Tap Water Is Probably Bad For You

You are much safer drinking tequila than tap water, in the US that is.

Saying goodbye is harder than it seems

The 35-year-old federal law regulating tap water is so out of date that the water Americans drink can pose what scientists say are serious health risks — and still be legal.

Only 91 contaminants are regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act, yet more than 60,000 chemicals are used within the United States, according to Environmental Protection Agency estimates. Government and independent scientists have scrutinized thousands of those chemicals in recent decades, and identified hundreds associated with a risk of cancer and other diseases at small concentrations in drinking water, according to an analysis of government records by The New York Times.

But not one chemical has been added to the list of those regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act since 2000.

[Click to continue reading Millions Drink Tap Water That Is Legal, but Maybe Not Healthy – Series – NYTimes.com]

It is almost as if the US government doesn’t care about the health of its citizens, only about preserving corporate profits.

South branch of the river

If you are curious about your local water, the New York Times has made their findings public, and searchable.

The 35-year-old federal law regulating tap water is so out of date that the water Americans drink can pose what scientists say are serious health risks — and still be legal. Examine whether contaminants in your water supply met two standards: the legal limits established by the Safe Drinking Water Act, and the typically stricter health guidelines. The data was collected by an advocacy organization, the Environmental Working Group, who shared it with The Times.

[Click to continue reading What’s in Your Water – Interactive Feature – The New York Times]

For instance, Chicago tap water has 5 contaminants above health guidelines:
Alpa particle activity, combined radium, lead, Radium-226 and Radium-228, plus another 16 contaminants that are “within legal limits”1: arsenic, barium, chloroform, and so on. Yumm.

  1. but which should be filtered out, if possible []

Daley Wants to sell Chicago down the river

Ok, headline writing is not my forte, but if Mayor Daley sells Chicago’s fresh water to private corporations, there just might be rioting in the streets.

Blue Moon

Michael Hawthorne writes:

Mayor Richard Daley says any part of city government is up for grabs if the price is right.

But if he is tempted to dangle Chicago’s vast water system as his next lease deal, he might want to first consult Atlanta, which is still smarting from a botched experiment with privatizing a big-city water supply.

Or the mayor could look someplace closer to home, like Bolingbrook, one of dozens of suburbs and downstate communities furious about steep rate increases imposed by a private water operator.

Daley is searching for more jackpots as his administration draws heavily on the money it reaped from leasing parking meters and the Chicago Skyway to ease the city through the recession. The mayor recently told the Tribune editorial board that he has met with consultants who outlined new privatization deals, but he would not provide details.

“Everything is always on the table,” Daley said, though mayoral aides later insisted that nothing immediate is in the works.

If Chicago tried to sell off its water department to a private company, it would be the largest U.S. city to do so. Such a deal also would run counter to movements in dozens of smaller towns across the suburbs and the rest of the nation, where local officials are having second thoughts about private control of public water.

[Click to continue reading Leasing water system could be a risky move for Chicago — chicagotribune.com]

Water Pumping Station tonemapped

One of Chicago’s great assets is its plentiful fresh water. Why give this away for pennies? And what percentage would be pissed away on corrupt consultants/buddies of Daley?

Chicago’s recent parking meter privatization fiasco is still lingering in everyone’s minds, I’d be extremely surprised if Mayor Daley will be able to push through a water program as easily. The public opinion is already strongly opposed to a water boondoggle, if the internet poll currently hosted at the Chicago Tribune is any indication1.

Working the Fire Hydrant

  1. currently 97% opposed []

Toxic Water and Your Government

This is what happens when you let Republicans and Corporatist Democrats control Congress: there are real consequences to real people, and death panels for all of us.

Saying goodbye is harder than it seems

Jennifer Hall-Massey knows not to drink the tap water in her home near Charleston, W.Va. In fact, her entire family tries to avoid any contact with the water. Her youngest son has scabs on his arms, legs and chest where the bathwater — polluted with lead, nickel and other heavy metals — caused painful rashes. Many of his brother’s teeth were capped to replace enamel that was eaten away.

Neighbors apply special lotions after showering because their skin burns. Tests show that their tap water contains arsenic, barium, lead, manganese and other chemicals at concentrations federal regulators say could contribute to cancer and damage the kidneys and nervous system.

“How can we get digital cable and Internet in our homes, but not clean water?” said Mrs. Hall-Massey, a senior accountant at one of the state’s largest banks.

When Mrs. Hall-Massey and 264 neighbors sued nine nearby coal companies, accusing them of putting dangerous waste into local water supplies, their lawyer did not have to look far for evidence. As required by state law, some of the companies had disclosed in reports to regulators that they were pumping into the ground illegal concentrations of chemicals — the same pollutants that flowed from residents’ taps.

But state regulators never fined or punished those companies for breaking those pollution laws.

This pattern is not limited to West Virginia. Almost four decades ago, Congress passed the Clean Water Act to force polluters to disclose the toxins they dump into waterways and to give regulators the power to fine or jail offenders. States have passed pollution statutes of their own. But in recent years, violations of the Clean Water Act have risen steadily across the nation, an extensive review of water pollution records by The New York Times found.

In the last five years alone, chemical factories, manufacturing plants and other workplaces have violated water pollution laws more than half a million times. The violations range from failing to report emissions to dumping toxins at concentrations regulators say might contribute to cancer, birth defects and other illnesses.

[Click to continue reading Toxic Waters – Clean Water Laws Are Neglected, at a Cost in Suffering – Series – NYTimes.com]

If you haven’t read this article, you should. There’s also an interactive chart at the NYT worth browsing. There is no money allocated to investigate polluters so that polluting companies can make slightly more profit. Is it worth it?

500,000 violations in five years – that’s a lot of un-investigated crime. If a person committed this many affronts to society in five years, jail would be in their future. A corporation? Not much of a consequence. I say take away their corporate charters, dissolve the company, sell its assets. If the corporation fulfills a needed role in the economy, new, more law-abiding corporations will take the place of the miscreants.

For a closer look at some of the offenders, check out this chart, sortable by zip code, or city, or state. For instance, in Chicago, in the last five years, there are 146 facilities that have permits to discharge pollutants. Of these, zero have been fined, although some have not had their sites inspected since 1978. Hey, see no evil, right?


Mwrdgc Calumet Wrp 400 East 130th Street, Chicago, Illinois 60628

$0 Total Fines
Total Inspections: 17
Last Inspection: May 10, 1979
Classification: Sewerage Systems

13 Violations

This facility has been out of regulatory compliance 6 of the past 12 quarters.

so, out of compliance more often than not in the last four years, yet hasn’t actually had an on-site inspection2 in more than thirty fracking years. Lovely.

Illinois in general, per the NYT investigation, has 7,304 facilities that are permitted to release some toxic materials into the environment, but of these, again most have not been inspected in many, many years, if ever, despite having thousands of violations cited against these companies. Only three sites have actually had fines levied against them:

Equistar Chemicals, Lp Morris , last inspected – Oct. 4, 1978 – 5 violations fines totaling: $714,200

Mg Industries Mapleton last inspected – Feb. 16, 1995 – 1 violation, fine totaling: $383,501

Kmart Distribution Ctr 8289 Manteno No Information re: last inspection, fine of $102,422

I suspect there is a lot of pollution being released that nobody in the EPA knows about. How about in your state? Aren’t you curious how bad your water is after reading paragraphs like:

In some cases, people got sick right away. In other situations, pollutants like chemicals, inorganic toxins and heavy metals can accumulate in the body for years or decades before they cause problems. Some of the most frequently detected contaminants have been linked to cancer, birth defects and neurological disorders.

Records analyzed by The Times indicate that the Clean Water Act has been violated more than 506,000 times since 2004, by more than 23,000 companies and other facilities, according to reports submitted by polluters themselves. Companies sometimes test what they are dumping only once a quarter, so the actual number of days when they broke the law is often far higher. And some companies illegally avoid reporting their emissions, say officials, so infractions go unrecorded.

Environmental groups say the number of Clean Water Act violations has increased significantly in the last decade. Comprehensive data go back only five years but show that the number of facilities violating the Clean Water Act grew more than 16 percent from 2004 to 2007, the most recent year with complete data.

  1. The EPA database has more complete details if you are interested. []
  2. that the New York Times could find []

Tappening Campaign of Wry Lies Against Bottled Water

I’m amused by, and sympathetic to the Tappening campaign.

Fiji Over Lake Michigan

Can an ad campaign turn bottled water into the new tobacco?

To encourage the public to drink tap water rather than bottled, an environmental group’s ads feature implausible “facts.” The bottled water industry started it, the group says.
Taking a cue from antitobacco campaigns, Tappening, a group opposed to bottled water on environmental grounds, has introduced a campaign called “Lying in Advertising,” that positions bottled water companies as spreading corporate untruths.

One poster claims “Bottled Water Causes Blindness in Puppies,” while another reads “Bottled Water: 98% Melted Ice Caps. 2% Polar Bear Tears.”

“If bottled water companies can lie, we can too,” the posters read.

The “lies” in question here are about the source of bottled water. Eric Yaverbaum, a co-founder of Tappening, charged that some beverage companies did not list the source of their water — and were using only municipal water.

[Click to continue reading Advertising – Tappening Starts a Campaign of Wry Lies Against Bottled Water – NYTimes.com]

Bottled water is multi-billion dollar business, but then so is tobacco. We would all benefit if bottled water became less of a staple of consumer culture: less environmental devastation, less plastic waste, yadda yadda.

I am So Clean

In this campaign, Tappening plans to spend $535,000 on outdoor posters in New York, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Chicago and Miami, along with an online component. The ads suggest viewers go to Tappening.com to find out “the truth” about bottled water, or to StartALie.com to spread an untruth.

Drought Wilts Texas

This doesn’t bode well for my portable water slide business1

Wisconsin countryside

A combination of record-high heat and record-low rainfall has pushed south and central Texas into the region’s deepest drought in a half century, with $3.6 billion of crop and livestock losses piling up during the past nine months.

The heat wave has drastically reduced reservoirs and forced about 230 public water systems to declare mandatory water restrictions. Lower levels in lakes and rivers have been a blow to tourism, too, making summer boating, swimming and fishing activities impossible in some places.

Nearly 80 of Texas’ 254 counties are in “extreme” or “exceptional” drought, the worst possible levels on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s index. Though other states are experiencing drought, no U.S. counties outside Texas currently register worse than “severe.” In late April, the USDA designated 70 Texas counties as primary natural-disaster areas because of drought, above-normal temperatures and associated wildfires.

[Click to continue reading Drought Wilts Texas – WSJ.com]
[non-WSJ subscribers use this link]

Catch Anything?

[The Pedernales River running over limestone formations at Pedernales Falls State Park, west of Austin.]

and in the 21st century Water Wars we often joke about, these sorts of restrictions will only become more dire.

As Texas aquifers and reservoirs dip to record lows, threatening municipal water supplies, the biggest cities — Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio — and 230 others have implemented water restrictions on residents.

San Antonio’s water department is encouraging residents to report neighbors if they catch them violating restrictions, and since April more than 1,500 citations have been issued, said department spokesman Greg Flores.

In Central Texas, Lake Travis and Lake Buchanan are down 55% and 49% in volume, respectively. They provide drinking water to more than a million people, including residents of Austin.

Sunrise Late ride
[Sunrise over Lake Michigan]

Does make me glad to be living so close to such a massive amount of fresh water in the Great Lakes, and not in Texas.

  1. lame joke indeed, but am pressed for time []

Arsenic in Water at EPA Approved Standards Linked to Heart Disease

This is the true legacy of George Bush, Dick Cheney and their evil crew: an Environmental Protection Agency that actively works towards lowering our national health.

Battle for Hearts and Minds

In the U.S., many locations are known to have groundwater containing arsenic concentrations in excess of the new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standard of 10 parts per billion. But now comes research that suggests the EPA’s supposedly “safe” level of arsemic allowed in water supplies for public consumption isn’t safe at all. In fact, water laced with the federally-approved amount of arsenic could be causing high blood pressure and artery-clogging arhterosclerosis.

According to animal research by University of Pittsburgh scientists set to be published in the December issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, and available online now at http://www.jci.org/articles/view/35092, arsenic at EPA-approved levels for drinking water causes pores in liver blood vessels to close, potentially leading to cardiovascular disease and hypertension. This study calls into question whether present Environmental Protection Agency standards (currently based only on the risks of arsenic causing cancer) are stringent enough.

[From Arsenic in Water at EPA Approved Standards Linked to Heart Disease]

Rural (so-called Red States) are prime targets for the death dealers at the EPA:

The current federal standard for arsenic in public water systems not only may be too high, but it only applies to drinking water sources that serve more than 20 people. “We are especially concerned about water from individual wells in small, rural and semi-rural communities that are exempt from the EPA requirement and often contain levels of arsenic that exceed the EPA limit,” Dr. Barchowsky stated in the press release. “Our findings raise some concerns about whether current EPA-developed standards can effectively protect against cardiovascular risks posed by arsenic in drinking water.”

The study is a strong reminder that no one in the U.S. should assume that because their water supply is dubbed “safe” by the EPA that it doesn’t contain not only arsenic but other toxins. For example, most public water supplies are known to contain a host of pharmaceutical and pesticide residues,too. Testing your water or finding a proven system of safe water filtration are the only known ways to make sure you are putting pure water into your body.

Southern Cal is going to be thirsty

Ru-oh. The water wars are getting closer. Better make those visits to Southern California sooner than later.

Listen to the Ice

As signals of climate change begin to come into focus in the Sierra Nevada, its melting glaciers spell trouble in bold font. Not only are they in-your-face barometers of global warming, they also reflect what scientists are beginning to uncover: that the Sierra snowpack – the source of 65 percent of California’s water – is dwindling, too.

More of the Sierra’s precipitation is falling as rain instead of snow, studies show, and the snow that blankets the range in winter is running off earlier in the spring. And snow in the Sierra touches everything. Take it away and droughts deepen, ski areas go bust and fire seasons rage longer.

Some glaciers already have melted away, including the first Sierra glacier discovered in Yosemite by John Muir in 1871. Today, the remaining 100 or so are withering, including Lyell, the second-largest, which could be gone inside a century.

“All across the Sierra, glaciers are transitioning into ice patches. Ice patches are transitioning to snow fields. And snow fields are transitioning into bedrock,” said Greg Stock, a geologist with Yosemite National Park who joined Devine last month on an annual survey of the Lyell glacier.

While this is not the first time glaciers have receded across the Sierra Nevada – they last did so about 20,000 years ago – this meltdown is more ominous, Stock said, because scientists increasingly believe it is sparked not by natural forces but by rising carbon dioxide levels from the burning of fossil fuels.

“We have entered new terrain with what’s going on in the atmosphere,” he said. “We haven’t seen anything like this in tens of millions of years.”

[From Yosemite glacier on thin ice – Sacramento News – Local and Breaking Sacramento News | Sacramento Bee]

(H/T Cooky Jill over at skippy’s place.)