Columns, Opinion

American Protest: Clean drinking water should be a guaranteed right for all Americans

Many people who grow up in the U.S. consider access to clean drinking water an inherited right every American has available to them thanks to government regulation. Most people do not get a drink from their kitchen sink and wonder if it is safe to consume, because water from your sink is assumed to be completely safe.


But that is not the case for more and more Americans, as headlines seemed to be dominated by a new city every week that has been consuming contaminated drinking water unknowingly.


Most recently, California has been in the news because the Environmental Working Group found that chemicals used for carpets and anti-stain products have been found in water sources for 7.5 million people in the Sacramento area.


These chemicals are called PFAS and they have been linked to causing cancer in the past. Data from state and federal regulators show that there were variants of PFAS from 2013-2019, and more than 40 percent of these systems had one sample with levels that were higher than the health advisory level set by the Environmental Protection Agency.


There are people in California who have been consuming contaminated water since 2013, some with levels high enough to pose serious health risks. These regulations set in place by the EPA are to protect American’s health when it comes to something they need every day to survive, so why are they not being followed?


This is not an isolated incident when it comes to water quality in this country. Flint, Michigan, Pittsburgh and Newark, New Jersey have had their fair share of water inequality as well.


Flint’s water crisis was due to government cutting corners when it came to the use of a new water source for the town from the Flint River. Their lack of preparation and spending led to the corrosion of the old lead pipes.


While many residents are using filters now, which are free, the old pipes have still not been replaced and Flint still has a fair amount of work to do and money to spend before citizens can be completely secure in their water quality.


This scenario played out similarly in Newark, where the city was aware of high lead levels in people’s homes since 2016 but did not act on it until they were faced by a lawsuit. Many residents of Newark had been consuming high levels of lead for months with no idea.


In Pittsburgh, the attorney general filed 161 misdemeanor counts against the Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority. They failed to let residents know they were replacing water lines and also failed to test these water lines for lead, both of which violate the state’s safe drinking water law. This all happened after multiple instances where the water was deemed unsafe to drink due to high lead levels.


The EPA states that there are no safe levels of lead to consume, especially for children because even just a low dosage can have devastating effects on a child. These effects include damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems, learning disabilities and impaired formation and function of blood cells.  


These types of crises are violating the people they affect. Something as simple and expected as clean water was taken away from them and in the process, their health and their children’s health were put in danger.


Old lead pipes need to be replaced. Minority groups and urban areas are disproportionately affected by this and it sends a message that they do not have the same right to clean drinking water as other Americans do.


No one should have to wonder if they can drink the water coming from their own sink, especially when they are supposed to be protected from these dangerous situations by very important regulations. These water companies cannot be allowed to continue putting lives at risk.


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