Saturday, October 3, 2009

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How to Protect Yourself From Water Pollution by Katherine Huether

Nausea, indigestion, upset stomach, diarrhea. Sounds like a job for Pepto-Bismal! And the residents of Morrison, WI., surely wish these symptoms, which recently laid them low, along with debilitating ear infections, could be cured with such a simple remedy. But no, Morrison's woes were caused by contaminated drinking water and could not be cured so easily. There's is a major public health problem and reports from the small Wisconsin town, have left the rest of us wondering where our water comes from, and what dangers lurk in our pipes and taps. First off, city dwellers should relax, since cities treat and clean water before piping it out to residents. But people living in rural areas do have reason to worry. Morrison resident got their contaminated water from wells polluted by dirty farm runoff which turned them into breeding grounds for bacteria, parasites and other nasty things. In the town, more than 100 wells were polluted by agricultural runoff, local officials told the New York Times. As parasites and bacteria seeped into the water, locals got sick from chronic diarrhea, stomach illnesses and ear infections. “Sometimes it smells like a barn coming out of the faucet,” one resident told the Times. Farm runoff is for the most part unregulated by federal laws intended to stop pollution and protect drinking water. The Clean Water Act of 1972 regulates chemicals and contaminants that move through pipes or ditches but doesn't concern itself with the waste and manure sprayed in fields that seeps into groundwater. Now, in case you've never lived near a farm--or never had well water--let me paint you a picture: manure, manure...and fertilizer, which, let's face it, is really more manure. Even the most sanitary and well-managed farms will leak waste into the surrounding groundwater, and from there to the wells which provide water for rural communities. Rusty and old lead pipes that often make up a rural plumbing infrastructure are also likely to make well water even less healthy -- but you can take action. Here are some quick steps you can take to protect yourself and your fellow citizens from contaminated, unhealthy water.

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