Un­safe water still is a prob­lem for mil­lions

USA TODAY International Edition - - FRONT PAGE - Doyle Rice

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.

MICHAEL M. SAN­TI­AGO/NEW21

Con­tam­i­nated water runs to­ward the Grand Calumet River and Lake Michi­gan.

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