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February 1, 2014

When Pollution Dirties Water, The Facts Are Often Clear

The United States is looking forward to being less dependent on foreign oil, but the process by which we produce our own fuel has led to fears of further pollution in our water supplies. More and more frequently, we learn of new hazardous industry practices that give us great cause for concern, especially when the contamination hits close to home!

Protest photo via Associated Press

Conventional oil and gas drilling, hydraulic fracturing (aka fracking), coal mining, chemical and/or manufacturing plants, even methane in stormwater runoff from agricultural fields–all of these phenomena contribute to water pollution in major ways. During the past few years, well-water contamination has been confirmed in four of the top energy-producing states. Data reports were supplied to Associated Press last year.

On January 9th of 2014, there was a chemical spill in the Elk River, from old storage tanks owned by Freedom Industries. Over 300,000 people in West Virginia were stranded without usable water. The spill contained 4-methylcyclohexane methanol, a toxic chemical used to clean coal, along with PPH, a mixture of glycol ethers. Of course, when there’s any type of spill in running water, there is a high risk that it won’t be contained to just that one river or stream. In West Virginia, the Elk River flows into the Kanawha, which in turn flows into the Ohio. While toxic levels may lessen as the water flows, everyone downstream still has reason for concern. West Virginia Rivers Coalition vigorously continues to work towards higher mandates for protection from such spills.

Floridians’ Clean Water Declaration Campaign

Water pollution doesn’t stop with industry. Too often, water pollution is also caused by leaks and emissions from pesticides and faulty cesspools and septic tanks, as in the case of high levels of nitrogen found in ground and surface water in Long Island. Not only are residents exposed to poor drinking water, but the nitrogen in Long Island’s wetlands affects the marine life there, crippling both natural ecosystems and the fishing industry. Many Floridians cosigned a “Clean Water Declaration” asking that their residents and lawmakers alike make anti-pollution efforts a priority and build support for water pollution prevention and cleanup campaigns. On January 23, 2014, Gov. Rick Scott announced his support for these efforts, which would include $130 million in the state’s next budget toward the ongoing Everglades restoration and other projects that will help South Florida’s ecosystems.

We all agree that everyone has the right to clean, healthy water for drinking and everyday use. Unfortunately, we must work hard to protect that right and even harder to correct pollution problems that can destroy our resources.

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Posted by Mark Contorno.

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