The New York Times published a massive story Sunday about how the nation’s clean water laws are being neglected. The story begins outside of Charleston, West Virginia, where a family is bathing in water that caused “painful rashes,” water so toxic that it ate away the enamel on children’s teeth. “How can we get digital cable and Internet in our homes, but not clean water?” one woman asked.
It turned out that the community’s water supply (if you can call this stuff water; see photo above) was polluted by neighboring coal companies. In fact, the companies reported that they were pumping illegal concentrations of chemicals into the ground — the same chemicals that came out of the tap in nearby houses. The companies violated the 40-year old Clean Water Act, but regulators never bothered to enforce the law. This was true all over the country, the Times found. “In the last five years alone, chemical factories, manufacturing plants and other workplaces have violated water pollution laws more than half a million times,” reporter Charles Duhigg wrote. “However, the vast majority of those polluters have escaped punishment. State officials have repeatedly ignored obvious illegal dumping, and the Environmental Protection Agency, which can prosecute polluters when states fail to act, has often declined to intervene.”
The Times collected data from all over the country and the paper is making that information available to readers. If you go here, you can search your zip code, city or state for the names of Clean Water Act violators.