Clean Water Laws Ignored All Over: Report

Toxic taps threaten public health

Many states have turned a blind eye to reports that show high levels of toxins in drinking water, whether because of a lack of resources to take on polluters or because of political interference, an in-depth investigation by The New York Times has found. As a result, one in 10 Americans have been exposed to water that does not meet federal guidelines for chemical safety, and which may cause cancer and birth defects.

Since 2004, polluters like factories and manufacturing plants self-reported that they broke water laws more than a half a million times, according to records the Times collected. Two-thirds of the polluters -- companies of all sizes -- were cited for the most serious type of violation: having dumped cancer-causing chemicals or having not reported what chemicals they disposed of. State officials only fined or significantly punished three percent of Clean Water Act violators, according to the Times.

In its shocking report, the Times cites examples of children who have broken out in rashes that only vanish when bathing away from home while on vacation, or kids who must brush their teeth with bottled water to keep from getting cavities.

Environmental Protection Agency chief Lisa Jackson tells the paper enforcement is "unacceptably low," but another E.P.A. statement cautions that the Times report "may paint an unduly alarming picture." To search the Times' exhaustive national database of water pollution violations by your city, state or zip code, click here.

Get more: MSNBC

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