Since it’s discovery the lead contamination of Flint, Michigan has drawn national headlines. As a country previously unaware of the deep-seated issues with its water infrastructure, America is rapidly discovering the risks and dangers of trusting pipelines and poor planning in the face of new threats to our health.
Here are the scariest things found in the U.S. water system since the beginning of the year:
Lead: The lead levels in Flint, Michigan began when the city switched to a different source – the Flint River – for its water in 2014. The pipes in the city were highly corroded, and nearly all of the main lines were, you guessed it, lead pipes. The resulting lead contamination wasn’t immediately reported by the local water municipalities and caused problems for many citizens. Chief among the effects of prolonged exposure to lead are “learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and mental retardation,” according to the World Health Organization.
Coliform: In January the city of Sacramento issued a boil water notice upon detecting elevated levels of all types of coliform in the Pocket neighborhood. Coliform bacteria are fecal bacteria, and the presence of coliform in your drinking water indicates that pathogens and other contaminants have a way of entering the water system. Coliform bacteria can enter your water supply due to agricultural runoff, but can also bring inspectors to discover a vulnerable opening or deterioration of water line that requires immediate repair.
Atrazine: This herbicide has been identified as a probable carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer, and a research group at Texas A&M University determined that atrazine can cause birth defects. They detected the herbicide in high quantities in several rural areas near farms. The most alarming fact is that the EPA won’t finalize its risk assessment of the chemical until 2017, meaning there’s no way to know how much is in your own water supply until you test for it.
E. coli: A dangerous subset of coliform bacteria, E. coli poses an imminent threat to the wellbeing of anyone who consumes it in their tap water. The residents of North Fork in Madera County, California, received a water-boiling order when E. coli was detected in the water supply in March. Local authorities claimed that recent heavy rainfall might have caused the contamination.
Nile Crocodiles: Herpetologists were stunned in May when full-grown Nile crocodiles (yes, from sub-Saharan Africa) were found in Everglade waters right outside Miami, Florida. Three were captured, but experts could not say definitively if more were still lurking about in Miami’s water system.
There’s not really a guidebook on how to remove Nile crocodiles from the water. But for many dangerous chemicals and contaminants listed above, the best defense is a water filtration system in your home, like Pelican Water’s reverse osmosis system. Installing a filtration system will protect against harmful pathogens and contaminants that otherwise may be present in your tap water.