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Water crisis in America

Hand in blue latex glove testing dirty contaminated water.

Water Crisis in America | Where Will It Hit Next?

Flint, Jackson, and East Palestine, Ohio’s drinking water and sanitation issues. What can be done?

The East Palestine Train Derailment – What Happened to the Water?

The catastrophic East Palestine train derailment and subsequent burning of vinyl chloride to avert an explosion resulted in dead fish in streams and big questions about the safety of drinking water in the Ohio town. The Ohio Lieutenant Governor and other officials were quick to rush in and drink a glass of the local tap water on camera to prove that everything was fine. In fact, testing was done on the water from the five wells that supply the town’s drinking water and showed no danger of contaminants. Those wells are located west of the town and don’t flow through the site of the accident, which is to the east. So, according to authorities, the well water has remained clean. Not everyone seems to be sure of that. According to Time Magazine, “Giant Eagle, which operates hundreds of stores in five states, including Ohio, withdrew its spring water which comes from Salineville, Ohio, (25 miles from the accident) out of an ‘abundance of caution,’ the company said in a Feb. 21 statement.” And what about the rural towns just across the state line in Pennsylvania, that feel like “they have been left out of recovery efforts,” according to NBC News. Or areas downstream from the site of the accident? The Ohio Environmental Protection Agency said this about Sulphur Run, the East Palestine tributary that flows to the Ohio River: “The water in Sulphur Run near the derailment site is grossly contaminated. A containment area was created…(and) clean water from upstream is being pumped around the containment area to isolate any grossly contaminated water and sediment. This minimizes the amount of contaminants that could flow downstream.” What does “minimizing contaminants” mean? – That statement still doesn’t answer the question about whether the water is safe to drink.

Is There a Clean Water Problem in the U.S.?

Water is a fundamental human right. And we are seeing that access to safe, clean drinking water is not just a developing world issue. It’s an issue faced by more and more Americans due to declining investment in water supply infrastructure, changing climate conditions, and groundwater exhaustion. Just look at the shocking numbers in this 2023 report from the World Economic Forum: “Figures suggest 2.2 million people in the United States are without running water and basic indoor plumbing; more than 44 million people have inadequate water systems. Community-level solutions exist to address poor access to potable water, but more funding and technology is needed for scale and sustainability.” “Our Water is Contaminated and the Sewage System Doesn’t Work” Tainted drinking water, inadequate sewage treatment, and lack of sanitary bathroom are problems faced by marginalized urban and rural communities alike in the U.S. Author and activist C.C. Flowers writes about the water situation in Lowndes County, Alabama in her book, Waste: One Woman’s Fight Against America’s Dirty Secret, giving us a true-to-life picture of one part of rural America. She knows the place well; she grew up there. County residents often lack basic essentials. A septic system costs more than a year’s salary for many families, so they jerry-rig PVC piping to carry sewage from their houses to outside cesspools. She worked with researchers who discovered that 30% of tested residents carried hookworms, a parasite generally associated with poor sanitation in underdeveloped countries. Jackson, Mississippi water crisis, showing a wide river and muddy water flooding the city.

The Ongoing Jackson, Mississippi Water Crisis of 2022

Huge storms and unprecedented flooding in and around Jackson, Mississippi, knocked out its aging water system and left thousands of residents without safe drinking water for weeks in September of 2022. Many local businesses failed as a result. Then a cold spell hit in January 2023, damaging more pipes and forcing half of the local schools to revert to online learning. As of this writing, the problem is still not solved. Pipes and water mains are still under repair, and the system may take up to 10 years to get back to full service. Jackson is the capital city of Mississippi, not a backwater rural settlement. In the meantime, residents periodically have their water shut off, with no end in sight. Glenda Barner, a 70-year-old Jackson resident and small business owner, ties a bag over her faucet to remind herself not to use it. “I don’t hold out a whole lot of hope on it being completely repaired in my lifetime.” (ABC News.)

Water Crisis in the United States – How Bad Is It?

The U.S. has over 16,000 wastewater treatment plants across the country that earned a D+ grade in the 2021 Report Card on American Infrastructure compiled by the American Society of Civil Engineering, while U.S. drinking facilities were rated C-. It’s obvious that action is required to turn this around. Unfortunately, government investment in public water facilities has been dropping rather than rising, from 60% in 1977 to under 10% in 2017, which has taken a toll on the health and quality of life for millions of Americans. As a result, trillions of dollars have gone down the drain due to higher healthcare costs and rates of preventable disease, reduced job productivity, and environmental problems. Infrastructure and property damage have also been on the rise due to extreme weather events, hurricanes, winter storms, and flooding. In California and the southwest, drought and forest fires have been a major concern. A considerable investment of funding and focus is needed to turn this national water crisis around.

Can We Fix These Clean Water and Wastewater Issues?

Wastewater treatment plants can serve as resource recovery centers, extracting valuable by-products like nitrogen, phosphorus, and soil nutrients, while protecting against environmental pollution and disease from untreated liquid waste. Innovators in rural communities across the U.S. are introducing new and economical methods to keep drinking water pure and improve hygiene and sanitation, such as cutting edge biofilters, composting, and incineration toilets. With a redirected focus on this most basic human need for safe water, and stronger backing by federal, local, and state agencies, there is hope to improve things for our underserved communities and the environment. It will take greater public awareness that investment in these marginalized areas will bring benefit to us all, conviction that safe water and sanitation are basic human rights for everyone, regardless of economic status, race, and social standing. Close-up shot of sparkling clean water with waves and bubbles.

A Day Without Water – Don’t Let an Emergency Threaten Your Safety

Always keep emergency water on hand in your home and your work place. Anyone can be impacted by unexpected events that turn off the tap or make your tap water unsafe for use for a while. Blue Can Water makes it easy to protect yourself and your loved ones with emergency water that has a 50-year shelf life. That means no replacing old or outdated drinking water supplies. It’s packaged in recyclable cans and comes in space-saving pallets that are easy to store. Buy now and have emergency water on hand for the rest of your life!

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