In tap water testing, more than 140 unregulated chemicals that lack safety standards were found in the tap water of forty-two states. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) conducted a two-and-a-half-year investigation of various communities’ treated tap water. Fifty-two of the unregulated contaminants are linked to cancer, forty-one to reproductive toxicity, thirty-six to developmental toxicity, and sixteen to immune system damage. EWG claims that any concentration of these chemicals is too high.
The EWG blames the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for their lack of enforceable health standards and monitoring requirements for tap water contaminants. According to the EWG water analysis, 201,955,000 people in forty-one states are served tap water with eighty-three agricultural pollutants, including pesticides and fertilizers. Fifty-four of these agricultural chemicals are unregulated. Water laced with 166 industrial pollutants including plasticizers, solvents, and propellants is served to 210,528,000 people in forty-two states. Ninety-four of these industrial chemicals are unregulated. Fifty-nine pollutants linked to urban areas, such as plasticizers, solvents, and propellants, are served to 202,697,000 people in forty-two states. Forty-one of these urban-found chemicals are unregulated.
EWG also tested pollutants from water treatment, storage, and distribution facilities, and found forty-four pollutants being served to 178,679,000 people in forty-one states. Twenty-four of the chemicals are unregulated. Lead pipes along with chemicals added to aid in the coagulation of water can be of great concern to drinking water pollution. The EPA calls for $165 billion in the current need for infrastructure upgrades in water treatment facilities. According the EPA, better pipes and infrastructure will reduce the amount of contaminants found in tap water.
EWG claims that water protection can be achieved through prevention, and maintaining a buffer or protected lands around the water source to slow down the pollutant load. EWG claims that the federal government has done neither for effective prevention. Even with the institution of the Clean Water Act, EWG claims that the federal government provides very little funding to the actual prevention of drinking water pollution. EWG also listed several gaps in the federal standard-setting process:
• Safe Drinking Water Act—EPA sets standards on health considerations and costs. The agency is required to prove that the cost of removing a contaminant does not exceed the benefits.
• Safe Drinking Water Act—EPA allowed to set maximum legal limits for contaminants as if people are exposed to just one contaminant at a time.
• Safe Drinking Water Act—EPA is not required to set maximum legal limits for contaminants in tap water at levels that protect the health of children.
Water treatment is expensive and the EPA will need about $53 billion in investments for water treatment over the next 20 years. According to the EPA, this investment is simply to ensure that water suppliers can continue to meet current standards. Because Americans do not trust the safety of their tap water, they will spend an estimated $10 billion in bottled water in a year. Because of the lack of EPA standards, the EWG provided several solutions:
• EPA should maintain a national database of tap water quality testing.
• EPA should study the health impacts of all water disinfection by-products and require monitoring and toxicity testing.
• EPA should set health-protective standards for chemicals that are
• Congress and the EPA should support utilities and states in efforts to
• protect source waters.
• Federal laws and policies should be reformed to ensure that vulnerable
• populations are protected from chemicals.
Source: Environmental Working Group
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