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Taking Clean Water for Granted: FL, PA, MN, IL

We’ve written a lot about Hoosick Falls and Flint on our blog over the last few weeks. It is important to remember that clean, safe water is important to all of us, everywhere. Unless we are living through a water contamination crisis, it’s human nature to take our access to clean and safe water for granted.

Lake Okeechobee in central Florida is contaminated with fertilizer and other chemicals as a result of industrial agriculture in the area. During the wettest January in Florida in over 80 years, which saw the lake’s water levels rise faster than normal, dirty water from area farms was pumped into the lake.  Concerned about the rising, toxic water, Lake Okeechobee was deliberately drained, with runoff traveling east to the Atlantic Ocean and west to the Gulf of Mexico.

The toxic water, now spread from coast to coast, is threatening the local ecosystem. Environmentalists are concerned that the toxic water will threaten sea grass and oyster beds, and worried the low-salinity water will adversely affect marine life.  Of course, the spread of the toxic water to the dual Florida coast may deter tourists from enjoying the beaches.

As is often the case, whether Hoosick Falls, Flint, or central Florida, the contamination and its spread are not the result of an accident. In Florida, agribusiness – particular sugar growers – have prevented Florida lawmakers from rerouting the water through the Everglades, cleansing it in the process.  Sugar farmers say they need the water from Lake Okeechobee as a reserve in case their crop is too dry.

You can read more about the Lake Okeechobee contamination here.

In Northeastern Pennsylvania, many residents have shared, to some degree, the fruits of the fracking industries profits. At the same time, many in the region have struggled and suffered with contamination of their well water as a result of fracking.

In central Minnesota, almost two-thirds of test wells revealed water contaminated with excess levels of nitrates. Nitrate contamination is often the result of agricultural activities, as it is a component of fertilizer, and that is what is suspected here. Nitrate toxicity can kill infants.

Earlier this month, a class-action lawsuit was filed in Chicago, alleging “elevated and unsafe” levels of lead contamination in the drinking water for a number of years.

There are a number of legitimate environmental concerns that have always surrounded the use of bottled water, but those concerns obfuscate the fact that for many, bottled water is their only source of clean, safe water.

It is important not to take your access to clean, safe water for granted. Since more often than not, water contamination is not accidental, it is important to keep pressure on political and business leaders that your health and safety are paramount.

by Christopher Markos, Esq.

Progress, Read Ms. Thurlow-Lippisch’s blog for more environmental news.