Early 2016, the state of Michigan declared a state of emergency after the drinking water of Flint had been discovered to be contaminated with lead. At least 15 percent of hotspot residents, mostly children, had dangerous lead levels in their bloodstream, increasing their risk of long-term brain damage.
This, however, is just a fraction of the worsening case of water pollution in the United States.
In the 2016 America’s Most Endangered Rivers list, at least three out of 10 are threatened by pollution. Sam River in Montana, which runs from 60 miles before it empties out into the Missouri River, may be damaged by a proposed copper mine. A similar fate is also expected from Russell Fork River in Virginia.
The transition zone of the Green-Duwamish River in Washington is under threat of industrial pollution for decades, potentially reducing the growth and supply of salmon.
Other Bodies of Water
It’s not only rivers that feed agricultural farms and promote marine diversity that’s polluted. The 24th yearly report of the National Resources Defense Council revealed that 1 in every 10 of more than 3,000 samples did not meet the 2013 criteria for water safety determined by Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Although the standards were newly implemented around this time, the findings were still similar to the 2012 results, which used the old criteria.
Dirty runoffs from storms and poorly managed sewage contaminated the water and made the beaches a breeding ground for bacteria that can cause life-threatening diseases including meningitis.
What Can Be Done
The United States has a Clean Water Act, but it protects only 60 percent of all waters, leaving more than 100 million Americans vulnerable to drinking potentially polluted water. NRDC recommends protection for all waters and strict implementation of the act, which can be intimidated by big industrial and mining companies.
Local and state governments should also improve and invest in high-quality sewage treatment equipment like a circular clarifier, which can help remove any sediment before the water gets treated further.
There’s no better time to deal with U.S. water pollution than today – before there’s no more water to drink and supply agriculture.