Save the Water Archives Pollution Threatens Our Drinking Water

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Save the WaterTM Archives | August 4, 2010 | The Daily times | Shared as an education material

While all eyes are on the spectacular disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, a massive and long-term chemical “spill” that is contaminating the source of drinking water for a heavily populated and possibly widespread mid-Atlantic region is quietly being exposed. The News Journal in Wilmington recently reported on a disturbing situation in northern Delaware –the chemical contamination of groundwater in the area. Chemical plumes of toxic pollutants including benzene, vinyl chloride and chlorinated benzenes are spreading and have reached the Potomac Aquifer, which provides drinking water to much of Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey, according to the News Journal report, with concentrations high enough to pose both immediate and long-term health threats.

These chemicals emanate from the sites of current or former chemical and plastics operations in the area, as well as refineries.

It brings to mind the well-publicized disaster discovered in the late 1970s –Love Canal, a planned community in New York, near Niagara Falls, that was built atop a toxic waste dump. Although there are parallels, the two are not quite the same. The very ground upon which Love Canal sat was full of toxic chemicals, while Delaware’s water supply is threatened by industrial pollution.

Delaware’s problem could prove substantially more widespread, affecting people in several states and regions.

The Environmental Protection Agency notes that the community has shown little interest; perhaps had residents been better informed, they would have taken notice.

In several instances, officials both corporate and government admitted withholding pertinent information from the public. Delaware environmental officials admit information has not been communicated in a way that the public can understand.

Even scientists do not yet understand the scope or potential harm of these findings. Nor is there any assurance the threat can be contained or corrected.

The Lower Shore does not draw its drinking water from the Potomac Aquifer, but the scene of this contamination is disturbingly close to home. According to the report, a combination of corporate mistakes and lax government oversight is to blame.

There is nothing more basic to life than clean, safe drinking water. Did we learn nothing from the environmental disaster at Love Canal more than 30 years ago?

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