Troubled Water: What’s Wrong with What We Drink

Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. Oct. 2019. 352p. notes. bibliog. index. ISBN 9781250132543. $29.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250132550. NAT HIST
The safety of U.S. drinking water is both a public health and an environmental issue. Lawyer and activist Siegel (Let There be Water) says water utilities and governments are doing a solid job guarding against dangerous microbes but a poor job against a host of other contaminants. Technology is available to have much cleaner tap water, but most water utilities are focused on keeping costs down. Although new compounds are constantly being produced, the Environmental Protection Agency has not expanded its list of regulated chemicals in drinking water for 20 years. Siegel points out that tiny amounts of some substances can cause major health problems. Bottled water, which many Americans rely on, is not necessarily safer than municipal tap water. Millions of private well users are left on their own by governments. This book recommends a complete overhaul of U.S. drinking water institutions and infrastructure, including consolidating small utilities, replacing toxic old water pipes, and supervising water testing. California’s Orange County Water District is held up as a model of what could be achieved.
VERDICT Siegel makes excellent arguments in favor of producing purer public drinking water. His proposals for doing that deserve serious consideration.

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