Let’s say you get up one morning to get a cup of water. An unpleasant brown sludge comes from the tap, and it tastes like metal. You call the local water department. They tell you there are no issues, that the water is fine. Impossible, right?
Not so fast. Lead from the old pipes in Flint, Michigan was discovered in the drinking water in 2014. Essentially, the drinking water was poison. And officials denied anything was wrong.
It was an ugly scandal. Unfortunately, it wasn’t one-of-a-kind. Between 9 million and 45 million Americans got their drinking water from a source that violated the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards every year from 1982 to 2015.
Aging infrastructure, inconsistent standards enforcement, and lack of resources (acute in rural areas) are among the problems leading to terrible tap water. Let’s look at some examples.
10. Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority issued a warning to residents after Pennsylvania’s environmental regulators discovered low levels of chlorine in the water system in 2017. Residents were instructed to boil their tap water before drinking, brushing teeth or washing dishes The chlorine could potentially expose residents to a parasite called giardia that causes diarrhea, cramps, and nausea.
High levels of lead in drinking water have been an ongoing problem in Pittsburgh, with the EPA reporting that there are not enough state officials to perform mandatory inspections. Even worse, city health officials may have misled residents into thinking that their drinking water was safe, according to a 2017 audit.