China summons Japan ambassador over plans to release contaminated Fukushima water into sea

BEIJING (Reuters) -China on Thursday summoned Japan’s ambassador in protest over Japan’s planned release of contaminated water from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant and said it would assess possible safety threats to food and agricultural products.

According to plans unveiled by Japan on Tuesday, the release of more than a million tonnes of contaminated water into the sea from the plant crippled by an earthquake and tsunami in 2011 will start in about two years after filtering it to remove harmful isotopes.

The plan drew immediate opposition from neighbors South Korea, China and Taiwan.

China is seriously concerned about the unilateral decision to discharge wastewater from Fukushima into the sea, Ministry of Commerce spokesman Gao Feng said at a regular press conference.

“We will closely follow the development of the situation and assess possible threats posed to the safety of related food and agricultural products and their trade, to ensure the safety of Chinese consumers,” said Gao.

China’s foreign ministry said it had summoned Japan’s ambassador to Beijing, Hideo Tarumi, and lodged “solemn representations” over Tokyo’s move.

“China expresses its strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement, citing Assistant Minister Wu Jianghao as telling Tarumi the decision disregarded the marine environment and the safety of people in neighbouring countries.

The foreign ministry had earlier said China shared a common stance with South Korea opposing Japan’s action.

(Reporting by Xu Jing, Stella Qiu and Ryan Woo; additional reporting by Tom Daly; Editing by Toby Chopra, Simon Cameron-Moore and Nick Macfie)

Contaminated water found throughout the U.S.

Water from Faucet

By Kami Klein

Drinking water and unsafe levels of lead are back in the news and it’s not about Flint Michigan this time.. Schools in the Bronx, Pennsylvania and in Massachusetts have shown levels of lead higher than in Flint.  In fact, Reuters reported nearly 3,000 areas with recently recorded lead poisoning rates that were at least double of those in Flint during the absolute peak of the city’s crisis. What is alarming is that more than 1,100 of these communities had a rate of elevated blood tests at least four times higher than those tested in Flint, Michigan.

Lead poisoning has been shown to permanently stunt a child’s intelligence and development.  In adults, lead poisoning can damage the brain and nervous system, the stomach, and the kidneys. It can also cause high blood pressure and other health problems.

There are other contaminants other than lead to be worried about in our drinking water.

Evidence was gathered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from samples of more than 60,000 water systems in all 50 states between 2013 and 2015.  These samples show that the tap water of 218 million Americans contain high levels of chromium 6. In fact, this carcinogen turned up in as much as two-thirds of our nation’s water supply! These high levels of chromium 6 were deemed unsafe by public health officials. Oklahoma, Arizona and California had the highest average statewide levels of the chemical found in their drinking supply. This was the poison in the water that got Erin Brockovich upset enough to take on huge corporations in the attempt to clean it up and help families who suffered from cancer and other disease stemming from the groundwater becoming contaminated.

Over 50% of the U.S. population depends on groundwater for drinking water. But contamination is being discovered daily from industrial waste, sewage, fertilizer runoff and pesticides.  In the United States there are thought to be over 20,000 known abandoned and uncontrolled hazardous waste sites and these sites could contaminate the groundwater if there is a leak. Research into who is monitoring these sites has not turned up a definitive answer.

Do we really know what is in our water when we drink it?   Most people want to have faith in the laws and the standards that are set for our cities but what is being discovered  in many areas, are that those standards are not being met nor are they being brought to the attention of the public.

More than half of Americans are buying bottled water assuming it is safe but bottled water is not consistently tested and there has been E Coli as well as other contaminants found in them as well.  A proven filtering bottle to carry with you or a filtering system at home, not only makes sense for your health and for your family, but is smart for the pocketbook as well!

Water is life.  Standards recommended by health officials say to drink at least 64 oz per day.  Clean drinking water is a priority for your health.

Seychelle Filtration Systems

(Additional Sources: 1. Lead in Water: What are the health Effects and Dangers , 2.Water lead levels in Bronx school ‘higher than Flint, Michigan’,3. Groundwater Contamination, 4. How safe is bottled water? 5.Public water supply is unsafe for millions of Americans, 6.Environmental Science and Letters, 7. Centers for Disease Control,8. Mother sues Pennsylvania school district over lead-tainted water

 

Judge orders bottled water delivered in Flint, Mich., in water crisis

Flint Water Tower

(This version of the Nov. 10 story, corrects the name to Natural Resources Defense Council in paragraph 3)

By David Bailey

(Reuters) – A federal judge on Thursday ordered state and city officials to deliver bottled water directly to qualified residents in Flint, Michigan, where a water contamination crisis has made unfiltered tap water unsafe to drink since April 2014.

Officials must deliver four cases of bottled water a week immediately unless they can prove a water filter is installed and properly maintained at a home or if residents opt out of a filter or deliveries, U.S. District Judge David Lawson said.

The ruling came in a lawsuit filed by residents and advocacy groups Concerned Pastors for Social Action, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan.

“Here the plaintiffs seek a stop-gap measure that provides ready access to safe drinking water,” Lawson said. “It is in the best interest of everyone to move people out of harms way before addressing the source of the harm.”

Flint, a predominantly black city of 100,000, was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager when it switched its water source in April 2014 to the Flint River from Lake Huron in a money-saving move. The more corrosive river water caused lead to leach from city pipes and into the drinking water.

The city switched back in October 2015 after tests found high levels of lead in blood samples taken from children, but the water has not returned fully to normal. Flint has been replacing lead pipes running to homes, and state officials have said the water is safe to drink if properly filtered.

The crisis drew international attention and numerous lawsuits and led to calls by some critics for Michigan Governor Rick Snyder to resign over the state’s response.

The groups’ lawsuit, filed in January, seeks replacement of lead service pipes. They later asked Lawson to order home water deliveries or faucet filter installations because transportation issues made it hard for some residents to get to water distribution centers.

The city and state argued that bottled water was widely available at government-run distribution points and ordering door-to-door deliveries could be financially crippling.

Lawson called the city and state efforts commendable, but said the plaintiffs offered credible anecdotal evidence the distribution network was in flux and not completely effective.

“The court correctly recognized that the government created this crisis, and it’s the government’s responsibility to ensure that all people in Flint have access to safe drinking water,” NRDC attorney Dimple Chaudhary said.

(Reporting by David Bailey in Minneapolis; Editing by Leslie Adler)

Newark school system set to test children for lead

NEW YORK (Reuters) – As many as 17,000 students in Newark, New Jersey schools could be tested for lead in their blood after findings showed elevated levels of the toxin have been in water in schools since at least 2012, city health officials said.

Voluntary lead testing began on Thursday in the state’s largest school district after 30 schools were found to have high levels of lead in the water fountains last week. The school district has about 35,000 students.

Health officials said the testing started with pupils at two early childhood centers, which were among schools where water fountains were shut off on March 9 after recent testing found lead levels exceeded the federal safety limit.

Officials earlier this week acknowledged the problem has plagued the district since 2012.

Lead has not been found in the water supply of the city of Newark, located 11 miles west of New York City, the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) confirmed.

Still, the issue has brought comparisons to the crisis in Flint, Michigan. At a Congressional hearing on Thursday, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder testified that the lead contamination in water resulted from the cumulative failures of local, state and federal governments.

In Newark, the state DEP plans to test water at all 67 Newark public schools beginning on Saturday, starting with 13 charter schools and non-traditional school buildings, such as a athletic facilities, which were not tested this school year. It will then retest the 30 school buildings where lead levels above the federal limit of 15 parts per billion were found.

Nearly all the water taps where the highest levels were found are typically not used for drinking or food preparation, the school district said.

Lead issues date back as far as 2004, when remedial action was taken. Data collected by the district’s independent laboratory showed 12 percent of 2,067 water quality samples – collected from 2012 to 2015 – had lead levels above the federal limit requiring action.

Christopher Cerf, the new state-appointed school superintendent, declined to say why the district did not previously make public that information.

“Without intending to criticize any of my three predecessors, when I learned of the 2015 test results, I decided to address the situation differently,” he said in a statement on Wednesday. “Within an hour, I had notified state and city officials and directed staff to connect with the State Department of Environmental Protection.”

(Reporting by Marcus E. Howard; Editing by Bernard Orr)

U.S. Congress criticizes EPA, Michigan over Flint water crisis

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A congressional panel on Tuesday criticized the Environmental Protection Agency and Michigan officials for failing to do more to sound the alarm about high levels of lead in the city of Flint’s drinking water.

“What happened in Flint can never happen again. It is almost unbelievable how many bad decisions were made,” said Representative Jason Chaffetz, a Utah Republican who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

“Government at every level – local, state and federal – made poor decisions.”

Flint, a predominantly African-American city of 100,000 about 60 miles northwest of Detroit, switched its water supply from the Detroit water system to the Flint River in April 2014 to cut costs. The river’s corrosive water leached lead from city pipes, creating a public health threat marked by high lead levels in blood samples taken from children.

Lead is a toxic agent that can damage the nervous system.

The crisis has drawn national attention and led to calls for Michigan Governor Rick Snyder to resign. It has also led to several lawsuits in state and federal courts, and federal and state investigations.

The water supply was switched back to the Detroit system last October.

At Tuesday’s hearing, a former regional EPA head, Susan Hedman, who resigned in February, was criticized by members of the committee for not acting sooner to use her powers as the regulator to better protect Flint residents. She defended herself, however.

“I don’t think anyone at the EPA did anything wrong, but I do believe we could have done more,” Hedman said. “I did not sit silent.”

Representative Buddy Carter, a Georgia Republican, blasted Hedman as well. “I’m sorry, there’s a special place in hell for actions like this,” he said of the former EPA official’s tenure before the Flint crisis mushroomed into a national story.

Darnell Earley, a former state-appointed emergency manager in Flint, also was criticized for failing to ask enough questions about the safety protocols in place at the time of the city’s water-source switch.

Governor Snyder and EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy are scheduled to testify before the same panel on Thursday.

Internal EPA memos and emails Chaffetz released about the crisis raised questions about the agency’s actions and the state’s incompetence.

“Lead lines + no treatment = high lead in water = lead poisoned children,” Miguel Del Toral, an EPA official critical of the agency, wrote in a Sept. 22, 2015, email to other agency officials. “At every stage of this process, it seems we spend more time trying to maintain state/local relationships than we do trying to protect the children.”

In July 2015, EPA official Jennifer Crooks said in a summary of an agency meeting on Flint that “it doesn’t make sense to discuss with the state what happened in the past … as the state sees the lead levels climbing, I don’t see the benefit in rubbing their nose in the fact that we’re right and they’re wrong.”

Virginia Tech Professor Marc Edwards, a water engineer who first raised the issue of Flint’s lead contamination, was critical of Hedman’s testimony.

“I can’t help but comment on the qualities that seem to be valued in administrators at the EPA: willful blindness, in this case to the pain and suffering of Flint residents; unremorseful for their role in causing this man-made disaster; and completely unrepentant,” he told the committee on Tuesday.

He said the EPA has never apologized for what happened in Flint. “I guess being a government agency means you never have to say you’re sorry,” Edwards said.

(Additional reporting by Ben Klayman in Detroit; Editing by Toni Reinhold and Matthew Lewis)

The corrosive dangers lurking in America’s private wells

ORLEANS, N.Y. (Reuters) – In this town of 2,800 just south of the Canadian border, residents have long worried about the water flowing from their taps.

The water in one household is so corrosive it gutted three dishwashers and two washing machines. Another couple’s water is so salty the homeowners tape the taps when guests visit. Even the community’s welcome center warns travelers, “Do Not Drink The Water.”

So, when the water crisis in Flint, Michigan happened, Stephanie Weiss and husband Andy Greene feared that, as in Flint, their corrosive water was also unleashing lead into their tap water. Weiss scoured water-testing reports in Orleans and discovered the truth: Lead levels in her water – fed by a private well – exceed the threshold set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for public water systems and utilities.

The community’s experience is not unique. Across the country, millions of Americans served by private wells drink, bathe and cook with water containing potentially dangerous amounts of lead, Reuters reporting and recent university studies show.

Researchers from Penn State Extension and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, or Virginia Tech, tested private well systems in their states and found that 12 percent of wells in Pennsylvania and 19 percent in Virginia had lead levels exceeding the maximum EPA threshold for public water systems. Lead poisoning can lead to heart disease, kidney disease and brain damage. It is especially dangerous to children, as small amounts of exposure can cause irreversible developmental delays.

Though most Americans are served by public water utilities, private wells are the main source of drinking water for 15 percent of U.S. households, or 47.8 million people. Typically located in rural areas, private wells serve residents not connected to municipal water lines. Though many wells are found in impoverished communities, some serve wealthy homeowners and those living in urban environments.

Little research has examined the lead risk in private well water on a national scale. But if the researchers’ rate played out nationally, more than 9 million Americans served by private wells would have unsafe levels of lead in their water, according to a paper published in October by some of the same Virginia Tech researchers who found lead in Flint’s water.

TESTING GAP

Yet these private wells always fall outside EPA testing regulations, and only a few states require that wells be tested for lead. Unless residents pay for tests, they may not know what lurks in their water.

The community in Orleans, in Jefferson County dotting the northernmost tip of New York State, is one case study. Weiss and Greene found that the water they use to cook for their two children, ages eight and 10, measured lead levels more than double the EPA threshold, town records show.

“When I realized that my water had the equivalent of Flint levels of lead, I got chills,” said Weiss, assistant director of Save the River, an environmental advocacy organization. “I felt sick thinking of all the things I had tried to get right as a mother for my kids to grow up happy and healthy, when all the while they were living with lead contaminated water.”

“I was also angry thinking that the state government had likely caused this situation.”

The aquifer feeding their well is polluted with salt from a nearby barn used by the New York State Department of Transportation to store salt spread on roads during snowstorms, according to an analysis by Alpha Geoscience, a Clifton Park, New York, consulting firm that specializes in hydrogeologic studies. The study was commissioned by Stephen Conaway, a local winery owner who sued the state for allegedly polluting his water in 2011.

As far back as 2004, a DOT official told Conaway it was not unreasonable to assume the salt barn was the source of contamination, according to a letter sent to Conaway and reviewed by Reuters.

Flint is not served by private wells, but its battle to get the lead out of the water has triggered alarms in other communities – including those served by private wells, which can draw in corrosive water that leaches lead, copper and other heavy metals from well components, water pipes and plumbing fixtures.

NO STANDARDS

The EPA has no standards for private wells, even as the National Ground Water Association recommends testing. Asked about the standards gap, an EPA spokesman said that the Safe Drinking Water Act, as written by Congress in 1974, makes the EPA responsible for regulating only public water systems.

Under the EPA Lead and Copper Rule, published in 1991, if 10 percent of samples taken by a water utility contain a lead level of 15 parts per billion or higher, the utility must improve corrosion control and inform the public of the lead risk. The utility may have to replace lead water lines.

The university researchers used this standard to assess potential harm in communities served by private wells.

Water from one Virginia home had lead levels 1,600 times the EPA maximum threshold, concluded Virginia Tech researcher Kelsey J. Pieper, lead author of a study published in the Journal of Water and Health last September that examined lead levels in tap water from houses in Virginia using wells. Pieper’s research, along with a 2013 Journal of Environmental Health study by Penn State Extension researchers, point to a problem governments have largely failed to address.

Lead exposures decreased after 1980s legislation banned lead in paint and gasoline. But private wells remain a potential source of exposure. If lead exposure from private wells is not addressed, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will be challenged to meet its goal of eliminating elevated levels of lead in children by 2020, Pieper found.

Pieper said many private wells across the country have clean water, but she recommends testing.

“Looking at lead concentration in Flint’s water and our results in private wells in Virginia, they were similar,” Pieper said. “One of the biggest differences is it’s solely the responsibility of the homeowner to identify and correct the problem for private water systems.”

To be sure, private homeowners are responsible for testing and maintaining their wells.

Yet many have no idea they should test for lead. Some who do test find troubling answers.

LEAD AND CHILDREN IN PENNSYLVANIA

In central Pennsylvania, Jeremiah Underhill and his wife took their one-year-old son Dalton to the family doctor for his checkup in April 2014. Knowing the family was renovating their 76-year-old house, and concerned paint in the house may contain lead, their doctor suggested testing Dalton for lead.

The results showed elevated lead levels in his system.

“I was devastated,” said Jeremiah Underhill, an attorney in Harrisburg, whose family home is surrounded by 30 acres of corn and soybean fields.

The Underhills immediately began a battery of tests searching for the lead’s source. For years, public health experts have cited paint as the most dangerous source of poisoning for children, who may ingest paint chips and dust in older housing.

But it was a water sample, not paint, which tested positive for lead. The lead level in the water was at the maximum threshold set by the EPA, though Penn State analysts warned that the levels could fluctuate and may well exceed the maximum if tested more regularly. The Underhills found that, as in Flint, their well water was corrosive and leaching lead from plumbing in their house.

The family installed a treatment system to make the water less acidic. Their soda-ash injection system cost about $400, though if a family member had not helped install it, the cost would have been far higher. Today, their water has no lead and Dalton’s blood work is clear. The couple feels fortunate to have caught it early, knowing lead exposure can trigger brain damage.

“The only reason we caught this was because our doctor was smart enough to say, ‘Let’s test this,’” Underhill said. “I mean, it was the water we used to mix Dalton’s formula.”

Most children are never tested, and rules on testing children for lead exposure are inconsistent and often ignored across the country, Reuters found.

“Many physicians, wrongly, don’t believe that lead poisoning is still a problem,” said Dr. Jennifer Lowry, a toxicologist and pediatrician at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Missouri. “They may not be seeing it because they are not testing for it. I think every kid should be tested.”

SURPRISING SOURCES

Many people believe if they have a new home or well, their plumbing does not contain lead. Yet virtually all plumbing before 2014 has some lead in its components, and older homes tend to have more leaded plumbing. Until January 2014, “lead free” meant the plumbing component contained less than 8 percent lead.

In Highlands, North Carolina, Robert and Suzanne Gregory discovered lead in their water after drilling a well for their home last August.

Macon County required they test the new well for bacteria. Robert, an engineer, wanted to know more and paid for an in-depth test that found the water corrosive and contaminated with lead. He believed the source was the galvanized steel pipe that ran down his well. The couple had the galvanized pipe, whose coating may have contained lead, replaced with lead-free stainless steel. They tested again and the lead was gone.

“The combination of acidic water and galvanized steel is a problem, and I think it’s bigger than most people understand because most people don’t even know they have galvanized,” Robert said.

Even if a homeowner conducts a lead test, the solutions can be too expensive for families with limited means. Some water treatment systems cost more than $10,000.

Only a few states, including New Jersey and Rhode Island, require wells be tested for lead – a test required when the property and well are transferred to a new owner. Though many states require tests for e coli and other bacteria, lead tests are seldom required, said John Hudson, vice president at Mortgage Financial Services in San Antonio, Texas.

A PLEA FOR CLEAN WATER

Some residents know they have contaminated wells and want municipal water, but can’t get it.

In Orleans, New York, residents live in a region known for its boating, fishing and outdoor activities but also its doggedly high unemployment rate. The town began petitioning the state for municipal water four years ago. Since then, residents have made flyers and set up a Facebook page, but there’s still no plan in place for public water.

State officials say they aim to obtain $13 million to extend municipal water service to homes in Orleans with contaminated water, but Kevin Rarick, the Orleans town supervisor, calls the plan “smoke and mirrors.” Almost all of the money would come from a loan that would cost each water user $500 a year to pay off, and the state has not announced a plan to change the way it stores salt at the barn.

Homeowner Greene, whose family has had to replace salt-tainted appliances, views the equation as unfair: The state polluted the aquifer feeding his well, and now wants his community to bankroll the solution.

New York State’s Department of Environmental Conservation said the source of the salt is “inconclusive,” and that the salt has been stored safely. An official noted that the state has given residents bottled water.

“If I had a salt pile that leached salt into my neighbor’s well, the state would be here the next day fining me and making me clean it up and making me be a good neighbor,” said Greene. “That’s all we want from them, to be a good neighbor.”

(Edited by Ronnie Greene)