Do you know what’s in your water? California Watch reports that an increasing number of Californians are being affected by unhealthy levels of nitrates in their water supply. According to the report, over 2 million people have been affected in the last fifteen years as the number of tainted water wells continues to rise.
Statewide, the number of wells that exceeded the health limit for nitrates jumped from nine in 1980 to 648 in 2007. Scientists anticipate a growing wave of nitrate problems in some parts of the state if remedial steps aren’t taken (Julia Scott, California Forward).
Areas of greatest concern are the Central Valley, Central Coast, and the Los Angeles/Imperial Valley regions. Nitrates are particularly unhealthy for infants, who can develop blue baby syndrome by drinking contaminated water. Experts have determined that high nitrate levels are a direct result of the overuse of fertilizer on farms – which then leaches into the groundwater.
The report by California Watch comes only months after the The New York Times published an article discussing the general state of the Safe Drinking Water Act, and its effectiveness in regulating water quality.
All told, since 2004 more than 62 million Americans have been exposed to drinking water that did not meet at least one commonly used government health guideline intended to help protect people from cancer or serious disease, according to an analysis by The Times of more than 19 million drinking-water test results from the District of Columbia and the 45 states that made data available (Charles Duhigg, NY Times).
Do these findings alarm you? Are you surprised?
For more on water quality issues in the U.S., check out a special section on The New York Times’ website entitled: Toxic Waters: A Series about the Worsening Pollution in American Waters and Regulators’ Response.