The Sad State of Our Nation's Waters

"Toxic Waters" series examines America's worsening water pollution

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Clean water is necessary for anyone who drinks water, bathes in water, uses water in their everyday life. Ultimately, it’s urgent for everyone.

Today the New York Times ran an article highlighting the hazards of contaminated water that focuses on the struggles faced by residents living near coal processing ponds in Charleston, West Virginia. This region is ground zero in our fight against mountaintop removal. Mining companies dump waste directly into streams and headwaters that make their way into aquifers and wells used by residents for drinking water. The Times story reveals the human impact of toxic chemicals leaching into waters: kidney and liver damage, cancer, skin lesions.

The story is the first in a series called "Toxic Waters" that will examine the detrimental effects of living with polluted water. A comprehensive interactive map accompanying the article—searchable by zip code—compiles more than 200,000 facilities nationwide that have permits to discharge pollutants and highlights those that have been found in violation of the Clean Water Act. The interactive map also lists any fines imposed as a result of violations (typically zero dollars).

Through hundreds of interviews and thousands of pages of reporting data, the Times concluded "that an estimated one in 10 Americans have been exposed to drinking water that contains dangerous chemicals or fails to meet a federal health benchmark in other ways."

The next story in this series will focus on water pollution from dairies and other agricultural sources.

Jared was the head coach of Earthjustice's advocacy campaign team from 2004 to 2014.