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Investigative report surfaces drinking water pollution throughout the country

Why Your Water Could Be Worse Than Flint’s Our nation’s water crisis requires radical solutions, by Laura Orlando

“Most municipal water departments in the United States work very hard to keep the water coming out of the tap as safe as possible, but they do not have the authority or money to change pipes and fixtures or stop the more than 23 billion pounds of toxic chemicals generated annually by U.S. industry from entering their water supplies. Flint residents knew there was a serious problem with their water when it came out of the tap brown and foul-smelling after the city of Flint changed its source from Lake Huron to the Flint River two years ago. They didn’t know, however, that lead levels were so high that the Environmental Protection Agency could classify it as hazardous waste. It took Michigan Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality more than 17 months to acknowledge the problem. As a result, tens of thousands of Flint residents have been—and continue to be—poisoned. The names of the people who made the decisions behind the poisoning are known. Snyder set the wheels in motion with a scheme that sacrificed the health of the people of Flint on the altar of austerity. In 2011, he ended public oversight by appointing his own man—an “emergency manager”—to cut costs and run the city. Flint went through a series of four emergency managers in as many years. When the extent of poisoning was known, Snyder did nothing. He failed to warn people against drinking the water and he failed to provide a safe alternative. It’s infuriating. But anger is not action. What can we do to prevent the next municipal drinking water disaster? It is already here, flowing into the water glasses of millions of Americans. Chicago, Philadelphia and hundreds of other cities with old pipes have a lead problem. And that’s just the start of the municipal water pollution crisis. In most of the country, once-clean drinking water sources are now profoundly polluted—by treated and untreated sewage, by chemical-intensive agriculture, by waste from confined animal feeding operations and by industrial discharges. Even in Flint, the story begins not with lead pipes but with failed attempts to “treat” the source of the city water supply: the open sewer that is the Flint River…”

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