In yet another extreme drinking water incident, U.S. Navy personnel in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii recently suffered stomach pain, vomiting and diarrhea before laboratory analyses found gasoline and diesel products in their water. More than 3,000 residents were forced from their homes, most for the holidays.
With the Flint, Michigan water crisis in the nation’s rearview mirror, contaminants in drinking water have become a mere fact of American life: toxic PFAS (perfluoroalkyl substances) in Newburgh, NY; the industrial solvent 1,2,3-Trichloropropane in Ceres, California; the heavy-metal lead in Benton Harbor, Michigan; and scores of other incidents across the nation.
Frightened water consumers ask why they are not alerted before toxins reach their homes – a cry in the wilderness of government agencies scrambling for answers.
The aging 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act is at fault. Congress must reform the law to guarantee the public’s right-to-know the quality of their drinking water in advance, and foster the technologies that will protect that right.