Thursday, March 25, 2010

Thousands are Drinking Toxic Water

By Tara Lafemina

Water treatment systems have been violating the law and the nation has been paying the price, found recent studies. Within the last five years, over 20% of water treatment systems have violated the Safe Drinking Water Act, according to the New York Times.

The law was enacted to be sure residents are receiving safe drinking water. Over 49 million people in the past six years have received dangerous water.

Dangerous water typically includes arsenic and uranium. It also includes a bacterium that comes from sewerage systems.

The unsafe drinking water causes millions of illness each year. Many of the contaminates are linked to cancer that will take years to arise.

The parasites, viruses and bacteria are thought to be the cause of as many as 19 million illnesses each year, according to a New York Times analysis. The recent rise of breast and prostate cancer is also thought to have a link to the contaminated water.

Since 2005, the E.P.A has reported over three million people have been drinking contaminated water. Some places have water that have toxins 2,000% over the legal limit, says the E.P.A.

For some areas, the contamination is just a one time fluke. For many others, it has been continually happening for years. Safe water violations have been happening in every state.

Since 2004 Ramsey, N.J. has drinking water, where testing found arsenic, a carcinogen, and cleaning solvent. These chemicals have been proved to causing cancer. The Ramsey water system was never fined. According to an official, they have installed a new filtering system.

205 water systems in New York State have delivered water which contained bacteria. Out of these 205, only three were fined due to the bacteria, according to the New York Times.

In fact, less than 6% of water violations are fined. The Safe Drinking Water Act may not be a priority for at the state and federal level. Even the Environmental Protection Agency, whom oversees this law, has not been issuing fines or punishments.

Most of these violations happen in areas that are serving fewer than 20,000 people. This may be due to a less people being experts on such environmental issues.

The Senate and Public Works will converge into a committee to question the E.P.A. An E.P.A. official will answer question about their enforcement on the Safe Drinking Water Act. The E.P.A. will release a new policy about how they will enforce water safety at the almost 55,000 water systems in the U.S.

The E.P.A will talk about the danger they are putting the public in. Researchers say a water system could put their community in a 1-in-600 chance of developing cancer. Even with that ratio, they are still following the law.

Many people are grim about the future of potential reforms on the water issues.

“The same people who told us to ignore Safe Drinking Water Act violations are still running the divisions,” said one mid-level E.P.A. official. “There’s no accountability, and so nothing’s going to change.”

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