And systemic failures make this issue even more murky.
One in four Americans have tap water that is unsafe to drink or hasn’t been monitored in accordance with federal law, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council.
If you’re concerned that your own tap water is unsafe, you may have a hard time finding any information. Mae Wu, a senior attorney for the council’s health program, told the New York Times that underreporting makes it hard for residents to find out if their tap water is contaminated.
In 2015, nearly 77 million Americans lived in areas where the departments in charge of their water violated at least one safety regulation, according to the report released last week. Of the 80,000 reported violations that year, 12,000 were “health-based” or involved contamination. Based on population, Texas, Florida, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey have the most violations.
The report concludes that the federal government isn’t doing enough to enforce regulations on water. “This has been tolerated so long, and it is so ingrained in the EPA culture to look the other way,” said Marc Edwards, a Virginia Tech scientist who helped bring Flint’s water crisis to national attention. “They’re going to need outside pressure to act and enforce existing laws.”
Donald Trump has said “crystal clear water” is important to him, but him and his new EPA administrator want to cut the agency’s budget by up to 31 percent, which the NRDC says would pose a new threat to what is already a water crisis. And as troubling as the statistics above are, they’re just the tip of the iceberg.