According to a Gallup poll, the majority of Americans are deeply concerned about water pollution. 56% are concerned about drinking water quality and 53% are concerned about the water quality of rivers, reservoirs, and lakes.
Americans have cause for concern. Over the years, there have been multiple water contamination events in the US.
Why Water Pollution is a Major Worry in the USA
Water pollution in the US is actually a growing problem, though it has been a problem for a long time. In the nineteenth century, water quality was improved in many bodies of water thanks to new mining processes and mechanized agriculture.
However, with a lack of regulation, into the twentieth century, rapid urban growth and extensive industrialization resulted in discharges of toxic chemicals, sewage, and other pollutants that affected both surface water and groundwater.
Such problems were not addressed with any sense of urgency until the late twentieth century, and various water contamination events continued to occur.
These have left a lasting impact on ecosystems, water quality, and public health across the nation.
While the implementation of pollution prevention, control and treatment methods are now widely used throughout the country to help ensure water quality is at the safe level determined by federal and state regulations, many bodies of water throughout the US sadly violate those water quality standards.
Let’s take a look at four well-known water contamination events and see what their effects were.
1. The Woburn, Massachusetts Water Contamination
Between 1969 and 1979, industrial solvent polluted the river in Woburn, Massachusetts. The chemicals that contaminated the water were trichloroethylene and perchloroethylene.
Sadly, twelve children in the area who were exposed to the contaminated water developed leukemia and residents saw an increased risk of other types of cancer and birth defects.
2. The Flint Water Crisis
In recent years, there has been an ongoing drinking water crisis in Flint, Michigan. The problem began when the water source was changed from Lake Huron and the Detroit River to the Flint River.
The water has been contaminated with dangerous levels of lead as well as other pollutants. Tragically, that has left many local residents with health issues, including skin lesions, memory loss, vision loss, hair loss, and high lead levels in their blood.
3. The Camp Lejeune Water Contamination in the 1950s – 1980s
At the military base Camp Lejeune, in North Carolina, there was contamination of the water supply for more than three decades.
Between the 1950s and the 1980s, contaminants like trichloroethylene, perchloroethylene, vinyl chloride, and benzene caused military personnel, their families, and civilians on the base to develop symptoms that may be an indication of contamination.
Indeed, the Camp Lejeune water contamination caused many people to develop a number of cancers, such as bladder cancer, kidney cancer, and breast cancer, and other health problems, including birth defects, miscarriages, and Parkinson’s disease.
The scandal has led to many lawsuits. In fact, lawsuits continue to this day
4. The Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill
In 2010, the BP semi-submersible oil rig, Deepwater Horizon, saw an explosion that tragically killed eleven of the crew and displaced the rig from the well at the bottom of the sea. As a result, the oil in the well spread into the ocean.
Due to the difficulty in sending a probe over 5,000 feet beneath the surface, the well wasn’t capped for a further eighty-seven days, contaminating the water and causing untold damage to the sea life.
The oil spill, which happened in the Gulf of Mexico, saw 3.19 million barrels of oil spread into the ocean, and 1,000 miles of shoreline were impacted.