The Fruits of Civilization (71-14) Tap Water in America

 Tap Water in America

The cheating and lax enforcement are needlessly harming children all over the United States. If cities cannot be trusted to protect little kids from lead in drinking water, what on Earth can they be trusted with? ~ American civil and environmental engineer Marc Edwards

China is not the only country where the water is not safe to drink. The United States sports an unsafe water supply. Pesticides, herbicides, and other industrial chemicals make their way in and are not filtered out. Despite the obvious problems, government funding for public water infrastructure has declined in the 21st century. Federal funding for safe water dropped 37% 2010–2014. The danger of dirty water is especially acute with lead, the heavy metal that retards children and causes a host of health problems.

Lead exposure can affect nearly every system in the body. No safe blood lead level in children has been identified. Because lead exposure often occurs with no obvious symptoms, it frequently goes unrecognized. ~ US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

In April 2014, to save an estimated $5 million, the city of Flint, Michigan switched its water source from Detroit’s water supply (Lake Huron) to nearly Flint River, which flowed with many toxic pollutants. The corrosive water caused lead from aging pipes to leach into the tap water supply, elevating lead levels in drinking water.

Flint residents knew something was wrong with their water, because it kept changing colors and smells. But they did not know how dangerous it was.

Nothing was done about the dirty water for over a year. Meanwhile, the city’s cost-saving measure backfired on consumers: Flint residents paid top rates for tap water when it was most toxic.

The fact that Flint is a poor, majority black city under emergency management rather than democratic representation evidently made its residents’ concerns easier for authorities to ignore. ~ Sarah Anderson et al

Once problems with Flint’s water were identified, government officials tried to cover up that there was any problem at all. 4 years after Flint government officials decided to poison its residents, the water remains undrinkable.

Our children have every imaginable obstacle to leading a successful life, and now they also have lead poisoning. ~ American pediatrician Mon Hanna-Attisha

The social costs of Flint’s city government approached $500 million: a nearly 100-fold loss compared to the hypothetical benefit.

The city’s decision to switch its water supply was penny wise and pound foolish. ~ American public health analyst Peter Muennig

Flint is far from alone in its negligence. Across the country, cities cheat on tests mandated by the EPA to ensure that drinking water is safe. Philadelphia, Milwaukee, Chicago, Boston, and Detroit are merely exemplary. There are many others.

Nationwide, lead exposure in the US costs well over $4.5 billion every year in direct costs. The price of drinking polluted water in the US is many times that, but no one has tallied the toll. To American governments – federal, state, and local – citizens’ lives are cheap.

Lead in Rome’s drinking water was a factor in the decline of the Roman Empire. Modern America is suffering the same dark dilemma.