Worrying fact: In 2015, approximately 21 million Americans relied on community water systems that did not comply with quality standards, the nationwide assessment bringing to light how bad the situation in the U.S. actually is.
Flint might be the most famous case of water contamination repercussions in the last years, but the situation doesn’t seem to be getting any better as America is now confronted with a countrywide drinking water problem, crisis levels never seen before being reached. At the moment, thousands of water systems have drinking water that doesn’t comply with safety standards for lead.
What are folks supposed to do? Waiting for the impending crisis to strike isn’t a solution, obviously, but while some households afford personal water treatment, this isn’t the case for everyone in the country, so our health and well-being are at the hands of officials.
The Flint disaster explained
An ongoing crisis that is said to be fixed no sooner than 2020, the Flint disaster occurred in 2014 when the water source for Flint was changed to the cheaper Flint River, which, due to inefficient water treatment, caused lead leaching from the water pipes and expose the residents of the city to poisoning with the contaminant. Besides dangerously high lead levels, other issues that rose were coliform bacteria and THM contamination, and an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease that caused 12 deaths.
A study showed that fetal deaths increased by 58% since the crisis started, fertility rates decreased by 12% among women, and an alarming number of approximately 12,000 children suffered various health complications due to lead exposure from the drinking water. Even though water quality is back to acceptable levels at this point, the situation is far from being completely fixed, many households still relying on bottled or filtered water for drinking, bathing, cooking, and cleaning as they fear health problems.
Crisis spreading all over the U.S.
By this point, it’s more than obvious that the previously discussed tragedy was just the beginning, the toxic water reports that came since from locations all over the country serving as proof. The water infrastructure is in need of repair, and widespread panic has ensued, plenty of big cities suffering as tap water is not healthy for consumption, while the situation in the rural areas is even worse, large-scale agricultural contamination causing downright disasters.
- Pretty Prairie, Kansas
A rural area where tap water has far exceeded EPA legal limits when it comes to nitrates contamination, it is estimated that the residents here have ingested carcinogens for decades now, the risk for bladder, kidney, ovarian, and colon cancers to appear being worryingly high.
- Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Back in 2016, Milwaukee Mayer Tom Barrett announced people living in homes built before 1951 that it is advisable for them to install filtration systems on their own or switch to bottled water for hydration and their daily needs as they are exposed to toxic levels of lead if they don’t do so. This answer to the water quality issue obviously displeased residents and activists, the protection people expected to receive from their officials not being delivered.
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
In 2016, numerous people living in Pittsburgh received a letter they never thought possible to receive in which it was stated that their tap water contained 1.5 times more lead than the federal limit. There have been fluctuations since then, lead levels dropping to safe limits, but then rising up again. Residents who couldn’t take matters into their own hands and treat the water running through the pipes on their own obviously still await a resolution to come from health officials.
How come water-treatment plants fail?
Tap water must go through water-treatment plants before it is distributed towards our homes, so the question arises – how come we are still facing contamination issues? Even though the disinfectants used in the treatment process are effective enough to filter out or kill most contaminants, they are not foolproof, which means that chemicals and microbes can bypass the facilities.
There’s the issue that most of the big U.S. cities are fed by surface water, which contains dangerously high levels of contaminants as opposed to groundwater that is cleaner as soil and rocks filter out part of the impurities lurking in it. This is one of the reasons why, even though it seems ridiculous at first, big cities tend to have more problems with water quality than small ones.
Is bottled water a viable solution?
The answer is quite simple: No! Bottled water is not the most optimal solution for us living in the U.S. as not only does consuming it increase the overall decay process of our planet as we further encourage plastic pollution and other issues but because it isn’t necessarily safer than tap water either, potentially health-threatening contaminants existing in it as well.
This leaves a single viable solution which is at home treatment of tap water as it is safer, more Eco-friendly, and better from a financial stance as well. Costs of using bottled water for all activities where it is needed, more precisely hydration, cooking, cleaning, and bathing implies absurdly large costs that would be significantly reduced if you would take matters into your own hands and fix the issue with your drinking water crisis on your own.
With the Flint incident making headlines and worryingly increasing levels of water system contamination plaguing the U.S., it now seems, more than ever, like safety standards are being defied. Numerous health and social issues arise alongside the current drinking water crisis we are confronted with, and without proper management of the situation, it will get worse.