It's been bad enough learning about the ubiquity of lead in our drinking water and how more is added each year because of antiquated lead pipes. (Another aspect of our crumbling infrastructure which includes bridges, sewer systems and airports.) The lead pipe issue came to the fore in a 2016 WSJ piece ('Lead Pipes Vex Many Cities')..
The piece noted that Flint alone "has no choice but to spend an estimated $55 million to replace all the lead pipes leading to homes".
"Now, utility officials across the country are calculating the cost of getting rid of their lead water lines, a task that could take years, disrupt tens of millions of homes and businesses and require billions of dollars in spending".
The culprit? A cheapo chlorine derivative called chloramine used to disinfect city water supplies. The problem is the stuff also causes lead to leach out of aging pipes and pollute water supplies. Chloramines (one form of which is what was used to purify the water in Flint) are basically ammonia and chlorine compounds that are far more corrosive to lead pipes (which are all across the country) than chlorine. The bottom line, as the article also notes, is the EPA estimates there are "10 million lead service lines that link water mains in streets to buildings"
The American Water Works Association, which represents 4,000 water utilities, estimates the average cost for each replacement line at about $5,000 - for a total of $32. 5 billion (based on a lower limit of 6.5 million lines to replace).
This issue, make no mistake - is a man-made problem- that will take a lot of money to fix but in the end can be resolved.
But now we learn that a new source of water contamination is wholly natural: radium. Why important? Because it is a known carcinogen especially for bone cancer (osteosarcoma). The report on CBS this a.m. noted the finding from the Environmental Working Group that 158 waster systems in 27 states have reported radium in concentrations that exceed the Federal legal limit, that is 5 pCi/ L.
For those unfamiliar with radiological units, the pCi/L denoted pico Curie per liter. Given radium decays at a rate of about 2.2 trillion disintegrations per minute, a picocurie represents 2.2 disintegrations per minute.. This is given that a picocurie is one trillionth of a curie..
What you really need to process here are the words from the EWG: