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Is My Drinking Water Clean?

Is My Water Clean?

People get their drinking water from multiple sources. Lakes, ponds, rivers, creeks, aquifers, rain, and even the ocean are sources of one of the most vital necessities to human survival. Historically, these sources have been so abundant that humanity has never really had to worry about a lack of quality drinking water. However, in the past two centuries, this has begun to change. One might assume that this is because of some natural phenomena. Such an assumption is not naïve.

Humanity Threatens Clean Water Supplies

Under normal circumstances, it would be a reasonable conclusion. However, since the advent of the Industrial Revolution, such an assumption must be considered, at the least, uninformed. At present, the most eminent threat to humanity’s supply of potable drinking water is humanity itself. There is no denying this fact. Human activities are contaminating more water every day, and as time passes, the pace of this contamination is quickening.

Is My Water Clean?

So, is your drinking water contaminated? Of the many things that can contaminate the water supply, there are five common things that you can look for to determine if your local water supply may be . Do you live near a surface or sub-surface mining facility? Do you live near an open air land fill? Do you live near an oil or natural gas rig? Do you live in a region that has active industrial level farming operations? Do you live near a coal or nuclear power production facility? If you can answer yes to even one of these questions, it is very possible that your water is contaminated. If you can answer yes to more than one of these question, it is a near certainty that your water is contaminated. Here are some of the reasons that you should be worried.

Surface and Sub-Surface Mining

Water pollution problems caused by mining include acid mine drainage, metal contamination, and increased sediment levels in streams. Sources can include active or abandoned surface and subsurface mines, processing plants, waste disposal areas, haulage roads, or tailings ponds. Sediments, typically from increased soil erosion, cause siltation or the smothering of streambeds. This siltation affects fisheries, swimming areas, domestic water supplies, irrigation, and other uses of streams.

For decades, large mining corporations have used loopholes in the Clean Water Act to dump massive amounts of these toxic tailings and other waste into this country’s streams, lakes, and wetlands. There are also gaseous emissions that make their way into the atmosphere and pollute the rainwater that then returns to the Earth.

-Open Air Landfills –

Landfills create a toxic soup of industrial and home cleaning chemicals. People throw away everything from industrial solvents, to batteries, to household cleaners, and they end up in landfills. These chemicals accumulate and mix over time, and if they are never attended to, can find their way into local lakes, rivers, creeks, ponds, aquifers, and even the ocean. These are, of course, the primary sources of humanity’s drinking water. Further, landfills are also known to emit noxious gases that can get into the atmosphere and pollute the rain water that returns to the Earth.

Oil and Natural Gas Drilling –

Shale gas is natural gas that is trapped in tiny pore like spaces in shale formations. The gas is a mixture of various hydrocarbons, the most plentiful of which is methane. There are, however, other noxious agents present like ethane, propane, and butane, along with a mixture of carbon dioxide, nitrogen, and hydrogen sulfide. Hydraulic fracking creates fractures in the shale formation to release this combination of gases, fluids, and solids. To release the gases from the shale as quickly as possible, a mixture of water and various other, mainly undisclosed, chemical agents is also pumped into the mix with the shale.

These chemicals widen the fractures created by the drilling and release the gases more quickly. The drilling process for natural gas is based on a similar process for the extraction of oil from the earth. This process includes penetrating the water table, which supplies lakes, rivers, creeks, ponds, and the like. This means that hydrocarbon gases and potentially hazardous industrial chemicals are entering the local water supply.

-Industrial Farming Pesticides and Fertilizers –

Modern day pesticides and fertilizers were made to deal with local pests that have existed for hundreds of years, along with, new invasive species who have achieved greater mobility as globalization has picked up pace. To ensure their success, companies laden these products with chemicals that are not found in nature. Unfortunately, however, once they have been sprayed, these chemicals do not disappear completely. Some of them mix in with the water used to water the fields and then seep into the ground.

The rest of them are absorbed by the plant itself, but that is another point. As a result of the ground seepage created by this process, local streams and other bodies of water that are supplied by water from the ground become contaminated, including many of the aquifers that sit miles beneath the land where these crops are being planted.

-Industrial Power Plants –

Mercury is a metallic pollutant released from coal combustion. Coal burning power plants are the largest human caused source of mercury emissions in the air in United States. By itself, the United States is responsible for more than forty percent of the mercury emitted into the air, globally. When the mercury vapor finds its way into bodies of water, it is converted by bacteria into the more toxic compound, methyl mercury. This is a known neurotoxin. It causes mental retardation, seizures, cerebral palsy, and even death.

The main environmental concern related to nuclear power is the creation of radioactive wastes such as uranium mill tailings, spent reactor fuel, and other radioactive wastes. These materials can remain radioactive and dangerous to human health for thousands of years. If they get into the local water supply, they have the potential to cause serious health problems that can follow a person and their family for generations.

Are you still skeptical?

Consider the crisis that has erupted in Flint, Michigan over the toxic levels of lead that have been detected in their water. They live near coal and nuclear power plants, open air landfills, natural gas and oil rigs, and at least one open air mine. What then of the three Assisted Living facilities in Texas whose water has also tested positive for toxic levels of lead? They meet many of the same conditions, as did the survivors of the town of Centralia, Pennsylvania. Their former town, situated over an old sub surface coal mine, has been on fire for over fifty years, and many of them are now battling various forms of cancer related to the consumption of contaminated water supplies.

Invest in Renewable Energy

Fear not! All is not lost. There are ways that you can help to stem the tide. One of the biggest things that you can do is to invest heavily in the use of renewable sources of energy.  Investing in renewable energy will remove the need to do most of the mining and drilling that takes place. It will also reduce reliance on the production of power through means that produce hazardous by-products that poison your water supply. Solar energy, wind power, geothermal energy, kinetic energy production, and biomass energy are just a handful of the options available to you. You can also invest heavily in recycling programs. The more that you and the people around you recycle the less likely harmful chemical agents will get into your water. Further, make use of organic food products that are grown without the use of dangerous chemical pesticides and fertilizers. This will further reduce the risk to your water supply. The power to change the world is in your hands.

You can help by joining the Save the Earth Cooperative and helping direct investments into clean energy

 

Sources:

http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/freshwater/pollution/

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