Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Mining and fracking bring jobs but may pollute drinking water; national tap water database has local data

Streams and rivers in Appalachia must be protected to assure clean water for residents, but it's a tricky issue: "The same extractive and chemical industries that bring much-needed jobs and investment into this historically under-employed and over-exploited region also often carry with them environmental risks that materialize into illness and pollution, the causes of which are not only hard to fix, but often difficult to detect, or prove liability of in court," Jan Pytalski reports for West Virginia Public Broadcasting.

Meanwhile, some Appalachian communities have discolored, polluted, or entirely absent tap water because of the very companies that bring jobs to the area. Lack of regulatory enforcement may contribute to that. "In recent years, the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit based in Washington, D.C., published a report that demonstrated a decades-long lack of enforcement on the part of the regulators and revealed that the agency’s 'safety levels' might be misaligned to the real-world environmental damage they cause, meaning that in light of the latest research the levels once deemed safe may, in fact, be harmful," Pytalski reports.

But even when safe levels for contaminants are known, it's still difficult to prove that mining and fracking operations are responsible for area health problems.

It's a complicated issue, but EWG has created a searchable Tap Water Database that makes it possible to check the water quality for every zip code in the U.S.

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