Drinking water quality is an issue that does not usually get a lot of attention, which is pretty astounding considering the fact that clean water is one of life’s basic necessities. However, the drinking water crisis taking place in Flint, Michigan, has brought this issue to light as concerns mount over plans by the Trump administration to roll back water protections.
In fact, a new Gallup poll shows that 63 percent of people now say that they worry “a great deal” about drinking water pollution; this figure stood at 55 percent just two years ago. Meanwhile, 57 percent of those polled said they are also concerned about the pollution of bodies of water like lakes, rivers and reservoirs. This number exceeds that of those who say they are concerned about environmental issues like climate change, plant and animal extinction, air pollution, and tropical rainforest loss. This marks the highest levels of concern for water pollution to be noted in the yearly Gallup environmental poll since 2011.
The random poll, which was carried out in the beginning of March and involved more than 1,000 adults, also revealed that those with lower incomes were more concerned about water pollution than their affluent counterparts. Three-fourths of those earning less than $30,000 per year said they were worried about the issue, while only 56 percent of those earning $75,000 or more annually worried about it. Fifty-six percent of white respondents were concerned about the matter, while 80 percent of non-white respondents expressed such concern.
Much of nation’s drinking water unsafe
Americans are right to be concerned about drinking water quality, as the problem extends far beyond Flint. A 2016 study from Harvard found that chemicals known as PFASs exceeded the recommended levels for safety in the public supply of drinking water for 6 million Americans. The researchers cautioned that the actual numbers could be even higher because data was lacking for around a third of the population. These chemicals have been linked to cancer, obesity, and hormone disruption, and drinking water is the main route of exposure. PFASs are found in pots, clothing and food wrappers, among other items.
Meanwhile, a recent review by the Environmental Working Group found that three-fourths of our nation’s drinking water is contaminated with the carcinogen hexavalent chromium, putting more than 200 million Americans at risk. Recent tests by CWC Labs found that all but two of 100 samples of potable water taken from municipal water supplies throughout the country had toxic heavy metal concentrations, while two exceeded EPA limits for lead. Cities like New York, Chicago and Pittsburgh are all grappling with high levels of lead in drinking water; one Brooklyn elementary school was recently found to have a water fountain with 1,000 times the maximum level of lead allowed by federal safety regulations.
At the same time, the Trump administration is proposing cuts for water initiatives, like the proposed elimination of a USDA water and wastewater program that provides loans and grants to help struggling water utilities in rural areas improve their infrastructure.
Michigan announced this week that it will spend $87 million replacing the contaminated water pipes in Flint, but this will not be completed until 2020. Many people throughout the nation are installing their own water filtration systems because they do not trust their local water supplies, but not everyone can afford such a solution, which is why more needs to be done to ensure that everyone has access to this basic necessity.