222336 An analysis of industrial water pollution in the United States: Why policy level change is needed

Tuesday, November 9, 2010 : 4:35 PM - 4:55 PM

Emily Wurth, MPH , Food & Water Watch, Washington, DC
Toxic chemicals are increasingly detected in our drinking water supplies, and the current water treatment technologies cannot remove them. This issue is a growing public health concern. As mandated under the Emergency Planning and Community Right- to- Know Act, industrial facilities must report the chemicals they use, store and release into the environment. The EPA takes facility reports on the pounds of chemicals they release into the environment, the Toxics Release Inventory, and uses a model called the Risk Screening Environmental Indicators, to factor in the fate and transport of the chemicals, their relative toxicity, and the number of people that live in the affected area. Each facility is given a RSEI score and the information is available to the public. This study used industry reports to match each facility with its corporate owner. The RSEI scores were aggregated to identify the top 100 water polluting corporations--those emitting the most toxic chemicals into waterways that affect the most people. Less than 20 percent of the 500 chemicals in the RSEI database have maximum contamination levels that limit the allowable concentrations in drinking water. This study suggests policy level changes are needed to safeguard the nation's drinking water supply. The EPA should update the Safe Drinking Water Act and require the regulation of unregulated chemicals entering our water supplies. Furthermore, federal policies need to be enacted to restrict the use of these chemicals by the most polluting industries and to prevent toxic chemicals from entering the drinking water supplies.

Learning Areas:
Environmental health sciences
Public health or related public policy
Social and behavioral sciences
Systems thinking models (conceptual and theoretical models), applications related to public health

Learning Objectives:
Identify the top corporate water polluters in the United States Identify the states and municipalities most affected by toxic water pollution Discuss the need for policy change in the Safe Drinking Water Act Discuss the need for policies to regulate the use of toxic chemicals by industry

Keywords: Water Quality, Policy/Policy Development

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to present because I am the Water Director at Food & Water Watch and a co-author of this report.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.