It is a shocking water and health and safety statistic that will leave more than just a bad metallic after taste in the mouths of most Americans this year. In fact Eighteen million Americans live in communities where the water systems are in violation of the federal laws that dictate just how much lead should sit within our drinking water. A dangerous water quality situation that could accelerate health insurance claims and increase the cost of medical cover for the many affected citizens living in towns and cities across the US.
Moreover, the federal agency in charge of making sure those water systems are safe not only knows the health and safety issues exist with the water supply, but it’s done very little to stop them, according to a new report and information provided by multiple sources and water experts from around the country.
A Farcical Water Health and Safety Situation That Must Be Stopped
Consider this scenario for a moment. “Imagine a cop sitting, watching people run stop signs, and speeding across town at 100 miles per hour in small communities and still doing absolutely nothing about it, knowing the people who are violating the law. And doing nothing. That’s unfortunately what we have now,” said Erik Olson, health program director at Natural Resources Defense Council, which analyzed the EPA’s data for its report.
In this case, the “cop” is a combination of the states and the EPA. States are the first line of enforcement, but when they fail — as they did recently in Flint, Michigan — the EPA is supposed to step in. But in many cases, the agency hasn’t.
Clear Excess Lead Violation In US Water Systems
More than 5,300 water systems in America are in violation of the EPA’s lead and copper rule, a federal regulation in place to safeguard America’s drinking water from its ageing infrastructure.
Violations include failure to properly test water for lead, failure to report contamination to residents, and failure to treat water properly to avoid lead contamination.
Yet, states took action in 817 cases; the EPA took action in just 88 cases, according to NRDC’s report.
What’s worse, the report reveals that the EPA is also aware that many utilities “game the system,” using flawed or questionable testing methods in order to avoid detecting high levels of lead.
That means there could be many more communities violating the laws, exposing residents to dangerous levels of lead. And the public has no idea.
Even Flint, a city with the most notorious case of lead in water discovered, is still not listed as having violated the EPA’s lead and copper rule.
In response to the report, the EPA said it works closely with states “who are responsible for and do take the majority of the drinking water enforcement actions and are the first line of oversight of drinking water systems.”
The agency added that, “it’s important to note that many of the drinking water systems that NRDC cites in its analysis are already working to resolve past violations and return to compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act in consultation with state regulators or EPA.”
The Philadelphia Water Quality Scandal
Experts say Philadelphia is a perfect example of the EPA unwilling to act, and having too cozy a relationship with local regulators.
The city has come under scrutiny recently for only testing less than 40 of an estimated 50,000 homes with lead service lines.
City officials say that’s all they could find after putting out 8,000 requests to residents. Seven homes had high lead levels.
After the Flint water crisis, the EPA in February issued new guidance instructing water authorities to stop pre-flushing taps and other practices that were considered “cheating.”
Our Verdict on Lead in the Water Supply
One thing is crystal clear, if the situation with excess lead in the water supply of so many US homes is going to be curbed, it will take more than just tough talk to see it done as we move into 2018. Clean lead free drinking water is what we all expect and we expect the water companies to robustly monitor the quality of water that is distributed to customers. There are no legitimate excuses for failure or gaming the system