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Infrastructure Investment Needed Immediately To Address Drinking Water Safety
Newark residents are being encouraged to drink bottled water only because of a growing crisis over lead contamination in drinking water.
Christa Kelleher, assistant professor of earth sciences and civil engineering at Syracuse University, says we are likely to see more cases of water safety concerns as pipes and systems across the country exceed recommended lifespans.
“U.S. water infrastructure is aging and needs immediate attention.
“We are likely to see more cases like those in Newark, NJ, and Flint, MI if we don’t invest in upgrading and replacing our water infrastructure. These systems have finite lifespans, and pipes and systems across the country are either reaching or already exceeding these recommended lifespans. By ignoring this problem for so long, we’ve created an issue where investment is needed everywhere, immediately.
“Newark and Flint represent two very different cases that highlight how aging water infrastructure impacts residents, especially those in poverty. In many places where lead service lines to the home still exist – like Newark – the cost of replacing these lines often falls on residents, many of whom don’t have the ability to cover this cost.
“With access to clean drinking water being a basic human right, we need to do better to ensure that our communities – regardless of their income level – don’t have to be worried when they turn on their tap.”
Donald Siegel is a research professor, and Earth Sciences and Professor Emeritus at Syracuse University’s College of Arts and Sciences. Professor Siegel attributes much of the lead issue to road salt contamination.
“Most of the lead in drinking water in municipalities comes from dissolving lead solder in old home plumbing. Lead dissolves at low concentrations natural in most drinking water. However, when road salt contaminates stream, lake, and groundwater, the higher concentration of chloride from the salt causes more of the lead to dissolve.
“Road salt contamination to drinking waters has become a common problem wherever people use salt as an ice deicer in winter. Sometimes adding compounds to the water, such as phosphate, can cause the lead to come out of the water as mineral matter, scale, which has to be removed later over time.”
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