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Report Fits WV Tap-Water Safety Issues into National Pattern

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Two-thirds of West Virginia counties rank in the bottom third for their number of tap-water safety violations; even more are in the bottom third for the time it takes to fix these issues. (Natural Resources Defense Council)
Two-thirds of West Virginia counties rank in the bottom third for their number of tap-water safety violations; even more are in the bottom third for the time it takes to fix these issues. (Natural Resources Defense Council)
 By Dan HeymanContact
September 30, 2019

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The latest report on unsafe tap water confirms some of West Virginia's drinking water problems - and puts them in a national context. According to the "Watered Down Justice" survey by the Natural Resources Defense Council, two-thirds of West Virginia counties rate poorly for public water systems safety violations, and three quarters are slow to get the issues fixed.

Pam Nixon is president at People Concerned About Chemical Safety. She said the state has 125 water systems, many of them tiny.

"And when you have such small populations that these water systems are serving, you find that these small systems struggle with just maintaining, much less trying to improve, their infrastructure,” Nixon said.

In reporting on these problems, the Charleston Gazette-Mail found communities that have been under "boil water" warnings for more than 15 years. The Watered Down Justice snapshot found nationally, such concerns are much more common in low-income, rural and minority communities. The report found the water systems serving these areas suffer from a lack of investment.

After the Elk River chemical spill, Nixon said her organization recommended the state budget $40 million a year to help communities catch up on water-system repairs and improvements. She said they also have recommended consolidating the systems and reducing the amount of pollution released into the waterways.

"There would be less pollution going into the water, which means the public water systems will not have to work as hard trying to filter out or remove a lot of the impurities that would be going into the drinking water,” she said.

The report looked at three years of violations under the Safe Drinking Water Act. People Concerned About Chemical Safety was one of four environmental groups to take part in the work.

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