In search of safe drinking water on Delmarva

So far, our region’s drinking water remains mostly lead-free

originally posted on March 18, 2016


For decades, United States-based charitable organizations have been working to supply people who live in Third World countries with safe drinking water.

Here at home, we turn a faucet handle and safe, clean, fresh water appears like magic. We cheerfully donate money to these organizations because we want to share the wealth of safe drinking water with those who have no access to a reliable water source

But we learned recently that in Flint, Michigan, water that was believed to be safe by trusting residents actually wasn’t safe. It may have permanently damaged their children or grandchildren, and affected the health of many other residents of all ages. In Flint, this was caused by a money-saving decision that turned out to be a really devastatingly bad call.

The culprit? Lead that was incorporated into the city’s aging water infrastructure and buildings and homes that contained piping that used lead solder to seal pipe joints. It was never a problem until an emergency manager appointed by the state governor switched water sources in an effort to pinch pennies and balance the budget.

The more acidic water from the Flint River leached lead from those pipe joints and other plumbing infrastructure and ended up in the municipal drinking water – up to 15 times the “safe” levels allowed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

This, naturally, drew attention across the nation. It also prompted an investigation by USA TODAY, which has done a comprehensive analysis of lead in drinking water across the nation, with shocking results.

On Delmarva, we are fighting the encroachment of salt water into our drinking water supplies, and citizen groups are fighting to protect Salisbury’s Paleochannel aquifer. Iron, sulphur and other contaminants have affected well water on the Lower Shore for many generations, making it taste or smell unpalatable and giving rise to a new industry – home water treatment plants.

But lead is a different kind of threat – a public health hazard that is tracked and taken seriously.

An investigation by a Daily Times reporter indicates that for now at least, most drinking water on the Lower Shore does not contain lead, although a few sources have tested positive, albeit within federal limits.

For that, we can be grateful. But we have learned a hard lesson: Don’t take safe drinking water for granted.

A healthy dose of watchful vigilance is always needed – even here, in one of the world’s richest, most developed nations.



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