63 Million Americans Exposed To Unsafe Drinking Water

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A study has found that 63 million Americans -- nearly one in five -- have been exposed to potentially unsafe drinking water at some point over the past decade.

The areas of the country affected range from New York City to small, rural towns in Texas, California, and Oklahoma, according to USA Today.

The main causes for the contaminated water were identified as industrial pollution, farming pollution, and the deterioration of water pipes, many of which were constructed in the mid-20th century.

"We're in this really stupid situation where, because of neglect of the infrastructure, we're spending our scarce resources on putting our fingers in the dike, if you will, taking care of these emergencies, but we're not doing anything to think about the future in terms of what we should be doing," Jeffrey Griffiths, a former member of the EPA's Drinking Water Committee, told USA Today.

In Brady, Texas, radium has poisoned the water supply for the community, which is home to around 5,400 residents.

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"Sometimes it's orange, sometimes it's green, sometimes it's brown," said Melissa Regeon, a Brady resident. "You just never know. It looks horrible."

The community is attempting to obtain state funding to decontaminate the supply, but like many small communities across the country, it is having difficulties obtaining the funds.

"If we don't get it this time and the state doesn't reauthorize that program, I don't know what we'll do," added Amy Greer, a farmer. "I really want our state legislators to know how terrible it is that they are not renewing a program that will help small rural communities face and tackle these kind of massive health and safety problems, and I'm just ashamed of them."

In some small towns in West Virginia, many residents can no longer afford to pay for water systems to be checked.

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"What is pretty clear is that a lot of these small communities, especially in low-income areas, have a real problem ensuring compliance or even treating the water," added Erik Olson of the National Resources Defense Council.

Violations of EPA safety standards have also occurred in large cities, including New York, which has had two violations over the past decade.

Smaller cities, such as Flint, Michigan, have experienced their own problems. Flint's water supply was contaminated by lead, which can have severe effects on childhood development.

The EPA acknowledged that it has "continued and significant concerns" that not enough people are employed to work on Flint's water system. The regulator has ordered the city to come up with a plan "to ensure … the necessary, capable and qualified personnel" are hired, MLive reported.

Despite these many problems, the EPA is maintaining a positive tone.

"America's drinking water remains among the safest in the world and protecting drinking water is EPA's top priority," said a statement from an EPA spokesperson, according to USA Today. "More than 90 percent of the country's drinking water systems meet all of EPA's health-based drinking water standards every day throughout the year."

Sources: USA Today, MLive / Featured Image: Gage Skidmore/Flickr via Wikimedia Commons / Embedded Images: Pete Souza/Whitehouse.gov via Wikimedia Commons, The White House/Flickr via Wikimedia Commons

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