Safe drinking water for all…but for how long?

By Donald Wiggins, Jr.
Lake Erie Engagement Coordinator

By mid-year 2016, Flint, Michigan became a symbol for America’s emerging drinking water crises. Flint’s water issues began long before 2016, and the city’s residents continue to deal with the devastating impacts of the water crisis. Flint, Michigan became the red flag alerting us to larger-systemic issues. Since Flint, the number of water-related incidents have exploded in the news. To understand these issues and incidents, we must understand how our drinking water is protected, affected, and provided. Think of this blog post as your Drinking Water 101.

Millions of Ohioans, and hundreds of millions of Americans, rely on public water systems to provide their drinking water. The Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), was designed and enacted to ensure this drinking water is safe. SDWA regulates public water systems and requires monitoring, reporting, and treatment for regulated contaminants. The oversight and enforcement of SDWA rest largely with the States, with the U.S. EPA serving as a federal backstop to ensure the states execute their duties under law.

There are more than 151,000 public water systems throughout the United States, providing water to 90 percent of Americans. In the State of Ohio, approximately 4,800 water systems provide water to 11 million Ohioans. That is a lot of water to protect, yet, the nation’s premier drinking water protection law has not been updated in earnest since last being amended in 1996.

It is saddening that such an important act, which impacts the health and well-being of so many Americans, has not been updated for more than a decade! Our water systems face emerging contaminants, aging and failing water infrastructure systems, and an ever-increasing assortment of threats. Additionally, scarce and uncertain funding make it impossible for public water systems to invest in advanced treatment and monitoring technology.

Luckily, there are bills in Congress, right now, that seek to address these challenges. One of these bills is H.R. 1068 Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 2017. If passed, this bill would modernize the Safe Drinking Water Act and address the numerous threats our public water systems are facing. If we want to see safer drinking water, though, Ohioans need to demand significant revisions to the decade-old Safe Drinking Water Act. It has served its purpose for many years, but the times are changing and so should our water protection laws.

Take action today by spreading the word about this blog using the hashtag #DrinkingWater101!

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Tuesday, July 18, 2017 - 1:15pm