2018 was a big year for water news—and not in the best way. Story after story of communities suffering from low-quality drinking water hit the newsstands from Florida to Oregon and countless individuals have suffered from issues related to contaminated drinking water supplies.
While Nebraskans can rest assured that our water quality hasn’t been at the center of public outrage, many of our fellow Midwesterners have not been so lucky. This week, we’re taking a look back at the stories that uncovered issues across a few Midwestern states and diving into the details of what happened in each instance.
Algae in Ohio
Dangerous algae blooms have been on the rise across the country. Cases have been noted everywhere from Florida to Alaska, but one of the more troubling cases took place in Ohio. Lake Erie was one of the water bodies most affected by the algae. While it wasn’t as bad as blooms of years past due to weather patterns, experts still worry about surrounding water systems the Great Lake feeds into. Toledo, Ohio, for example, had its water system shut down for three days in 2014 after dangerous bacteria from the bloom was detected.
Ohio government officials, including Gov. John Kasich, worked on legislation, and farmers complied with new state regulations to help mitigate issues. Even a local brewery, Maumee Bay Brewing Co., joined the fight for clean water by brewing a green beer called “Alegae Bloom” to raise awareness about issues in Lake Erie. However, climate change is posing a significant threat as officials try to figure out how to stop the annual algae bloom.
Wisconsin’s Well Problem
Wisconsin is working to address high nitrate levels in as few as 7% to as many as 41% of private wells across the state (reports vary). Officials from the state’s Department of Health Services (WDHS) urged citizens with private wells to test annually for nitrate which is considered safe at a level of 10 milligrams per liter. Higher concentrations can lead to serious issues because nitrate, according to the WDHS, hinders the blood’s ability to carry oxygen and can lead to methemoglobinemia in infants, also known as “blue baby syndrome.” Residents were warned to seek immediate medical care if an infant’s skin appears bluish or gray, especially around the mouth, hands and feet, as it is an indication of the disorder.
Officials are working on a long-term solution according to Carol Drury, the environmental health and laboratory manager at the La Crosse Country Health Department in Wisconsin, but educating the public and urging them to take action has been the first priority. Some areas have issued special warnings to pregnant women to avoid potential fetal health risks.
Michigan Lead the Way
Everyone will remember the water crisis in Flint, Michigan which paved the way for open communication about water contamination in communities. Unfortunately, that crisis is ongoing. Even worse, more communities throughout the state are now uncovering high levels of lead and toxic chemicals in their drinking water. Benton Harbor’s water system was placed under state advisory after high levels of lead were found, and the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality expanded testing for toxic chemicals after they verified test results revealing the presence of perfluorinated chemicals (PFOAS) in drinking water.
PFOAS have been linked to a number of health issues in humans including cancer and thyroid malfunction. The dangers of PFOAS became briefly famous when Teflon™ was revealed to be a health risk when ingested. Teflon™ is just one of many PFOAS which have found their way into our homes and, apparently, some water supplies.
Kansas Keeps it Hush Hush
Kansas officials came under fire for failing to notify hundreds of Wichita residents about contaminated drinking water—for six years. The state first discovered that dry cleaning chemicals had contaminated groundwater near a Haysville laundromat in 2011 but didn’t act. Instead, more than 200 more homes were hooked up to potentially contaminated city water.
One woman whose neighbors’ wells tested positive for perchloroethylene (PCE) said, “We thought we were safe and then the more we thought about it, we looked up at who had died and who had been sick in our neighbors. Everyone up and down the street has had something or other.” Officials notified residents about issues and offered alternate water supplies according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, but residents worry that other sites across the area may have been contaminated and want further testing to prove the safety of their drinking water.
We’d like to note again that Nebraska’s water systems have not had any major issues with contaminants in the last year. However, if you’d like some peace of mind, Quality Water Services offers water testing as well as monthly rentals of water softeners, iron filtration systems and drinking water systems and free salt delivery to all our customers. Call QWS today to talk about your options.