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By Lady Wa Wa
From sea to shining sea, all year long, the news overflowed with stories of catastrophic water pollution events that made people sick, destroyed ecosystems and cost uncalculated billions to clean up. The poisons are many – everything from naturally occurring gases released by mining to dumped dry-cleaning solvents and coal ash used as landfill.
2014 started with four states (Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia) finally confirming that fracking was responsible for contaminating water wells. Four days later, a disastrous Jan. 9 coal-washing chemical tank leak in West Virginia sickened hundreds of people. Incidentally, the same site was responsible for a similar chemical spill six months later.
By the time it was revealed on Dec. 29 coal ash was the source of water contamination in Wisconsin, so many environmental calamities occurred during the year that it is impossible to list them all here. Unless you’re one of the unfortunate residents affected, these stories are usually quickly forgotten among the stream of assaults against Mother Earth.
Here, briefly, are a few of the hugest water-pollution stories topping the news in 2014:
- 4 States Confirm Water Pollution From Drilling USA Today reported Jan. 5 that an Associated Press investigation revealed water wells in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas and West Virginia have been contaminated by oil or gas drilling, despite industry claims that such problems are rare.
- Toxic Chemical Leaks into Elk River Upriver from the West Virginia American Water intake source, about 10,000 gallons coal-washing chemical, crude 4-methylcyclohexanemethanol, leaked from a Freedom Industries’ holding tank into the Elk River, leaving 300,000 people without potable water for weeks. It was later uncovered that a second chemical also leaked into the river. Industry executives were charged in December.
- Freedom Industries Leaks Chemicals, Again A faulty sump pump was blamed for causing potentially contaminated storm water to overflow into the Elk River from a containment trench at Freedom Industries’ site in Kanawha County, W. Virginia, in June — the same site that leaked chemicals into the river in January, poisoning the drinking water supply downstream.
- Toledo Water Contaminated by Algae In early August, in the warm, still waters of Lake Erie, chemicals (likely from fertilizer components) caused a massive algal bloom that polluted the drinking water for hundreds of thousands of residents.
- Study Links Water Contamination To Fracking In September, University of Texas researchers found that levels of arsenic, selenium and strontium were higher than the EPA’s limits in some private wells near natural gas wells. A drinking water study by the National Academy of Sciences determined fracking was indeed responsible for water contamination in several states. In New Mexico alone, the report states, chemicals from oil and gas waste pits contaminated water sources at least 421 times. In August, Pennsylvania made 243 cases of contamination of private drinking wells from oil and gas drilling operations public.
- Coal Ash Contaminates Wisconsin Water A decades’ long practice of legally dumping tons of coal ash in lots, waterways, landfills, and even hospital parking lots, has been linked to well contamination, according to a study released in November by Clean Wisconsin, an environmental advocacy group. Government programs, such as “beneficial reuse,” allowed power plants to use coal ash as fill in construction projects. Chemicals leaching from the ash may be responsible for numerous serious health problems. The EPA confirmed 157 cases of proven or potential damage from coal ash, including 14 in Wisconsin.
- West Wichita Wells Contaminated by Dumped Solvents In December, nearly 200 homes in west Wichita were connected to city water as the result of groundwater contamination caused decades ago by dry-cleaning solvents. Kansas Department of Health and Environment spent more than $2.5 million to pay for water mains, meters and connections to the homes that were within the area of the contamination plume.
To get an idea of the potential contaminants in your drinking water, see this report by the Environmental Working Group that compiled records from 48,000 public water suppliers, creating the largest drinking water quality database in existence. More than 300 pollutants were detected. To use the database online, simply enter your zip code to see the results of public water sources near you.
EWG also compiled a water filter resource guide to help consumers choose a system.
To find information about the many water filtration products that we carry, please visit the Highwater Filters website.