safe drinking water

Protecting our Drinking Water for Everyone

By Dr. Peter Grevatt

Like families in almost every city and town across the U.S., everyone in my house counts on the idea that we can just reach for the tap any time we’re thirsty or need some water to cook dinner. And, there hasn’t been a single day when safe drinking water wasn’t readily available to me or my family at a remarkably low cost.

While most Americans enjoy this same luxury every day, this past year two major drinking water systems were shut down when harmful toxins contaminated their drinking water systems. These incidents in Toledo, OH, and Charleston, WV, resulted in over 800,000 residents having to find an alternative supply of safe drinking water for as long as five days. And, in both cases, this led to National Guard deployment to provide emergency drinking water to long lines of residents.

Unfortunately, Charleston and Toledo are not the only places in the United States where this occurred in the last year, reminding us of the critical importance of protecting the sources of our drinking water.

While today’s drinking water treatment systems can remove most contaminants, in some cases, they’ve been overwhelmed by contaminants introduced upstream from the customers they serve. In these instances, many lower income residents bear the greatest burden of losing access to safe drinking water. Without effective source water protection programs, the cost of providing safe drinking water is placed solely on the downstream drinking water plants and their customers, many of whom can’t afford to shoulder this extra treatment cost, let alone the economic losses of closing businesses and schools during a drinking water emergency.

All Americans should have access to safe drinking water. We can all help to make sure this is the case by helping to protect our source waters where we live and for our downstream neighbors.

About the author: Peter Grevatt is the Director of the Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water. The Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water in collaboration with states, tribes and its many stakeholders, is responsible for safeguarding America’s drinking water.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Science & EPA: From Cutting Edge to Commonplace

Yesterday, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy gave a speech at the National Academy of Sciences to talk about the role that science plays in EPA’s work. She shared some of her thoughts on EPA Connect, the official blog of EPA’s leadership. We have reposted that blog below. 

By Gina McCarthy

Official photo of EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy: “When we follow the science—we all win.”

Today I had the honor of giving a speech at the National Academy of Sciences to talk about the role that science plays in the work we do at EPA.

Science has been the backbone of the most significant advancements EPA has made in the past four decades and continues to be the engine that drives American prosperity and innovation for the future.

Through science, we uncovered secondhand smoke’s deadly link to lung disease. We set air quality standards to protect our children, our elderly, and our infirmed. Through science we learned that toxic fumes from leaded gasoline harm our kids’ brain development.

With science as our North Star, EPA has steered America away from health risk, and toward a higher quality of life. That’s why it’s worrisome that our science is under assault by a very small—but very vocal—group of critics.

Those critics are playing a dangerous game by discrediting the sound science our families and our businesses depend on everyday—And that’s what doesn’t make sense. I bet when those same critics get sick, they run to doctors and hospitals that rely on science. I bet they check out air quality forecasts from EPA and the National Weather Service—to see if their kids should be playing outside. I bet they buy dishwashers with Energy Star labels, take FDA approved medicine, and eat USDA approved meats.

To those calling EPA untrustworthy and unpopular—I’d like to remind them that without EPA, they wouldn’t have safe drinking water or healthy air. And we have these things because we follow the science—like the law demands.

In addition to ensuring public health, businesses are able to keep their competitive edge on the global stage because science fosters innovation. From smoke-stack scrubbers to catalytic converters—America inspires and innovates the world’s leading pollution control technologies—accounting for more than one and a half million jobs and $44 billion dollars in exports in 2008 alone. That’s more than other big U.S. sectors like plastics and rubber products. I want to encourage us to continue putting our faith in American ingenuity and innovation. The great thing is—our environmental laws recognize the need to cultivate that innovation.

When we follow the science—we all win. We all move forward. We have to keep trusting the leading role of science in America’s continuing story of progress.

 

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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How Far Would You Go For Safe Drinking Water?

By Elinor Keith

Before coming to work at the EPA, I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Mozambique, along the southeastern coast of Africa. I didn’t have running water, but at first the school I taught at had a well about 100 yards from my house so getting water was not a problem. It only took a little time out of my day, and I got a little exercise at the same time! After 9 months the pump broke, and they weren’t able to fix it. For the next year, the closest public well was over a kilometer away. Walking 2 kilometers for every 20 liters of water was a big drain on my time.

I was still lucky: I had enough money to hire someone to carry water for me, and as a teacher I was respected enough in the community that people would loan me wheelbarrows or even give me water if they had extra. But many people are not so lucky: UNICEF estimates that women and girls in developing countries walk an average of 6 kilometers a day for water. Even then the water they drink is often not safe. 2.2 million deaths of children are preventable through improvements in the provision of safe drinking water, basic sanitation and hygiene practices.

It’s easy to forget sometimes how fortunate we are to be able to turn a tap and have safe drinking water come out. Here at the EPA, I’m proud of the work I do analyzing drinking water data to help ensure that in the US. To promote the need for access to safe water worldwide, we’re also teaming up with the US Agency for International Development to organize an Earth Day 6K Walk for Water – to reflect the average distance a woman in a third world country must walk daily for water. If you’ll be here in Washington, DC on April 27th, please join us by registering here. No matter where you are, you can do your part for safe drinking water by conserving water in your home.

About the Author: Elinor Keith analyzes drinking water data for the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. Before joining the EPA, she taught high school chemistry in Mozambique for two years as a Peace Corps volunteer.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Science Wednesday: Meeting Ben Franklin

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Marguerite Huber

A few weeks ago, my to-do list contained two items: (1) go to Philadelphia, and (2) meet Ben Franklin. Check and Check!

I attended the Philadelphia Science Festival’s satellite event “The Science of Being Green: From 18th Century to the Future,” where EPA’s own “father of green chemistry,” Assistant Administrator Paul T. Anastas joined Benjamin Franklin (portrayed by Ralph Archbold) to talk about the importance of science and innovation. The EPA, the National Park Service and the Postal Service co-hosted the event, which took place just feet from historic Independence Hall, home of the Liberty Bell.

I had never been to Philadelphia, let alone met Benjamin Franklin, so the whole experience was exciting. There were EPA scientists demonstrating the wonders of science through numerous hands-on demonstrations, such as explaining about energy by lighting a light bulb with a citrus fruit, and about pressure by displaying how capped bottles of water punctured with holes do not leak (which definitely caught my attention).

On a stage with a patriotic backdrop, Paul Anastas and Benjamin Franklin talked to an engaged audience of many ages. The sky that day was a perfect blue, and both Franklin and Anastas explained how that was because of the EPA’s regulations: making the air we breathe and water we drink safer. They talked of the differences in science and innovation between Franklin’s time and ours, and how it was up to the younger members of the audience to take up science careers and answer the sustainability challenges of the future.

At the end of their conversation, EPA Regional Administrator Shawn Garvin, Philadelphia Postmaster Joseph Kinney, and BJ Dunn from Independence National Historic Park, all came on stage to reveal the Postal Service’s new Go Green commemorative stamps, featuring  “drawings of simple low-cost actions everyone can take to conserve natural resources and promote the health of our environment.” The stamps are really neat and I am excited by the Postal Service’s efforts.

Overall, the day made me think about how far we have come as a nation and how far we still have to go. Maybe one of those kids I saw fascinated by the science experiments will be the next Benjamin Franklin—or Paul Anastas.

About the Author: Marguerite Huber was an intern with the science communication team in EPA’s Office of Research and Development. She recently left EPA for graduation, and soon, graduate school.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Nothing Says “Fun” Like Standardized Tests: Creating Healthy Environments to Help Students Succeed

By Cathy Davis

When I was about eight years old, I actually loved standardized tests. (Trust me, I know that’s strange.) My dad developed the student assessment program for the state board of education. He loved his job, and I loved hearing about it, so I loved standardized tests. He used to tell me about all the different factors outside a student’s innate ability that could affect their scores: having nutritious meals, family stability and support, family income, having a safe place to study and read, and so many other social and economic factors.

What I’ve learned since then is that there is growing evidence that the environment where children learn can also affect their achievement (see Greening America’s Schools: Costs and Benefits ). When schools have good indoor air quality, safe chemicals management programs (including pesticides and other chemicals), safe drinking water, and well-maintained facilities, the students are better learners. They don’t miss as much school, and it’s easier for them to pay attention when they’re in school. But many school buildings contain environmental conditions that may inhibit learning and pose increased risks to the health of children and staff.

Creating healthy school environments can seem like a daunting task. There are over 120,000 schools in the country, and there are many potential environmental hazards. But I think the benefits to children’s health now and their success in the future far outweigh the short-term cost and effort. EPA has many programs and tools that parents, teachers, and school administrators can use to improve the environmental health of schools. So here’s my question to you, which of these programs (or similar programs run by your state or community) are you going to put into action to make your community’s schools healthier places to learn?

Learn how you to promote healthy communities for healthy children, during Children’s Health Month and every month, at www.epa.gov/children.

About the author: Cathy Davis works on healthy schools and other children’s environmental health issues in EPA’s Office of Children’s Health Protection. She comes from a family of educators (and a couple of lawyers).

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.


Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

More, more H20!

I went hiking while visiting a park this past weekend and was reminded of just how relaxing natural water formations can be. I took in the sounds of water gurgling over rocks and under leaves and fallen trees. It reminded me of how I used to spend a lot of my time in my backyard in our creek. I would spend literally the whole day back there working on our ‘fort’ and/or ‘clubhouse’. I always anticipated the beginning of warm weather when my dad would annually, and dutifully I might add, rake all of the dead leaves and clear the path for our trail. Sometimes, I would pretend that I was living in a different century that required me to ‘live off the land’. Although I think to that extent, my ‘living off the land’ just included eating some onions and raspberries from our garden nearby. And while there was the impression of clean, drinking water all around our little creek that ran through the woods, I knew and was informed that it was not to be consumed by me or any of my neighborhood friends. We didn’t mind, though. I was so busy with my friends making more rooms for our outdoor palace and games that I rarely went up to the house that often. When I did, I welcomed the big glass of ice cold water. The risk of drinking water in the creek was more outweighed by my taste buds rather than the information of drinking water only from the tap, but one that I obeyed nonetheless. It is vital for children’s health to consume water on a daily basis. Therefore, it is important that children know where they should get their water and that clean water is readily available. Water is a win-win for all. It has no calories, caffeine, or sugar, and helps almost every part of the human body function. Here are some important facts to know about your drinking water:

  • EPA’s current drinking water standards are designed to protect both adults and children.
  • Standards for lead, nitrates, and nitrites, are specifically based on risk to children because they are most vulnerable to these contaminants.
  • If you have a private well, you are responsible for testing your water to make sure it is safe and you should test it annually. Resources are available here.
  • You can learn about your local drinking water by reading your Consumer Confidence Report to learn whether your water system meets all drinking water standards here.
  • Get to know the source of your drinking water and get involved in activities to protect it.
  • These include: taking used motor oil to a recycling center and properly disposing of toxic house hold trash e.g. batteries by taking them to special collection sites.

Water is essential for children and adults alike. Water can be fun in its natural state for viewing and admiring. (Or a place of play for all of my creek-stomping days). Just remember to only drink from safe water sources at your home or wherever you may be. And help children to remember to do the same!

About the Author: Emily Bruckmann is an intern at the Office of Children’s Health Protection. She is a senior attending Indiana University who will graduate with a degree in public health this spring.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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Question of the Week: Why do you drink bottled water or tap water?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Most Americans have safe tap water and drink tap water fresh from the kitchen faucet. Others choose to buy more expensive bottled water. But bottling and transporting water can carry environmental costs and use energy and resources, and bottles contribute to littering if not properly disposed of.

Why do you drink bottled water or tap water?

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En español: Cada semana hacemos una pregunta relacionada al medio ambiente. Por favor comparta con nosotros sus pensamientos y comentarios. Siéntase en libertad de responder a comentarios anteriores o plantear nuevas ideas. Preguntas previas.

Muchos estadounidenses tienen agua potable sana y beben agua fresca del grifo de la cocina. Otros optan por comprar agua embotellada más cara. Sin embargo, el embotellar y transportar agua conlleva costos medioambientales y el uso de energía y recursos. Asimismo, las botellas contribuyen a los desperdicios si no se desechan adecuadamente.

¿Por qué toma agua embotellada o del grifo?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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