Top 4 Water Contamination Incidents in History (and How To Avoid Becoming a Statistic)

You have probably received a boiled water advisory at one point or another.  This advisory suggests boiling water for a minute to make sure no contaminants are in your water after a water main breaks, loss of pressure, or flooding.  Boil water advisories do not mean any contaminants have entered your water; it is a safety precaution because it means pathogens may be able to enter water. 

Normally boil water advisories last for 24 hours, and the measure was purely precautionary.

For some communities, instead of a boil water advisory they receive “Do Not Drink” advisories, because the water is contaminated.

Water contamination or water pollution is when hazardous pollutants and materials enter a water source and the water is not properly treated to remove contaminants. Contaminants enter water through chemical runoff and waste materials from homes and businesses.  This can take place through oil spills, chemical dumping, and leakage.

While cases like Hinckley, CA, in the 1950s, notable for environmental activist Erin Brockovich and the case against corporate, illegal dumping, are heard nationwide, other communities are forming coalitions and meeting with government officials to ask for more stringent water protection.

In February 2016, participants of Georgia Water Coalition’s Clean Water Day of Action met in Atlanta to speak with legislatures over concerns for drinking water and contaminants found in Georgia’s water.  Contaminants found in the water are arsenic, mercury, radiological contaminants, and other pollutants. 

Unfortunately for some communities, the ability to take measures before water gets worse is not possible.

In the past 23 years, there have been four major water contamination cases that have affected hundreds of thousands of people even for years after the water pollution occurred.

  1. 1. In 2015, water sources surrounding Coal Ash Pond in North Carolina were found to be contaminated with high levels of toxic metals like lead, vanadium and hexavalent chromium (a carcinogen).  According to Catawba Riverkeeper, during the initial testing 166 wells within 1,000 feet of coal ash pond were found with levels of coal ash contaminants high enough to warrant the HRE ‘Do Not Drink’ notices.”
  2. Flint, MI water contamination began in 2014 and is effects on 102,000 residents still continue today.  The water was found to have lead, fecal coliform bacterium, total coliform bacterium, byproducts of disinfectants, and total trihalomethanes (TTHM, which is by-product of chlorination).  Since the water became polluted, Flint has had a spike in Legionnaires’ disease.  While a direct connection cannot be established, there is an association between the water and the increase of Legionnaires’ disease in Flint residents.
  3. A chemical leakage from a storage container in 2014, contaminated the water in Elk River, WV.  The chemical methylcyclohexane methanol or MCHM, a chemical used in the purifying coal, contaminated the water affecting 300,000 residents who were told to not drink the water.  The polluted water caused 400+ people to go to the hospital for treatment and 1,600+ people to call poison control for red, itchy skin.
  4. In 1993, the largest documented waterborne disease outbreak in U.S. history took place in Milwaukee.  The public water supply water was contaminated with a parasite called Cryptosporidium.  This microscopic parasite infected over 400,000 people and caused 69 deaths at the time, but it now estimated it attributed to over 100 deaths.

While these types of major contaminations are rare, the effects are great and can cause health issues for years to come.  Reverse osmosis systems are an effective way to add water security to your home.  Reverse osmosis (RO) purifies water by filtering water through semipermeable membranes to remove particles, ions and minerals.

The following are five of the top-rated RO water filtration systems you could buy on Amazon:  

  • APEC Water Systems ROES-50 
  • iSpring RCC7 
  • Express Water RO5DX 5 Stage Home Drinking Reverse Osmosis System 
  • Hydro-Logic 31040 200-GPD Stealth-RO200 Reverse Osmosis Filter
  • Home Master HydroPerfection

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