One in four Americans' drinking water comes from untested or contaminated systems: NRDC report

Roughly a quarter of the U.S. served by systems in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act in 2015.

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Roughly a quarter of the U.S. served by systems in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act in 2015. Photo: NRDC.

WASHINGTON DC, MAY 5, 2017 -- According to a report issued this week by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), 77 million people in the United States received drinking water from systems in violation of the Safe Drinking Water Act in 2015.

"America is facing a nationwide drinking water crisis that goes well beyond lead contamination," said Erik Olson, Health Program Director at NRDC and a report co-author in a press release issued by NRDC. "The problem is two-fold: there's no cop on the beat enforcing our drinking water laws, and we're living on borrowed time with our ancient, deteriorating water infrastructure. We take it for granted that when we turn on our kitchen tap, the water will be safe and healthy, but we have a long way to go before that is reality across our country."

Threats on Tap: Widespread Violations Highlight Need for Investment in Water Infrastructure and Protections found nearly 80,000 violations impacting drinking water systems in every state, but under-reporting and lax enforcement could mean the number of violations is much higher, according to NRDC.

Violations included arsenic and nitrate contamination, along with failures to report contamination levels in some cases. The states with the most offenses, based on population (in order of offenses) were: Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Washington, Ohio, California, Arizona, Kentucky, Wisconsin, and Maryland.

The report also points to problems with repercussions for violations, with nearly nine in 10 cases receiving no formal action, and only 3.3% of cases facing financial penalties.

NRDC says "investing and improving infrastructure and enforcing the drinking water laws are solutions that will make a difference," citing the need for repairing or replacing much of the nation's water infrastructure, including the estimated 6 million to 10 million lead service lines across the country.

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