Health Hazard

Study: 20 Percent of U.S. Water Contaminated

A recent New York Times analysis of data from the Environmental Protection Agency found that more than 20 percent of the nation’s drinking supply is severely contaminated by chemicals like arsenic or radioactive substances like uranium. The presence of such substances violates the Safe Drinking Water Act, which requires communities to provide safe and clean drinking water to their residents. Oversight of the issue has led to the consumption of toxic water by more than 49 million people. “There is significant reluctance within the EPA and Justice Department to bring actions against municipalities, because there’s a view that they are often cash-strapped, and fines would ultimately be paid by local taxpayers,” said David Uhlmann, who headed the environmental-crimes division at the Justice Department until 2007. The New York Times estimates that each year 19 million Americans become ill as a result of the chemicals and toxins in drinking water, a number that fails to include those who develop cancer, as the sources of that disease are difficult to trace.