The EPA checks the city water

International - The US has a drinking water problem

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The current drinking water scandal in the American city of Flint is not an isolated incident. In other US localities, too, the water is contaminated with lead and other pollutants. These are the consequences of outdated infrastructure and lax controls.

Suddenly the politicians in Washington are giving big speeches: "We are the United States of America, not a third world country," said the appalled Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz from Utah. "This is not just a national tragedy, this is a national embarrassment," said the Michigan Democrat Brenda Lawrence.

Lead water from the tap

The reason for the excitement is the drinking water scandal in the small town of Flint in the state of Michigan. Dirty, leaded water flowed from the taps for months. The authorities only acted when there was nothing left to appease and dispute.

The highly corrosive water from the Flint River, which the city had fed into its drinking water since April 2014 for reasons of economy, attacked the pipes and released highly toxic lead. Many children have had high levels of lead in their blood. The long-term consequences cannot yet be assessed.

Stingy politicians

The dismay in the US Congress is astonishing, because the quality of the drinking water is rarely an issue here. In the past, politicians were on the brakes when it came to issuing stricter drinking water standards or investing money in water infrastructure. Not even the $ 200 million that US President Barack Obama wants to provide Flint with as an immediate measure is currently approved.

Flint is not an isolated case. Also in Greenville / North Carolina, Jackson / Mississippi and even in Washington D.C. quarters were affected. And there is no end: It was only at the beginning of the week that it became known that the town of Sebring in Ohio also has a lead problem.

Lead pipes are the problem

It is true that the US Congress banned lead-containing water pipes 30 years ago. But there are still up to 10 million of these tubes in the ground. They are time bombs: if the composition of the water flowing through these pipes changes, or if it is not treated properly, the lead - as in flint - can end up in the drinking water.

The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates it would cost up to $ 50 billion to replace all of the old lines in the country. But the money for it is not available. In addition, the water controls in the USA are extremely weak: The pollutant limits are set high, there are long intervals between individual tests and authorities keep their findings under the lid. The EPA also only stipulates the testing of a limited amount of pollutants; However, scientists are calling for the range of pollutants to be broadened. Nothing has happened so far.

When will there be drinking water again?

Flint is not an isolated case and probably not the last case either. "But Flint is a particularly blatant case," says Professor Laura Sullivan from Kettering University to the NPR radio station. You have never seen pipes so badly damaged.

The city administration also has no idea which lines contain lead, because the data available is from the 1980s and is not complete. At the moment, nobody knows when the population will have drinking water in their homes again. To do this, all water pipes must first be replaced. And that will take years.

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  • Comment from André Piquerez (Nemesis1988)
    Americans need around 600 billion a year for the military, but there is not enough money for lead-free water pipes ... just the land of (unlimited) possibilities ...
    Agree agree to the comment
    1. answer from Marcel Chauvet (xyzz)
      On the basis of official (!) Figures, the USA spent about as much per capita and as a percentage of GDP on the military as Russia, whereby a huge military build-up is planned in Russia, although the shortage is otherwise managed there
      Agree agree to the comment
    2. Show answers
  • Commentary by Hans Bernoulli (H.Bernoulli)
    During this time, US companies are sitting on approx. 2000 billion cash and do not really know what to do with it. Capitalism is like salt water: it increases the thirst for more and more money instead of quenching it and in the end society dies of thirst from lack of money while at the same time drowning in a sea of ​​assets and debts.
    Agree agree to the comment
  • Comment from ueli hofer (refoh)
    Swiss banks offer themselves for financing - with their sometimes extorted billions of fines. (Not to be taken very seriously)
    Agree agree to the comment

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