States the probability of leaks from older water pipes and related infrastructure will increase dramatically, which will put additional financial pressure on homeowners to fix and replace water pipes.;

    “If cities in Washington state are not going to repair or take responsibility for water and sewer lines from the street or meter to the residence, then they need to provide residents private sector insurance options so situations like the one in Kennewick do not occur in the future,” said Dan Miller, Director of Advocacy of the WSASDWC. “It is inexcusable that so many Washington state cities are not offering insurance or warranty products to help homeowners fix leaks in private water or sewer lines, and to minimize disruptions in access to clean drinking water.”

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