Most of America’s drinking water is sourced from fresh surface waters or groundwater aquifers. Moreover, public drinking water should comply with the Environment Protection Act (EPA) and follow the Primary Standards. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that America has the cleanest and safest water supply in the world. However, drinking water quality in America is deteriorating day by day. Every year there is news about water quality issues. 

For example, the Camp Lejeune water contamination in North Carolina truly shocked the country. Even though President Biden passed a Justice Act, the damage was done and thousands of veterans developed health issues. 

Furthermore, a 2021 study by the Guardian showed alarming levels of arsenic, lead, and forever chemicals in tap water across the country. They also found a condo in Connecticut having lead contamination that is double the legal level. This blog will discuss the state of water contamination in America.

Water Water, Everywhere, but Not a Drop to Drink

About 1/3rd of the American population drink from their kitchen taps. You have probably filled up your glass from your faucet and drank it without worrying about contaminants. That is what the residents and workers of Camp Lejeune did between 1953 and 1987.  

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) like dry cleaning solvents, degreasers, and seventy other chemicals had seeped into two water treatment plants. The veterans and their families trusted the government and went by their daily lives normally. 

Little did they know, almost 30 years later, they would develop cancer and other chronic diseases. According to TorHoerman Law, over 900 personal injury lawsuits were filed against the government on the pretext of gaining compensation. 

Today, this marine corps base has two shut-down treatment plants and the water is safe from forever chemicals. The recent Camp Lejeune lawsuit update states an estimated compensation of USD 6.7 billion. 

Another example of lawsuits filed for water contamination includes DuPont and Chemours West Virginia PFOA contamination. There was a USD 670 million settlement. 

These instances have proved that tap water in America is not as safe and potable as the government claims. Moreover, studies conducted by the Environment Working Group (EWG) revealed that the majority of drinking water contains forever chemicals. 

The same study by the Guardian stated more than 35% of the 120 water samples from across the country contained these chemicals. Similarly, 8% of those samples had arsenic and 118 of them contained lead. If ingested, these elements will potentially cause life-threatening health issues. 

What Contaminates American Waters?

According to Spring Well Water, Washington, California, Arizona, Florida, and New Jersey have the worst tap water in the country. The Scientific American states that almost 600 harmful forever chemicals or Per-and Polyfluorinated Substances (PFAS) are used in various American industries. Examples include cookware, cleaning, firefighting foam, dental floss, and more. 

These chemicals take hundreds and thousands of years to break down due to their carbon-fluorine bond. Due to its widespread use, disposal, and release over the last 50 years, you will find PFAS everywhere. 

Hence, it contaminates the soil, atmosphere, oceans, and surface water. These can cause thyroid, liver damage, ulcerative colitis, hypertension, immune dysfunction, cancer, and more. Even the CDC agrees that unsafe levels of harmful chemicals contaminate public drinking water. 

As a result, young children, older adults, pregnant women, infants, and people with weak immune systems fall sick. Other sources of water contaminants include the following: 

  • Unsafe disposal of agricultural pesticides, industrial solvents, heavy metals, and petroleum products 
  • Waste from septic and sewage systems carries microbes like E. Coli, Giardia, and Cryptosporidium
  • Water treatment byproducts like trihalomethanes and corrosion in copper or lead plumbing 

Furthermore, some groundwater can naturally pick up arsenic, radionuclides, and heavy metals that are detrimental to your health. 

Water Contamination Effects on Human Body 

Chemically contaminated water can lead you to develop skin discoloration, organ damage, reproductive issues, and other chronic diseases like cancer. You can develop life-threatening waterborne diseases if you ingest water with disease-causing microbes. Examples include typhoid and cholera. 

Moreover, bacteria, viruses, and parasites from these waters can cause vomiting, stomach pain, headaches, kidney failure, fever, and diarrhea. Older adults and infants can also get infectious diseases like hepatitis. 

According to the EPA, unsafe levels of contaminants can cause issues to the nervous system and gastrointestinal diseases, as well. However, factors like duration of exposure, susceptibility, concentration, and the amount consumed determine these effects. 

The Way Forward

Water contamination has become an issue embedded in American culture. Incidents like Camp Lejeune water contamination, the Flint water crisis, and the Deepwater Horizon oil spills have all contributed to this. 

The government is doing its best to avoid this crisis, but chemicals and microbes seem to find their way into fresh drinking water. According to the EPA, you can help the government secure and protect source water. 

For example, you can learn about Water Protection Acts. Then, you can find the drinking water source, dispose of harmful materials properly, avoid using chemicals in your gardens, etc. Volunteering to clean up beaches, streams, and other places near water bodies will also help.