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Americans Continue to Lose Access to Clean Drinking Water
Is clean drinking water a priority? The last decade shows otherwise
Recently Jackson, Mississippi became the latest location in a series of crippling American water infrastructure problems across the country. Clean drinking water is becoming increasingly difficult to access for some Americans.
A video posted by Molly Minta on Friday reveals just how bad things have gotten in Belhaven. She took to Twitter, sharing video of what appears to be black coffee coming out of the water faucet. This comes just two weeks after a state of emergency was declared as a result of flooding impacting water treatment infrastructure.
Credit for Tweet/Video to Molly Minta/Mississippi Today.
Unsafe Drinking Water Continues
As stomach churning as this phenomenon is, unfortunately more and more Americans are becoming acquainted with coffee-colored, unsafe drinking water. If we zoom out and look at the water infrastructure problem in the US with a span of years, instead of weeks, we can begin to see a pattern emerge.
Despite touting $100 Million being awarded to Michigan to combat the Flint Water crisis, which began in 2014. Flint Michigan residents still are dealing with the fallout from the crisis, some do not have access to drinking water 8 years after becoming aware of the crisis. Even though Michigan state touts’ “compliance” with federal regulations, things are not always as they seem.
According to the State of Michigan website:
Flint Water Quality Update
Since July 2016, the city of Flint's water system has met state and federal standards for lead in drinking water for 12 consecutive monitoring periods. The latest six-month round of monitoring shows Flint's 90th percentile at 10 parts per billion (ppb), below the requirement of 15 ppb. Flint has conducted excavations to determine service line material composition at approximately 95 percent of the residential locations.
On paper, this seems like great news. Couple this with a guarantee to replace lead tainted pipes for free, one might conclude that the problem is over. Unfortunately, Flint residents are still facing challenges getting safe drinking water. Just as recently as 2019, Flint Residents were receiving water filters which seemed to only add to the frustrations as PBS Frontline had reported, indicating that despite the political PR campaigns by the Environmental Protection Agency, scientists are not convinced the problem is solved.
The study Frontline references in their reporting tested water samples from both Detroit and Flint Michigan. Below is a short summary of their methodology, results, and conclusion.
Methods & Materials: 10 homes in Flint with suspected cases of infection had water collected from the sink with the filter on, off, and from the shower. 10 Detroit homes were used as controls; water was collected from the kitchen sink and shower as only 1 out of 10 homes had a filter. 100 mL sterile cups were used for water collection.
Results: Results of Flint samples are shown in Table 1. No pathogens were detected from Detroit water. Residents of 7/10 homes in Flint had severe pneumonia, 1 sepsis, and 1 folliculitis. 5/10 patients died.
Conclusion: The results of this study showed that even two years after switch of the water back to Huron Lake, Flint municipal water showed high levels of pathogens. These results have important implications for immune compromised patients, and other cities with aging infrastructure where PoU filters are being considered.
Additionally, just as recently as a month ago, Michigan Live reported that the lead levels in Flint water are rising. Yes, in 2022, a full 8 years after the crisis hit the mainstream. They attribute this to performing a higher volume of tests, which is not exactly reassuring. Simply put, ensuring Americans have access to clean drinking water is an afterthought of both Democratic and Republican administrations.
The Buck Stops with the United States Government
Despite all the public relations campaigns done by the Environmental Protection Agency, the State of Michigan, or from Presidents like Barrack Obama, the issue of clean drinking water still needs to be addressed in 2022, and must be addressed immediately.
The problem is often times a political choice, not a financial one. There is plenty of funds to fix the water crisis in the United States. Just how much is $100 Million from the EPA anyway? To put this into perspective, we could compare this to aid spending in Ukraine. The United States government is simply prioritizing strategic interests in Ukraine over, as has been the case for over half a century.
As just as recent as July, the United States had already committed $2.2 billion worth of security assistance to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. This is only military equipment, however. In May, Congress passed an additional $40 billion in aid for Ukraine. The New York Times broke down these aid packages as follows:
Even as we enter the middle of September 2022, the United States is sending additional aid to Ukraine at an alarming pace, including an additional $3 Billion given as recent as 12 days ago.
With all these numbers thrown at you, it becomes difficult to keep track of. Thankfully journalists such as Stephen Semler who are tracking the spending month-to-month, have written and compiled the various aid packages into a nice, easy-to-read article. You can read their full piece on this here:
US Navy Poisons Water - Red Hill Water Crisis
In another example of poor priorities leading to problems accessing clean drinking water, we can turn to the US Navy, in 2021, involved with an incident poisoning drinking water in Hawaii as a result of a recently installed PVC pipe. A fuel leak at a Navy fuel storage location on November 20th, 2021, contaminated drinking water for military families.
Honolulu Civil Beat provided excellent coverage of this crisis, receiving photos and video from military personnel who were concerned about the incident, showing footage of fuel leaking into the water tunnel. While the issue appears to have been caused by a PVC pipe being installed, this speaks to a larger issue of why the US Navy is storing hazardous materials close enough to a water source in the first place. A single PVC installation should not poison hundreds of residents.
Journalist Abby Martin also took to YouTube a month after the crisis to do a deep dive into how the United States Navy attempted to cover up the incident.
The Biden Administration is Negligent
Although infrastructure problems span multiple administrations, and Republicans and Democrats have both shown to prioritize military spending over clean drinking water, Biden is the current commander in chief. The buck stops with him, the Senate, and the House.
The residents of Jackson Mississippi do not want to end up like Flint Michigan, 8 years later still experiencing problems, with additional health issues being caused by the “solutions” of the local government through the use of unsafe filters. The time to pressure local, state, and national representatives to stop sending our money overseas, and to resolve our problems at home is now.
The last few decades are ample evidence of the ineptitude of both Democrats and Republicans, being unable to provide basic needs to sustain human life. The basis of clean drinking water is step one for any functional society. To the current administration, clean water is not the priority.