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National trends in drinking water quality violations

Allaire, M.; Haowei Wu; Lall, U.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 115 (9):2078-2083; 10.1073/pnas.1719805115 2018

Abstract

Ensuring safe water supply for communities across the United States is a growing challenge in the face of aging infrastructure, impaired source water, and strained community finances. In the aftermath of the Flint lead crisis, there is an urgent need to assess the current state of US drinking water. However, no nationwide assessment has yet been conducted on trends in drinking water quality violations across several decades. Efforts to reduce violations are of national concern given that, in 2015, nearly 21 million people relied on community water systems that violated health-based quality standards. In this paper, we evaluate spatial and temporal patterns in health-related violations of the Safe Drinking Water Act using a panel dataset of 17,900 community water systems over the period 1982–2015. We also identify vulnerability factors of communities and water systems through probit regression. Increasing time trends and violation hot spots are detected in several states, particularly in the Southwest region. Repeat violations are prevalent in locations of violation hot spots, indicating that water systems in these regions struggle with recurring issues. In terms of vulnerability factors, we find that violation incidence in rural areas is substantially higher than in urbanized areas. Meanwhile, private ownership and purchased water source are associated with compliance. These findings indicate the types of underperforming systems that might benefit from assistance in achieving consistent compliance. We discuss why certain violations might be clustered in some regions and strategies for improving national drinking water quality.

http://www.pnas.org/content/115/9/2078?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss

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A Progress Report on Efforts to Address Lead by Public School Districts

Sanborn, L. H.; Carpenter, A. T.

Journal – American Water Works Association, 110 (3):E18-E33; 10.1002/awwa.1022 2018

Abstract

Media reports in 2016 brought lead contamination of drinking water to public attention, particularly at schools where young students can be exposed to lead by drinking at contaminated outlets. In an effort to assess nationwide progress on addressing this potential health risk, this study sought to determine the status of lead testing, remediation, and long‐term management strategies in public school districts serving the nation’s 15 most populous urbanized areas. Data were collected from publicly available information and through direct interaction with school districts. All districts under consideration have implemented some form of US Environmental Protection Agency‐recommended lead testing program, and districts with elevated lead levels have performed corrective actions including flushing, outlet repairs/replacement, and filtration. This study outlines districts’ testing programs, approaches to lead‐management, plans for continued monitoring, communication strategies, and self‐assessed successes and challenges.

https://awwa.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1002/awwa.1022?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss

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The Case for Universal Screening of Private Well Water Quality in the U.S. and Testing Requirements to Achieve It: Evidence from Arsenic

Yan Zheng; Flanagan, S. V.

Environmental Health Perspectives, 125 (8):085002; 10.1289/EHP629 2017

Abstract:

BACKGROUND:The 1974 Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) regulates >170,000 public water systems to protect health, but not >13 million private wells. State and local government requirements for private well water testing are rare and inconsistent; the responsibility to ensure water safety remains with individual households. Over the last two decades, geogenic arsenic has emerged as a significant public health concern due to high prevalence in many rural American communities.

OBJECTIVES:We build the case for universal screening of private well water quality around arsenic, the most toxic and widespread of common private water contaminants. We argue that achieving universal screening will require policy intervention, and that testing should be made easy, accessible, and in many cases free to all private well households in the United States, considering the invisible, tasteless, odorless, and thus silent nature of arsenic.

DISCUSSION:Our research has identified behavioral, situational and financial barriers to households managing their own well water safety, resulting in far from universal screening despite traditional public health outreach efforts. We observe significant socioeconomic disparities in arsenic testing and treatment when private water is unregulated. Testing requirements can be a partial answer to these challenges.

CONCLUSIONS:Universal screening, achieved through local testing requirements complemented by greater community engagement targeting biologically and socioeconomically vulnerable groups, would reduce population arsenic exposure greater than any promotional efforts to date. Universal screening of private well water will identify the dangers hidden in America’s drinking water supply and redirect attention to ensure safe water among affected households. https://doi.org/10.1289/EHP629?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss

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Variability in the chemistry of private drinking water supplies and the impact of domestic treatment systems on water quality

Ander, E. L.; Watts, M. J.; Smedley, P. L.; Hamilton, E. M.; Close, R.; Crabbe, H.; Fletcher, T.; Rimell, A.; Studden, M.; Leonardi, G.

ENVIRONMENTAL GEOCHEMISTRY AND HEALTH, 38 (6):1313-1332; 10.1007/s10653-016-9798-0 DEC 2016

Abstract:

Tap water from 497 properties using private water supplies, in an area of metalliferous and arsenic mineralisation (Cornwall, UK), was measured to assess the extent of compliance with chemical drinking water quality standards, and how this is influenced by householder water treatment decisions. The proportion of analyses exceeding water quality standards were high, with 65 % of tap water samples exceeding one or more chemical standards. The highest exceedances for health-based standards were nitrate (11 %) and arsenic (5 %). Arsenic had a maximum observed concentration of 440 µg/L. Exceedances were also high for pH (47 %), manganese (12 %) and aluminium (7 %), for which standards are set primarily on aesthetic grounds. However, the highest observed concentrations of manganese and aluminium also exceeded relevant health-based guidelines. Significant reductions in concentrations of aluminium, cadmium, copper, lead and/or nickel were found in tap waters where households were successfully treating low-pH groundwaters, and similar adventitious results were found for arsenic and nickel where treatment was installed for iron and/or manganese removal, and successful treatment specifically to decrease tap water arsenic concentrations was observed at two properties where it was installed. However, 31 % of samples where pH treatment was reported had pH < 6.5 (the minimum value in the drinking water regulations), suggesting widespread problems with system maintenance. Other examples of ineffectual treatment are seen in failed responses post-treatment, including for nitrate. This demonstrates that even where the tap waters are considered to be treated, they may still fail one or more drinking water quality standards. We find that the degree of drinking water standard exceedances warrant further work to understand environmental controls and the location of high concentrations. We also found that residents were more willing to accept drinking water with high metal (iron and manganese) concentrations than international guidelines assume. These findings point to the need for regulators to reinforce the guidance on drinking water quality standards to private water supply users, and the benefits to long-term health of complying with these, even in areas where treated mains water is widely available.

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10653-016-9798-0?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss

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Determining the presence of chemicals with suspected endocrine activity in drinking water from the Madrid region (Spain) and assessment of their estrogenic, androgenic and thyroidal activities

Valcarcel, Y.; Valdehita, A.; Becerra, E.; Alda, M. L. de; Gil, A.; Gorga, M.; Petrovic, M.; Barcelo, D.; Navas, J. M.

Chemosphere, 201 388-398; 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2018.02.099 2018

Abstract

Endocrine disruptors (EDs) are natural or man-made chemicals that can affect the health of organisms by interfering with their normal hormonal functions. Many of these substances can cause their effects at very low doses and, considering the key role played by the endocrine system on development, organisms in early phases of growth (foetal, childhood, puberty) are especially sensitive to the action of EDs. In addition, when combined, they can show additive, antagonistic and synergistic activities. Taking all this into account it is essential to determine the presence of this kind of compounds in drinking water. Thus the main aim of the present study was to monitor the presence of substances with suspected or known endocrine activity in drinking water of the Madrid Region (MR) (Central Spain) and determine possible estrogenic, androgenic, or thyroidal activities. Water samples were collected at different times from a number of supply points that received water from reservoirs or rivers. The sampling point with the highest concentration of the analysed substances (up to 30 compounds) was DW1 (1203 ng L−1). This sampling point receives water from a drinking water treatment plant (DWTP) that serves the population from the south of the MR with treated water from the Tajuña River. DW2 was the second point with the highest concentration of the analysed substances (1021 ng L−1). DW2 receives water from one of the reservoirs in the north of the MR. The highest daily concentrations detected corresponded to the flame retardant Tris (2-chloroethyl)phosphate (TCEP) (266.55 ng L−1) and to the nonylphenol diethoxylate (188.57 ng L−1) at points DW1 and DW4, respectively, both of which are supplied with treated river water. None of the water samples exhibited androgenic, oestrogenic, or thyroidal activities in in vitro assays based on cells stably transfected with the receptors of interest and luciferase as reporter gene. These results demonstrate that water quality in the MR is high and does not present a health risk for the population, although the concentrations of some substances justify the need for local authorities to continually monitor the presence of these contaminants in order to implement any corrective measures if necessary.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0045653518303084?via%3Dihub&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss

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Risk governance of potential emerging risks to drinking water quality: Analysing current practices

Hartmann, Julia; van der Aa, Monique; Wuijts, Susanne; Husman, Ana Maria de Roda; van der Hoek, Jan Peter

ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE & POLICY, 84 97-104; 10.1016/j.envsci.2018.02.015 JUN 2018

Abstract

The presence of emerging contaminants in the aquatic environment may affect human health via exposure to drinking water. And, even if some of these emerging contaminants are not a threat to human health, their presence might still influence the public perception of drinking water quality. Over the last decades, much research has been done on emerging contaminants in the aquatic environment, most of which has focused on the identification of emerging contaminants and the characterisation of their toxic potential. However, only limited information is available on if, and how, scientific information is implemented in current policy approaches. The opportunities for science to contribute to the policy of emerging contaminants in drinking water have, therefore, not yet been identified.

A comparative analysis was performed of current approaches to the risk governance of emerging chemical contaminants in drinking water (resources) to identify any areas for improvement. The policy approaches used in the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland and the state of Minnesota were analysed using the International Risk Governance Council framework as a normative concept. Quality indicators for the analysis were selected based on recent literature. Information sources used were scientific literature, policy documents, and newspaper articles.

Subsequently, suggestions for future research for proactive risk governance are given. Suggestions include the development of systematic analytical approaches to various information sources so that potential emerging contaminants to drinking water quality can be identified quickly. In addition, an investigation into the possibility and benefit of including the public concern about emerging contaminants into the risk governance process was encouraged.

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1462901117311607?via%3Dihub&utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss

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