Water Quality in the U.S.

I have read a handful of articles and books in the past few years about water quality in different areas of the U.S., and what I have found has kept me up quite a few nights. I am truly troubled by the seemingly uncaring officials in charge of our country’s water quality standards. So, living in the Puget Sound area, I wanted to find out how Seattle water stacked up. So I dug around a bit.

Per an article in the Seattle PI in 2010 entitled “How clean is Seattle’s drinking water?” the majority of our water supply comes from the Cedar River Watershed. This has been the case since shortly after the Great Fire in the late 1800s. The city owns more than 90,000 acres of land around the area, meaning that they control to a great degree what does and does not go into our water supply. Since this area is fed by the Cascade Mountains, it is as close as you can get to fresh in a highly populated area.

But apparently the city’s attentiveness doesn’t stop there. The SPU (Seattle Public Utilities) tests 200 different sites in the coverage area every two weeks to make sure that no bad bugs get into the water. These bugs include E.coli, Cryptosporidium, and giardia, which can make people sick very quickly. The other thing that has been tested in the water is levels of pharmaceuticals. It appears that none of those are in our water either.

This all makes for water that is safer than many municipalities, which in light of the most recent water crisis in Flint, Michigan, makes me feel a whole lot better about Seattle’s water. That is a great thing, but I am still appalled by the lack of serious action taken by certain areas of the country with their water issues. It is truly unacceptable when you think of the consequences. Here is a link to a National Geographic article that touches on a few past crises and the idea that we should be more worried about water on a regular basis, not just when a spill or an outbreak occurs: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/02/140217-drinking-water-safety-west-virginia-chemical-spill-science/

Toms River, New Jersey went through a long, arduous water quality lawsuit that resulted in a relatively measly settlement for people and their kids who were forever affected by the horrible quality of their water. This you can read all about in a haunting book called by the town name, Toms River.

And the previously mentioned article in the Seattle PI states, “In 1993, during a two-week outbreak of Cryptosporidium in the Milwaukee area, more than 400,000 people became sick with cramps, fever, diarrhea and dehydration. More than 69 people died, according to one study. The outbreak cost $96.2 million — $31.7 million in medical costs and $64.6 million in productivity losses.”

Just how bad does it have to get before something is done to remedy an issue that only seems to be getting worse? Water is an absolute necessity to life, and if we can’t trust that our water is clean, then we’re gambling with our lives. The compilation of all these stories should make it clear that vigilance is the only way to deal with water quality. So, I think that everyone should take a moment to check up on the quality of water in their area. And make sure to put pressure on those in charge if you find anything that seems less than acceptable. It seems to be up to all of us now, so instead of waiting for a water crisis to occur in your area, be proactive and do what you can to keep your water clean. Good luck and let me know what you find.


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