The tale of water contamination is not a new one. The narrative worked its way into mainstream consciousness with the release of Erin Brockovich, the true story of a legal clerk and environmental activist who took on Pacific Gas and Electric Company whose unsavory practices led to the contamination of the water source in Hinkley, California. And more recently, in 2014, Flint, Michigan was the center of a public administration scandal. City officials made the executive decision to switch water sources from the Detroit River, regulated by the Detroit Water and Sewage Department, to the Flint River, managed by the Karegnondi Water Authority. This move was expected to save the city $200 million, but officials failed to take into consideration the human costs in Flint, one of the poorest cities in the United States. At least 10 people died during an outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease caused by a surge in bacteria in the water supply.
There are a whole set of possible reasons for water contamination. In spite of various regulations, companies tend to bypass the law in favor of profit, dumping waste into streams and lakes and causing water sources to be contaminated. One of the more controversial practices has been fracking, which can lead to chemical run-off making its way into the water. Dominic DiGiulio, a former EPA scientist, spent nearly 10 years building up evidence to prove this fact.
Fracking involves drilling into the earth and cracking open shale rock in order to extract fossil fuels such as oil and gas. And, prior to DiGiulio’s study, fracking has enjoyed the support of government officials due to its being purportedly less harmful than other extractive practices. In fact, in 2015, the EPA released a report saying there had not been “widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water resources in the United States,” adding that there was very little data to suggest any negative effects of fracking.
But according to DiGiulio, the water supply in Wyoming, where he was stationed, showed signs of methanol, diesel compounds and high quantities of salt and ions found in fracking chemicals. In short, he discovered that fracking did indeed result in polluted water sources, perhaps due to the common use of shallow chemical-storage pits.
Fracking is just one concerning practice among many. Mountaintop removal mining is another form of fossil fuel extraction that has led many – namely those in West Virginia and other Appalachian states – to wonder about the health effects of such a practice. According to one study, water sources are much saltier for up to 80 percent of the year thanks to mountaintop removal. A much larger study, commenced under the Obama administration, was recently halted by the Trump administration.
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The Trump administration has been trying to roll back environmental regulations since entering office. According to the New York Times, the Trump administration has set its sights on over 50 environmental rules. Half of those rules have already been overturned while the other half either are in process or in limbo. And most of the deregulation that’s occurring is the result of direct requests from major fossil fuel companies.
Congressional Republicans rescinded the Stream Protection Rule, which was supposed to protect nearly 6,000 miles of streams and thousands of acres of forest. With more deregulation on the horizon, the threat of water contamination can only increase.
If you find yourself harmed by water pollutants, it may be a good idea to reach out to a skilled attorney with experience in environmental pollution cases. An experienced water contamination law firm such as Smith Stag will have the resources and expertise to fight for justice against the large corporate interests that have caused harm to your community.