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Did you know that as many as 18 million Americans currently live in areas where water systems still violate laws? Did you know that very little work has actually been carried out (CNN reports) to ensure that these systems are safe? Think of it as a cop observing vehicles violating the speed limit and doing nothing to ensure that the rules are followed! The lead and copper rule laid down by the EPA is being violated by more than 5300 water systems in the US and considering how serious an issue lead poisoning is turning out to be, lead replacement really needs to be looked into.

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According to a report issued by NRDC, the most common violations include failure to report contamination, failure to conduct proper tests for lead in water and failure to treat water to avoid lead poisoning. Reports also show that the EPA has taken action in only 88 out of the 817 cases! What’s even worse is that questionable testing methods exist throughout the country to avoid the detection of high levels of lead. For example, Flint, yes the place where this entire fiasco flared up, isn’t listed as having violated the EPA lead and copper rule!

Are Authorities Really Resorting to Cheating?

A Virginia Tech researcher believes that the EPA has been ignoring local water utilities gaming the system for years. Some of the common bad case practices being adopted in places throughout the country include selective testing, pre-flushing and taking water samples slowly to reduce the level of lead. The EPA states that it is currently “focusing on enhanced oversight of the states, including implementation of the existing rule”, but experts believe that addressing the problem could lead to even more violations. “If you fix the problem of the game in the system, you now have hundreds — and thousands perhaps — of municipalities that have direct violation,” says, Alan Morrissey, a former EPA attorney in the Office of Water Enforcement.

What’s Up with Philadelphia?

One of the best examples of EPA’s unwillingness to act can be seen in Philadelphia. The city recently came under scrutiny after a class-action lawsuit alleged that the city tested low risk homes and diluted its testing pool to paint a rosy picture of the city’s lead contamination problems. And while the EPA failed to act on these alleged bad case practices, it also ignored issuing an alert to the people of Philadelphia so that they could at the very least protect themselves with adequate lead replacement strategies. EPA, on the other hand, states that enforcement was left to the state of Pennsylvania.

So When Does One Take Action?

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There is no safe level of lead consumption as the effects of lead poisoning can really be disastrous. Even then, the EPA set a level of 15 ppb (parts per billion) as a threshold after which enforcers are expected to step in and correct the issue. Flint’s issue might have been astronomical at 10000 ppb, but it certainly isn’t alone. A water system serving the state of Utah showed contamination levels of 6000 ppb while 8 more systems in 7 different states showed levels greater than 1000 ppb. And that’s not even counting the 25 odd systems which had lead levels greater than 200 ppb!

The problem of lead poisoning isn’t just a debate today. The problem is very real, and unless we do something about it, matters are only expected to become worse. Lead replacement is possibly the simplest solution in front of us as using nontoxic high-density materials and lead substitutes let us get rid of one of the major sources of contamination – lead – without having to compromise on our way of life.

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