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Trump Must Make Safe Drinking Water for Children, Pregnant Women a 'Huge' Priority

Friday, January 6, 2017

President-elect Donald Trump has pledged that providing “crystal clear, clean water” to all Americans will be a top priority of his administration. To make good on his promise, he should adopt the recommendations of a new report from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

In response to the lead crisis in Flint, Mich., President Obama asked a group of leading scientists and engineers to take a comprehensive look at the state of U.S. drinking water. They found that pollution of the nation's tap water is serious and widespread. In 2015 alone:

  • More than 5,700 water systems failed to meet federal standards for coliform bacteria, which can lead to microbial infections.
  • More than 400 systems had too much nitrate, a fertilizer chemical that can cause life-threatening "blue baby" syndrome in infants.
  • More than 500 systems exceeded the legal level for arsenic, a notorious carcinogen.

At least 400 systems violated federal standards for lead, a potent neurotoxin that can permanently damage children’s brains. It is likely that many more water systems have excessive lead levels as contamination from outdated lead pipes often remains undetected.

How can the Trump administration protect pregnant women, infants and children from hazardous drinking water pollutants? The report's recommendations include:

  • Increasing monitoring of contaminants in tap water. The report says targeted monitoring of water most at risk, along with quick remediation, can reduce exposure to chronic, water-borne pollutants such as lead, arsenic and nitrate.
  • Identifying low-income households with pregnant women, infants and children for drinking water testing and treatment. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC, could help by referring pregnant recipients to state water testing and remediation programs.
  • Ensuring rural well water is safe to drink. The Environmental Protection Agency does not have oversight authority over the private drinking water wells that supply water to about 45 million Americans, most of whom live in rural areas. One of the biggest threats to rural wells is nitrate contamination from farm field manure runoff. According to a 2015 study by the Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism, the water in one in five private wells in Wisconsin had unsafe levels of nitrates. Again, the WIC program could provide resources to families whose drinking water is not regulated by the EPA.

The complete list of the Council of Advisors' recommendations can be found here. It's essential information, not only for the president-elect and his advisers, but for every American who is concerned about the nation's drinking water.  


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