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On Tap: Seth Siegel’s Masterful Examination of America’s Drinking Water Crisis

It was 1975. A few years earlier, an upstart public interest outfit called Environmental Defense Fund, fresh from its successful campaign to ban the insecticide DDT, had publicized water test results that found industrial chemicals in New Orleans tap water. EDF scientist Robert Harris linked the contamination to elevated cancer rates.  Controversy swirled, and the EPA, an agency then just four years old, conducted followup tests that found “traces of 66 chemical compounds” coming out of New Orleans’ taps, raising further alarm in Louisiana and beyond. The EDF report and other fresh investigations had prompted Congress to adopt drinking water regulations for the first time under the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974. It was up to the newly established EPA to deal with the mess. That’s just the start of the story that Seth Siegel masterfully explores in his latest book, “Troubled Water: What’s Wrong With What We Drink.” Water utilities to that point operated under state law, but state agencies couldn’t even manage to reliably count the number of water systems they regulated, much less guarantee the quality of the tap water supplied.  Read more....



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