Wednesday, December 09, 2009

1 in 5 water systems violated rules in last 5 years; almost all serve fewer than 10,000 people

More than 20 percent of the nation’s water treatment systems have violated key provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act over the last five years, The New York Times reports. "Since 2004, the water provided to more than 49 million people has contained illegal concentrations of chemicals like arsenic or radioactive substances like uranium, as well as dangerous bacteria often found in sewage," Charles Duhigg writes. The majority of drinking-water violations since 2004 have occurred at water systems serving fewer than 20,000 residents. Look them up here.

Duhigg reports that fewer than six percent of the water systems that broke the law were ever fined or punished by state or federal officials. In many instances, contaminations were one-time events and posed little risk to public health, but hundreds of other contaminations persisted for years, he writes. The Times "compiled and analyzed millions of records from water systems and regulators around the nation, as part of a series of articles about worsening pollution in American waters, and regulators’ response."

Environmental Protection Agency officials said Tuesday they plan to focus financial and technical assistance on water systems that serve fewer than 10,000 people, in which 96 percent of all health-based drinking water violations occur, Trayn Lutz of Greenwire reports for the Times. The new plan was met with grumbling from lawmakers about a shortage of details. Not everyone beleives new regulations will have much power. "The same people who told us to ignore Safe Drinking Water Act violations are still running the divisions," one mid-level EPA official told Duhigg. "There’s no accountability, and so nothing’s going to change." (Read more)

No comments: