As Americans, we enjoy a quality of life that allows us to take some things for granted. We enjoy a level of stability, mostly free of the fear of war coming to us; we enjoy a mostly stable government, and a system that makes sense. And we enjoy perhaps the simplest thing of all: clean and nearly limitless drinking water.
Or at least we did. In 2014, the city of Flint, Michigan, a city with nearly 100,000 citizens, changed the source of their drinking water to the Flint River. The move proved to be a bad one. Improperly treated water, combined with lead from old pipes, ultimately poisoned thousands of residents, and at this point has left 15 dead.Studies suggest that the poisoning could have been avoided, which is little consolation now for the residents of the city. However, if any good can come of the crisis in Flint, it is that the unfortunate incident has raised awareness of oversight, review and the need for clean drinking water.
Clean Water Nationally
A survey done by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and reported on in a news article by The Huffington Post released in early March clearly showed Flint is not the only city in the country with drinking water issues. According to the report, at least one safety violation, and many times multiple violations, were cited in water systems that serve a total of about 77 million people in the United States.
No Enforcement for Violations
Because there are few penalties associated with these violations, there are few ways to make sure the violations are corrected. The article suggests that there are no enforceable penalties for almost 90 percent of the violations, and only slightly more than three percent of the violations had financial penalties. The result is that there are few ways to make sure the utilities responsible for the shortcomings correct their errors; and until they do, the drinking water for nearly one-third of the United States may carry some risks.
The article says that of 80,000 violations which violated the Safe Water Drinking Act of 1974, roughly 12,000 had the ability to affect the health of the users. The worst of the repairs need to take place in rural water systems, which make up nearly 70 percent of the overall issues and more than half of the health-based violations.
Preparing for the Future
Repair will not be easy. One of the biggest issues is the age of the utilities, often dating back more than 50 years. Overall, the American Society of Civil Engineers has given the nation’s water system only a “D” score on its annual report card. The organization estimates it will cost more than $1 trillion to effectively fix the issues.
The future and possibility of repairs seems increasingly less likely. The money simply doesn’t exist in the program for infrastructure repairs, and as President Trump has proposed a 31 percent cut to funding for the Environmental Protection Agency, as well as an initiative to remove a loan and grant program for agricultural water and wastewater, money to correct the issues does not appear forthcoming. Because of this, it appears responsibility for ensuring the protection of safe drinking water and a cleaner environment will fall on the states; and in a Commonwealth that regularly opposes clean water initiatives, other measures may be needed.
Billy Johnson and The Johnson Law Firm in Pikeville, Ky., are proud to bring their experience and resources to aggressively pursue your legal needs. If you have questions or wish to set up a consultation, contact The Johnson Law Firm online or call 1.877.712.3620