According to a report recently made available by the environmental activist group, Natural Resources Defense Council, more than 75 million Americans were consuming contaminated water that had been dispensed by their local municipal water systems. The contaminated water in question was found to contain elevated levels of lead and copper – both of which are capable of causing serious health problems when consumed.
As budget cuts led to the development of a proposal to eliminate spending for programs designed to protect community drinking water, the risk placed on small communities in need of replacement of outdated and deteriorating water systems continues to increase. The threat of this new reality is most prevalent in rural communities, as records show that it is the small, rural communities that encounter the most violations and highest levels of contamination. The disproportion in water quality is largely due to lack of financial resources and technological availability – the problem is expected to continue to worsen as budget cuts begin to be implemented.
Contaminants like lead, copper, arsenic, and certain bacteria pose a substantial risk to the water systems, water quality, and the health of the public. Sadly, nearly two million American people have lived in communities where they were unknowingly exposed to a highly-contaminated water supply, where regulations were insufficient and poorly enforced. Many of these communities were small – maintaining consistency of the claim that small communities remain most at risk. In fact, well over half of the water quality violations and health-related claims reported took place within these smaller, neglected communities.
At the heart of the matter is the consistently lacking financial resources. Smaller communities simply cannot afford the equipment and maintenance necessary to adhere to the regulations that have been put into place in an effort to maintain consistency and accountability of water quality. Thankfully, the NRDC continues to advocate for the right of all communities to have access to clean water, free of harmful contaminants.
As published in their report, the NRDC asserts that an increase in funding is not only suggested but necessary in order to establish a safe supply of drinking water for the population and better the economy. Explaining that the proposal would create jobs and make meeting regulations attainable, the system would create and uphold a higher standard of purity as a target goal created on the foundation laid by the Safe Water Drinking Act of 1974 – legislation that was responsible for establishing the monitoring of drinking water in regards to a set of standards for protecting the health of the community.
In order to secure a truly safe supply of drinking water, officials must take into consideration the health of the communities and prioritize the updating of aging water systems, the enforcement of water quality standards, and ensure that future funding for maintenance is available to maintain the highest quality drinking water – and the EPA is working to do just that as they continue to persevere towards their goal.