Unsafe water still is a problem for millions
The problem of contaminated drinking water extends far beyond Flint, Mich. A study found tens of millions of Americans could be exposed to unsafe drinking water in any given year, consuming a wide spectrum of contaminants, including fecal coliform, lead and arsenic.
In 2015, nearly 21 million people relied on community water systems that violated health-based quality standards, according to the study, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
The research, led by Maura Allaire at the University of California-Irvine, looked at 17,900 community water systems from 1982 to 2015.
Drinking water contaminants can cause illnesses such as gastroenteritis, as well as chronic conditions including cancer and neurological disorders.
“We felt in the aftermath of the Flint lead crisis, there was an urgent need to assess the current state of drinking water in the U.S.,” Allaire said.
The authors wrote that water quality was particularly poor in Oklahoma, Texas and Idaho. Violations were more frequent in rural areas than in urban areas, and low-income, rural areas were hit hardest.
Contaminated water runs toward the Grand Calumet River and Lake Michigan.