Analies Dyjak, MA | Policy Nerd
Most news cycles have been dominated by the upcoming election, leaving little room for information regarding drinking water. A lot has happened in recent months that may directly impact the quality of the drinking water flowing through your taps. This article will go over 5 things that things that our team of water nerds are keeping a very close eye on.
1. Cuts and Rollbacks to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
NEPA requires federal agencies to be transparent about potential environmental impacts from government projects. The particular rollbacks indirectly affect drinking water by speeding up projects without proper environmental review. On Friday August 28, 2020, 21 states sued the Trump Administration for failing to provide proper justification for these NEPA rollbacks. It’s important to point out that NEPA is primarily controlled by the Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), rather than the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). NEPA has most famously sidelined the Dakota Access Pipelines, which would have threatened drinking water for various Native American Tribes in The Dakotas, Iowa, and Illinois.
2. Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) Are Still Not Federally Regulated.
PFAS are a category of harmful contaminants that are known to cause various health effects, including: an increased risk of cancer, increased cholesterol, lowered fertility rates, and an increased risk of miscarriage in pregnant women. The first recommended public health standards for PFAS were set over eleven years ago in 2009. Public health standards are non-enforceable, and therefore municipal water systems are not required to follow them. States like New York, Michigan, and New Jersey have set their own state standards that are beginning to be implemented. A national standard would provide proper risk communication and foster trust between state regulatory agencies. This is especially true for neighboring states that share the same drinking water aquifer.
3. First Significant Updates to the Lead and Copper Rule Since 1991.
The Lead and Copper Rule is the rule that controls the amount of allowable lead in tap water. The rule established an “Action Level” of 15 parts per billion, which is 15 times higher than what most health organizations say is safe. 90% of water samples in each public system must have a lead concentration at or below 15 parts per billion. 10% of samples can be well above 15 parts per billion, and the system can still be "in compliance" with the Lead and Copper Rule. The 15 part per billion Action Level was established in 1991, and no longer reflects current public health information regarding exposure to lead in drinking water. The American Academy of Pediatrics has determined that there is no safe level of lead for children in drinking water.
4. Legionnaires Detected in Schools Across the Country.
Schools in Ohio and Pennsylvania detected Legionella in faucets and drinking water fountains last week. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a warning in May, stating that the occurrence of Legionella may increase due to prolonged building closures. The CDC even offered an 8 steps protocol that schools should take before allowing children back into the classroom. The reality is that many schools do not have the type of funding required to properly flush pipes or test for Legionella in water. If you’re a parent or are concerned about Legionnaires Disease in school tap water, contact your school department to see if they are following CDC’s recommended guidelines.
5. Michigan To Pay $600 Million To Flint Residents.
99,000 people were exposed to unsafe levels of lead after city officials switched Flints’ source water and failed to add a proper corrosion control inhibitor. The $600 Million settlement took approximately 18 months, and will largely prioritize individuals who were children at the time of exposure. One of the largest red flags is that the amount of compensation available to each Flint resident is entirely dependent on how many people file claims, and where all of the money ends up.Other Articles We Think You Might Enjoy:
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