Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Some PA water systems still struggling to reach federal health standards, NRDC report says

Jon Hurdle reports for State Impact:

Some Pennsylvania drinking water systems have levels of contaminants that violate federal health standards, and may cause illnesses ranging from nausea and diarrhea to birth defects and cancer, according to a national report released on Tuesday. The report blames deteriorating infrastructure and lax enforcement by the federal government.

The Pennsylvania data is a subset of the report from the Natural Resources Defense Council, using public data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The NRDC analysis found that 167 Pennsylvania systems serving 691,000 people violated health standards set by the federal Safe Drinking Water Act when data were gathered in 2015.
The Pennsylvania systems that are recorded as having health-based violations had pollutants such as disinfectants, coliforms and nitrates at levels that could damage human health, the report said. Chlorine is a widely used disinfectant in water treatment systems, but when combined with some naturally occurring organic matter, it can create dangerous by-products that can lead to miscarriages and birth defects.
For example, 35 Pennsylvania systems serving more than 445,000 people broke the SDWA health limits on the presence of combined disinfectants and disinfectant by-products, the report said.
The health violations reported by the NRDC are distinguished from administrative errors like failing to report test results, which are listed as violations but do not in themselves indicate problems with water quality.
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