The code violations in the Flint, Mich., drinking water system that have led to disastrous health problems have raised public awareness concerning the challenges that confront public water utilities.
The construction industry should and can help resolve this problem. We have the expertise and the technology to do so. What is needed is funding for these projects.
An article by Pam Hunter McFarland in ENR provides relevant statistics.
- There are approximately “155,000 public water systems” in this country.
- According to the National Resource Defense Council (NRDC), “more than 5,000 drinking-water systems…violate the federal law for testing lead levels in their supplies.”
- “In 2015, 1,100 community water systems…showed lead levels in excess of…the action level established for lead…”
(It should be noted that Ms. McFarland’s article makes it clear that many of the infractions recorded by the NRDC are for inspection and testing violations and do not necessarily indicate lead or other substance contamination.)
The EPA is ultimately responsible for enforcing water safety regulations.
Money, or the lack of it, is the root cause of the problem. Local municipalities, like Flint, can’t afford to test and repair their systems and the EPA doesn’t have the funds needed to inspect more than a small percentage of the nation’s drinking water systems.
Although both Ms. McFarland and the NRDC are circumspect in assigning blame for the current state of our nation’s drinking water, it seems clear that the perennial gridlock in Congress is ultimately responsible for the current situation.
The construction industry should intensify its efforts to compel Congress to pass legislation that will provide municipalities with the funds they need to make their drinking water safe.
This would provide good, long-term work for our industry. But more is at stake here than jobs. Safe drinking water is a basic need that government, on all levels, should work together to supply their citizens.
The construction industry can be a powerful voice in the fight to make safe drinking water a reality throughout the country.
NRDC: Lead Is a National Problem, Pam Hunter McFarland, ENR, July 11, 2016.