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Enviromentalists say U.S. water a toxic cocktail of pollutants

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May 10, 1996
Web posted at: 9:00 a.m. EDT

(CNN) -- More than 18,000 public water supplies committed at least one violation of federal drinking water health standards between 1994 and 1995, according to a report issued Thursday by a coalition of environmental groups.


Water to Watch:731K QuickTime movie


Many of the violations, the report said, had to potential to cause illnesses, including cancer.

"In 1994, according to water facility records, 45 million people in the U.S. were served water polluted with unsafe levels of pesticides," said Richard Wiles of the Environmental Working Group. He said parasites, fecal matter, lead and bacteria were found in the water supplies.

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To determine the worst offenders, environmentalists focused on water systems supplying at least 10,000 people. The coalition issued a list of 51 water systems that it said violated multiple health standards from 1994 to 1995. Topping the list of the 10 biggest violators was Jersey City, New Jersey, cited for fecal bacteria, chronic coliform and inadequate filtration violations.

"It throws up a red flag that something's not operating here correctly," said Richard Henning of United Water. "And perhaps we need to take a look at what needs to be fixed within that system."

Last week a private company took over administration of the city's water. United Water has launched what it calls an ambitious program, including stricter internal testing and the use of more sophisticated means for disinfecting water.

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The report sounded the alarm for cities big and small across the country. Dire problems were found from Oklahoma to Oregon and from the Carolinas to California.

But the report was as much about politics as it was about informing the consumer. Congress is poised to vote next week on changes in the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Richard Wiles of the Environmental Working Group said Congress has been trying to weaken drinking water safeguards. (136K AIFF or WAV sound)

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Hence, the environmental coalition advises consumers to become informed about their local drinking water and to support legislation to strengthen controls.

The American Water Works Association (AWWA), which represents water utilities, called Thursday's report a misrepresentation of the available EPA data. In fact, Jack Sullivan of AWWA told CNN, the water in the United States is the safest in the world. (128K AIFF or WAV sound)


From Correspondent Michael Okwu

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