One of the earth’s most precious commodities is water. Every ecosystem on our planet depends on it for survival, but yet we are challenged globally with accessing clean and reliable drinking water. According to The Water Project, nearly 1 billion people worldwide lack access to clean drinking water. Growing populations spur demand for more industries and farmland, thus draining water resources more rapidly than ever. Furthermore, those in the most barren of areas spend so much time searching and gathering suitable clean water, that they suffer poor healthcare, loss of education time and work opportunities. Couple these facts with the effects of climate change altering rainfall patterns, and it illustrates why more attention is needed on this critical issue both around the world and here at home. Remember, unlike reducing our carbon footprint, there is no alternative or substitute to promote for clean drinking water.
August is National Water Quality Month and it makes sense to draw attention to the importance of having clean water during a month where we enjoy rivers, lakes and oceans across our nation. I have devoted a considerable amount of my attention to this challenge locally. In addition to access, all of us should demand water that is safe to drink. One challenge we have faced locally is the presence of contaminates in our water. This problem led me to author my latest initiative, A5158, which would require the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to establish a maximum contaminant level (MCL) for 1,2,3-trichloropropane (TCP) in drinking water.
TCP is a man-made chemical, commonly found at industrial or hazardous waste sites, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. It has been used as an industrial solvent, as a cleaning and degreasing agent, and as a chemical intermediate in the production of other chemicals. TCP is a persistent pollutant in groundwater and the EPA has classified it as “likely to be carcinogenic to humans.” Short-term exposure to TCP may cause eye and throat irritation, and long-term exposure has led to liver and kidney damage and reduced body weight in animal studies.
Despite these dangers, there is no state or federal standard for TCP in drinking water. However, a way to detect and treat TCP levels in drinking water is available, and my proposal addresses this issue head-on.
It would require the DEP, within 90 days after the effective date of this bill, to establish a maximum contaminant level (MCL) for TCP of 15 parts per trillion. Notwithstanding this requirement, however, the DEP could adopt a more stringent standard upon the recommendation of the Drinking Water Quality Institute, which by law is responsible for developing MCLs or standards for hazardous contaminants in drinking water and making those scientific recommendations to the DEP for action. A MCL is the highest level of a contaminant that is legally allowed to exist in drinking water. Once a MCL is established for a specific contaminant, water purveyors must monitor for the contaminant and undertake treatment when the limit exceeds the MCL.
What’s important to remember about the public’s clean water is that it isn’t simply someone else’s problem. It could be a problem in YOUR community and with YOUR water supply.
An example of this occurred when residents of Moorestown became aware of tests that uncovered two wells with contaminants in 2013 and three wells in Maple Shade in 2014. As alarming as this was from a health perspective, there is also a cost factor. Last year, Moorestown was forced to buy additional water from New Jersey Water due to the township having to partially shut down their system. This expense would have been far greater, if not for the bipartisan effort and cooperation between myself, the Town Council and New Jersey American Water, being able to mitigate the financial impact (saving $1M) to local residents. However, this issue is still of great concern to members of the community and rightfully so.
The quality of our water is directly linked to the quality of our lives. By supporting clean water initiatives and similar measures that improve our water treatment systems, we can each have a hand in ensuring clean, safe water for ourselves, our families and our communities. To learn more about drinking water, visit https://www.epa.gov/ground-water-and-drinking-water
That’s my take, what’s yours?