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EPA Lets Millions Drink Unhealthy Water

From an unfazed New York Times:

That Tap Water Is Legal but May Be Unhealthy


December 16, 2009

The 35-year-old federal law regulating tap water is so out of date that the water Americans drink can pose what scientists say are serious health risks — and still be legal.

Only 91 contaminants are regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act, yet more than 60,000 chemicals are used within the United States, according to Environmental Protection Agency estimates. Government and independent scientists have scrutinized thousands of those chemicals in recent decades, and identified hundreds associated with a risk of cancer and other diseases at small concentrations in drinking water, according to an analysis of government records by The New York Times.

But not one chemical has been added to the list of those regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act since 2000.

Other recent studies have found that even some chemicals regulated by that law pose risks at much smaller concentrations than previously known. However, many of the act’s standards for those chemicals have not been updated since the 1980s, and some remain essentially unchanged since the law was passed in 1974.

All told, more than 62 million Americans have been exposed since 2004 to drinking water that did not meet at least one commonly used government health guideline intended to help protect people from cancer or serious disease, according to an analysis by The Times of more than 19 million drinking-water test results from the District of Columbia and the 45 states that made data available.

In some cases, people have been exposed for years to water that did not meet those guidelines.

But because such guidelines were never incorporated into the Safe Drinking Water Act, the vast majority of that water never violated the law.

Some officials overseeing local water systems have tried to go above and beyond what is legally required. But they have encountered resistance, sometimes from the very residents they are trying to protect, who say that if their water is legal it must be safe

The Safe Drinking Water Act was passed in 1974 after tests discovered carcinogens, lead and dangerous bacteria flowing from faucets in New Orleans, Pittsburgh and Boston and elsewhere.

At the time, so little was known about the chemicals in American waters that the law required local systems to monitor only 20 substances. (Private wells are not regulated by the act.)

Over the next two decades, researchers at the E.P.A. began testing hundreds of chemicals, and Congress passed amendments strengthening the act. Eventually, the list of regulated substances increased to 91.

In 2000, the list stopped growing. Since then, the rate at which companies and other workplaces have dumped pollutants into lakes and rivers has significantly accelerated, according to an earlier analysis by The Times of the Clean Water Act.

Government scientists have evaluated 830 of the contaminants most often found in water supplies, according to a review of records from the E.P.A. and the United States Geological Survey. They have determined that many of them are associated with cancer or other diseases, even at small concentrations.

Yet almost none of those assessments have been incorporated into the Safe Drinking Water Act or other federal laws

“We need action,” said Senator Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat and chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, which oversees the Safe Drinking Water Act. “E.P.A. has the authority to set new standards, but it wasn’t used over the last eight years. There are people at risk.” …

This is a typically meandering and hellaciously long New York Times article.

But suffice it to say, it begs the question: why isn’t the EPA monitoring our water supply — instead taking on controlling our carbon dioxide emissions?

Again, isn’t that its day job?

This article was posted by Steve on Friday, December 18th, 2009. Comments are currently closed.

7 Responses to “EPA Lets Millions Drink Unhealthy Water”

  1. Right of the People says:

    There’s no money to be made in doing their job not like poking their noses in where they don’t belong with this CO2 kerfluffle.

  2. canary says:

    I am not exaggerating. The EPA only get up from their chair when its time to clock out and go home.

  3. BillK says:

    The EPA is crazy on this, mostly because the cost to water districts of eliminating some of these trace amounts of chemicals is horrific, with scientists theorizing that they make a difference. No proof. Sound familiar? Yep, exactly like Global Warming.

    The problem is, many small towns could not afford to make suggested changes, so their water utilities will simply shut down, forcing customers to go back to using possibly contaminated wells. That’s not good, either.

  4. Liberals Demise says:

    Why bother?
    Their glass is half empty. That is why CO2 is their main squeeze (money wise) right now.

  5. Reality Bytes says:

    I never drink water because of the disgusting things that fish do in it. – WC Fields

  6. moen faucets says:

    And this is why I only drink bottled water, or tap water that has gone through a filter (not to mention regular tap water is usually gross-tasting).

  7. proreason says:

    Sounds like a crisis.

    It’s going to take some additional government power and a lot of tax dollars to solve this one.

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