A New York Times analysis of federal data for the last 5 years on drinking water reveals that the water provided to more than 49 million Americans violates key provisions of the Safe Water Drinking Act.
That law requires communities to deliver safe tap water to local residents. But since 2004, the water provided to more than 49 million people has contained illegal concentrations of chemicals like arsenic or radioactive substances like uranium, as well as dangerous bacteria often found in sewage.
In some instances, drinking water violations were one-time events, and probably posed little risk. But for hundreds of other systems, illegal contamination persisted for years, records show.
The majority of drinking water violations since 2004 have occurred at water systems serving fewer than 20,000 residents, where resources and managerial expertise are often in short supply.
An analysis of E.P.A. data shows that Safe Drinking Water Act violations have occurred in parts of every state in the country. Studies indicate that drinking water contaminants are linked to millions of instances of illness within the United States each year.
In the prosperous town of Ramsey, N.J., for instance, drinking water tests since 2004 have detected illegal concentrations of arsenic, a carcinogen, and the dry cleaning solvent tetrachloroethylene, which has also been linked to cancer.
Today (Tuesday, 9 Dec 2009), the Senate Environment and Public Works committee will question E.P.A. officials about the agency’s enforcement of drinking-water safety laws. The E.P.A. is expected to announce a new policy for how it polices the nation’s 54,700 water systems.