The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for ensuring public water supplies within the United States are safe. And as one of his first executive orders, incoming president Trump promised “crystal clear, clean drinking water.”
But the EPA just took an action which would negatively impact the drinking water of more than one-third of all people in the U.S. On June 27th, 2017, the EPA moved to repeal the Clean Water Rule, which was established to protect streams from industrial and agricultural pollution.
If the Clean Water Rule is abolished, 60% of the streams in the lower 48 states would lose pollution protection, and countless wetlands could lose protection as well.
According to an analysis by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), about 117 million people get at least some of their drinking water from streams.
The Clean Water Rule was the result of more than 400 meetings with stakeholders and a review of more than 1 million public comments. But ever since it was enacted, industry and agribusiness corporations have been pushing to roll back the rule so that it would only protect the biggest streams and rivers. And now, it looks like they could be getting what they want.
According to EWG senior vice president of government affairs, Scott Faber:
“With the rollback of the Clean Water Rule, Scott Pruitt and President Trump are poised to let industry and agriculture treat much of the nation’s drinking water supply like an ashtray, instead of a vital natural resource every single American relies on.”
Concern about unsafe drinking water is high and for good reason
Unfortunately, the anticipated repeal of the Clean Water Rule is only one issue when it comes to the concern for safe drinking water in the U.S. Most Americans are worried about the pollution of drinking water — more worried than any time in the last 17 years, according to a Gallup survey. And, while it’s generally considered safe to drink tap water in America (unlike some areas of the world where boiling water is required), there’s a lot of reason for concern.
Dramatic cuts to the EPA are anticipated, and this could mean even more people will be drinking polluted water. According to Erik Olson, Health Program Director at the Natural Resources Defense Council, America is facing a nationwide drinking water crisis. He says:
“We take it for granted that when we turn on our kitchen tap, the water will be safe and healthy, but we have a long way to go before that is reality across our country.”
Here are a few of the contaminants that are currently found in the drinking water in the U.S.:
- Lead. Think the problem of lead in drinking water is only in Flint, Michigan? Hardly. According to EPA’s own records, an estimated 20% of the water systems in the U.S. have been found to have unsafe lead levels.
- Chromium-6. This cancer-causing chemical was made famous in the movie Erin Brockovich, but 17 years later, this dangerous chemical is still contaminating the water supplies of more than 75% of all Americans.
- Polyfluoroalkyl and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs). These industrials chemicals are linked with cancer, hormone disruption, and other health problems. A Harvard study found PFASs in the drinking water of 33 states, affecting 6 million Americans.
- Pharmaceuticals. Drug residues, including antibiotics, antidepressants, hormones from birth control pills, and painkillers, have been found in tap water. An Associated Press report says that the drinking water of 41 million Americans is contaminated with trace amounts of pharmaceuticals.
- Chlorine. Chlorine is added to municipal water supplies to kill dangerous pathogens, and it works well. But if it’s not filtered out, we drink it in our water. Many studies have linked chlorine to certain types of cancer, as well as to asthma, eczema, heart disease and higher miscarriage and birth defect rates. Growing evidence also shows that chlorine damages our microbiome, which is essential to digestive and overall health. Further, the presence of chlorine in water virtually guarantees that nasty and carcinogenic compounds called trihalomethanes will also be present.
- Fluoride. Fluoride is added to municipal water supplies to reduce tooth decay, but there is a lot of concern that fluoride impacts a lot more than our teeth. A safety review by the National Academy of Sciences concluded that fluoride was an endocrine disruptor and can affect many organs and systems in the body, including the bones, the brain, the thyroid gland, the pineal gland, and even blood sugar levels.
How to tell if your drinking water is safe
After hearing about all these problems associated with drinking water, you’re probably wondering about your own tap water. Is it safe? How can you find out?
If you’re connected to a municipal water system, one way you can check your water safety is by getting your annual water quality report from your water utility company. Every year, your water agency is required by the EPA to provide a Consumer Confidence Report, or CCR, that details any contaminants that may be present in your water and alerts you to any health risks.
Every water agency must supply this report to customers by July 1 each year. You should get the report with your bill, or if you pay online, you should get an announcement to download the report as a PDF. You can also try going directly to your water company’s website. You may find this tool from the EPA useful in finding your Consumer Confidence Report.
If you get your water from a private well, it’s up to you to make sure your water is safe. You can contact your local health department and ask if they will test your private well water for free. Or you can get it tested by a certified water testing lab. Testing every year is generally recommended.
No matter where your drinking water comes from, the best way to find out about the quality is to test it. Do-it-yourself water testing kits can be found in some stores and online, but they can be unreliable and can’t test for everything.
That’s why using a certified testing lab is often the only way to get an accurate assessment of your water quality. To find a certified water testing lab in your state, use this tool from the EPA. These laboratories can test for single chemicals or for a range of chemicals. You can also call the EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 1-800-426-4791 to ask for water testing labs in your area. Unfortunately, inclusive water tests are not cheap. You can expect to pay anywhere from $15 for a single contaminant up to $500 for more comprehensive testing.
How to know your water is safe
The sober reality is that testing your own water can be costly. But if you purify your water at the user level, it may not be necessary. The right water filtration system can protect you from lead, chromium 6, fluoride, chlorine, pharmaceuticals, and many, many other contaminants.
The best solution for you will depend in part on your location, the quality of your existing water supply, your financial resources, and your countertop space. But drinking lots of good healthy water provides health benefits that are proven and substantial. And it all starts with having an abundant supply of good-tasting water you can trust.
At the Food Revolution Network, we’ve analyzed the most common types of water filtration systems available. Our top pick, which we consider to provide the best value for the money, is the AquaTru countertop reverse osmosis unit.
Our research found that the AquaTru delivers excellent water quality and flavor, and in fact provides water that is safer than far more expensive units can offer. It slashes the cost of purchase, requires no installation fees, and has extremely minimal maintenance costs. You can find out more about it here. What’s more, if you get an Aqua Tru from this link, you’ll receive a discount that’s offered to Food Revolution Network members.
(Full disclosure: Aqua Tru will also make a contribution in support of our work for healthy food, healthy people, and a healthy planet.)
Some people, hearing about dangers to our water supply, start drinking bottled water. But that’s really no answer at all – because there’s no guarantee that it’s any safer – and there is a guarantee that it’s costly. As well, the water may have been sitting in plastic for a long time. (For more on the hazards of bottled water, click here.)
Access to a reliable supply of clean, safe water should be a basic right for everyone. But the truth is that you can’t count on the EPA to ensure that your water is clean and unpolluted. Nor can you rely on corporations or municipal water districts to ensure your safety. That’s why you need to take responsibility for safe water into your own hands.
The health of you and your family may depend on it.