Safe water should be top priority

There’s nothing more important than public health.

As such, President Donald Trump must make good on his promise to fix America’s failing infrastructure — including dilapidated water systems, such as the one in Flint, Michigan, which has poisoned thousands of fellow Americans.

Who cares about launching Space Force, Trump’s latest pet project, when right here on Earth, millions of Americans can’t drink safe water from their own taps?

Or in schools, for that matter.

Take Detroit. This week, the superintendent of its schools had to shut off drinking fountains in all of the district’s schools because of high lead and copper levels found in the water systems. Is this how the most industrialized nation in the world wants to welcome children back to school, with either tainted tap water or no access to water at all during a hot summer month thanks to decaying infrastructure?

This is not anecdotal.

USA Today reported last year that 63 million Americans have been exposed to unsafe tap water. It cited a News21 investigation that analyzed a whopping 680,000 water quality and monitoring violations recorded with the Environmental Protection Agency.

“The findings highlight how six decades of industrial dumping, farming pollution, and water plant and distribution pipe deterioration have taken a toll on local water systems,” USA Today reported. “Many local water treatment plants, especially those in small, poor and minority communities, can’t afford the equipment necessary to filter out contaminants. Those can include arsenic found naturally in rock, chemicals from factories and nitrates and fecal matter from farming. In addition, much of the country’s aging distribution pipes delivering the water to millions of people are susceptible to lead contamination, leaks, breaks and bacterial growth.”

Those are pollutants known to cause cancer, other serious illnesses and developmental delays in children.

“Many of the nation’s largest city systems violated EPA safety standards during the past decade, potentially exposing tens of millions of people to dangerous contaminants,” the newspaper continued. “New York City’s system, which serves 8.3 million people, failed standards meant to protect its water from viruses and bacteria two times during that period.”

Children are being exposed to harmful contaminants nationwide. In Massachusetts, tainted tap water was found in hundreds of schools last year. Bethany Card of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection told reporters, “About 70 percent of the schools sampled have had either lead or copper … exceedance above the action level.”

With water infrastructure systems built in the mid-20th century reaching the end of their life cycles, the quality of America’s tap water will continue to rapidly deteriorate in coming years. All the more reason Americans shouldn’t allow environmental extremists to ban the sale of bottled water in their communities. Yes, a desire to reduce plastic waste so that it doesn’t pollute the oceans so much is worthy of review, but the health of millions of Americans, especially that of our children, must always come first.

The reality is the U.S. will need safer and more reliable water options in coming years, not fewer, unless our leaders in Washington begin the work of repairing our nation’s failing tap water systems.

The time to act is now.