Published: March 8, 2011

    Drinking water violations examined by NY Times

    NEW YORK —Regulatory and water system data analyzed by The New York Times show that more than 49 million people in the US have consumed polluted drinking water since 2004, according to a report in the December 8 print edition of The New York Times.

    Pollutants of concern included concentrations of chemicals like arsenic or radioactive substances like uranium, as well as bacteria often found in sewage, the report said.

    Analyzing data from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other regulators and water systems, the New York Times reported: “More than 20 percent of the nation’s water treatment systems have violated key provisions of the Safe Drinking Water Act over the last five years, according to a New York Times analysis of federal data.”

    Fewer than 6 percent of the water systems that broke the law were ever fined or punished by state or federal officials. According to the article, which quoted current and former EPA enforcement officials who wished to remain anonymous, federal regulators were informed of violations, but in many cases, unless the violations would make sensational news stories or target big money, pursuing the violations were overlooked.

    EPA spokeswoman Adora Andy, in response to questions regarding the agency’s drinking water enforcement, told the New York Times: “This administration has made it clear that clean water is a top priority. The previous eight years provide a perfect example of what happens when political leadership fails to act to protect our health and the environment.”

    The article also noted that drinking water contaminants “are linked to millions of instances of illness within the United States each year.”

    In response to the article, Water Quality Association (WQA) Executive Director Peter J. Censky said in a December 8 association statement, “Filtering systems in the home provide the highest technology available to treat drinking water. Home filtering systems act as a final contaminant barrier and can further purify water for drinking.” WQA is urging the public to consider installing home water treatment systems.