Tag Archives: water quality

Hot pipes lead reporter to radioactive aquifer

Mark Greenblatt, reporter for KHOU-Houston, reports that officials in Central Texas have been alarmed to discover high levels of radiation in the pipes and related systems that provide much of the region’s drinking water.

According to local officials, the contamination comes from years of exposure to drinking water that already tests over federal legal limits for radioactive radium. Of even more concern, they say, is that any water quality testing is done before the water runs through the contaminated pipes that could be adding even more radiation.

Almost as remarkable as the waterborne radiation itself? The fact that it was only discovered when city workers dug up old piping, brought it to the recycling center and were rejected because they were “too radioactive” to recycle.

Through his sources, Greenblatt knew the documents and tests proving the connection between a radioactive aquifer and “hot” pipes existed, but getting his hands on them was a different matter.

The call (with sources) was prompted by internal documents from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which identified a main source of the region’s water as radium contaminated. The TCEQ had initially refused to release the paper after a public-records request, and only did so under order from the Attorney General of Texas.

Greenblatt’s story runs much deeper, and it’s worth taking the time to appreciate the scope of his dense, document-rich investigation.

U.S. global health policy focus of guide

In recognition of the major role global health issues now play in even the most local stories, the Kaiser Family Foundation has released a 41-page “Reporter’s Guide to U.S. Global Health Policy” (PDF).kff

The guide devotes sections to diseases/issues (HIV/AIDS, Malaria, Tuberculosis, Neglected Tropical Diseases, Maternal and Child Health, Water-Related Diseases, Food Insecurity), U.S. funding of global health efforts (Obama’s Global Health Initiative), relevant policy issues and policymaking. It also catalogues and explains related multinational and NGO efforts and lists news-making events.

NYT: Millions drink contaminated water

Having exposed the nation’s toxic waters, The New York Times‘ Charles Duhigg has now turned his attention to the Safe Drinking Water Act. Duhigg has found that “since 2004, the water provided to more than 49 million people has contained illegal concentrations of chemicals like arsenic or radioactive substances like uranium, as well as dangerous bacteria often found in sewage.”

Photo by aschweigert via Flickr.

Furthermore, Duhigg found that only 6 percent of violators were ever fined or punished.

Duhigg used EPA data on Safe Drinking Water Act violations as well as other parts of the massive Toxic Waters database.


AP finds contaminated water in schools

The Associated Press has analyzed a decade of Environmental Protection Agency data and found that tests at thousands of American schools had shown the drinking water to be contaminated, with the water at some schools hitting unsafe levels in as many as 20 separate inspections. As part of the investigation, the AP provided an interactive map with which you can search and sort violations in your area. Although some children have become sick and some schools have resorted to bottled water, the AP found that the contaminants are generally not present in levels that would harm adults.

(Hat tip to Poynter’s Al Tompkins)


CNN looks into link between Lejuene water, cancer

CNN’s Abbie Boudreau and Scott Bronstein investigated a possible link between male breast cancer and contaminated drinking water provided at the Marine training base at Camp Lejeune between the ’60s and the mid-’80s. Twenty male Marines with breast cancer have found that the only thing they have in common is drinking the water at Lejeune, but, Boudreau and Bronstein report, “two independent studies have found no link between water contamination and later illnesses, according to the Marine Corps.”

The reports talked to seven of the cancer-afflicted men, finding that neither the VA nor the Marine Corps will pay for their cancer treatments, citing in at least one case that the cancer “neither occurred in nor was caused by service.”

The men with breast cancer are among about 1,600 retired Marines and Camp Lejeune residents who have filed claims against the federal government. According to congressional investigators, they are seeking nearly $34 billion in compensation for health problems they say stemmed from drinking water at the base that was contaminated with several toxic chemicals, including some the federal government has classified as known or potential cancer-causing agents.

In a blog post about the piece, Boudreau discusses questions raised by her research on unproven links between Lejuene water and cancer, openly wondering if the connection will ever be conclusively proven to be either true or false.