August Is National Water Quality Month

It’s now more than four years after the Flint, Michigan water crisis started. Where are we on the whole water quality thing?

One thing I know for sure is that the quality of water coming out of taps in American homes is not very good.

What’s more difficult to put a finger on is “why.” Is it because the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is not diligent enough in regulating water quality?

Or is it because standards the EPA has set for water quality are not strong enough? I’m afraid the answer is… both.

How Can You Improve Your Water Quality?

This subject is top of mind right now because August is National Water Quality Month.

It’s a month designated for individuals and municipalities to consider what they can do to improve the water quality from our faucets.

Below I’ve listed a number of things we can each do at our individual homes to help with this situation.

But first I want to discuss the “why” behind the water quality problems in this country.

A ‘Health Hazard of Enduring Significance’

Back in the 1990s, the U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development traveled through all 50 states.

He observed many problems with the country’s infrastructure. But one that stood out to him was the lack of clean drinking water in many areas.

“One of the most consistent and distressing problems I saw first-hand was the inadequacy of water infrastructure throughout the country,” said Henry Cisneros.

A report from the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of Iowa backed up his concerns. Part of it read, “Our aging water infrastructure, particularly lead pipes, solder and faucets, represents a community health hazard of enduring significance.”

It’s a Deadly Problem

Water quality is a very big deal. More than 3.4 million people die annually worldwide because of water supply, sanitation and hygiene issues. Those issues lead to diseases, infections and malnutrition.

America is not exempt from these problems. A recent study analyzed water systems in 100 major U.S. cities.

More than 300 pollutants in the water supplied to over 250 million Americans were found. Contaminants include arsenic, lead and even perchlorate, a main ingredient in rocket fuel.

In places such as Flint and Sebring, Ohio, levels of lead in drinking water were very high. Officials believe there will be long-term health problems for children who were drinking it.

EPA Admits Management Errors

Two and a half years after the Flint water crisis became big news, the EPA’s inspector general said this. The agency should have acted more aggressively to protect Flint residents.

A recent report from his office spelled it out. It stated that management weaknesses stymied the agency’s response to the contaminants in Flint’s water.

The report also revealed that federal officials should have taken stronger action to correct repeated mistakes by state regulators.

A Flint city council member said he’s pleased with progress that has been made recently. But he also acknowledged that he still only drinks bottled water.

What Contaminant Levels Are Safe?

As far as the levels of contaminants considered “safe” by the EPA are concerned, there’s reason to believe those standards are flawed.

The EPA tells us that .04 parts per billion of perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is safe. But researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Massachusetts-Lowell say the drinking water standard should be as low as 0.001 parts per billion.

That’s 40 times lower than a New Jersey standard. And 400 times lower than the current federal advisory standard. That’s a huge difference.

And if that’s the case for PFOA, it’s likely the case for many other contaminants that have infiltrated our drinking water.

8 Ways to Help

We can all help to improve water conditions in our area. Here are some ways you can take part in National Water Quality Month:

  • Don’t use antibacterial soaps or cleaning products. Regular soap and water will do the trick. Much of the antibacterial soaps contain a registered pesticide known to harm marine life.
  • Don’t flush unwanted or out-of-date medications down the toilet or wash them down the drain.
  • Don’t put anything but water down storm drains because they carry water to local waterways.
  • Fix leaks that drop from cars and put liners in driveways to collect oil and other materials.
  • Avoid using pesticides and chemical fertilizers.
  • Choose non-toxic household products when possible.
  • Pick up after pets.
  • Don’t pave properties.
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