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Carnegie-Knight News21: Troubled Water

This documentary examines water issues all over the United States from the perspectives of residents, environmental officials and experts. Stories come from Texas, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Michigan, Maine, Montana, and New Jersey. Issues with the water include arsenic, lead, iron, coal ash, fertilizer contamination. Sources of pollution include an Air Force Base, mines and old lead pipes.

To learn more about different issues affecting water around the United States, watch these videos:

BRADY, Texas – The community is trying to secure funding from the state’s Economically Distressed Areas Program for a $22 million water system project to get rid of the underground radium contaminating its drinking water. This fund only has $50 million left, and Brady is not the only city in contention for the money, leaving some concerned about the future of Brady’s water if it doesn’t receive part of the last allocation.

GARWOOD, West Virginia – While some towns and other municipalities test water, thousands in other communities aren’t sure if their water is safe because their systems don’t test properly or report the results. In Garwood, a 55-person Wyoming County town surrounded by coal mines, the community water system stopped testing in 2014.

WALNUT COVE, North Carolina – In North Carolina, the state has told residents living near coal-fired power plants their water contains elevated levels of chromium-6 and other chemicals. While environmentalists, state government and utilities investigate the source of contamination, nearly 1,000 households rely on bottled water for drinking, cooking and brushing their teeth.

“If we don’t have water, we cannot live. So when you have companies coming into your neck of the woods, contaminating your water, what are we going to do?” said Tracey Edwards of Walnut Cove, North Carolina. “What are we going to do? We can’t live like that.”

KEWAUNEE COUNTY, Wisconsin & LYNDEN, Washington – In Kewaunee County, Wisconsin, researchers found total coliform bacteria at levels too dangerous to drink. One woman lives between two dairy farms with over 1,000 cows each. None of the bacteria found came from human feces, she said, so the methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus most likely came from cow manure.

Some farmers say more agricultural regulation would be detrimental to farming because it would mean regulations coming from politicians, many of whom have no agriculture experience. Some fertilizer regulations aren’t practical in their minds; while the intentions are good, not all the regulations work well with farming in practice.

TONYVILLE, California – Many people in California living with contaminated water are forced to get bottled water. Some get water from the state, others must buy it themselves. One family’s only income is $194 in food stamps a month and $70 of that goes to bottled water.

UNIONTOWN, Alabama & HILTON HEAD ISLAND, South Carolina – In southern Alabama’s Uniontown, a community first established around a slave plantation, water quality is a persistent worry for the mostly black residents, who say a nearby catfish farm contaminates their town water system.

On Hilton Head Island in S.C., some low-income families live with pools of sewage in their yards because poor soil conditions on the resort island cannot support septic systems. There is too much drainage in some wetland areas and not enough in sandy soils. The quality of life differs significantly from the island’s sewered, modern gated communities to the low-income areas that use septic systems.

WHITE MESA, Utah – The White Mesa Ute Mountain Ute live within 10 miles of America’s only fully active uranium mill, which sits above its ancient burial grounds. Chemical changes in the aquifer beneath the mill concern the tribe’s environmental programs director, because below that aquifer sits the community’s drinking water source. Many residents claim they do not drink the water, even though it falls within regulatory guidelines. Like the Navajo to the south, generations of harm from the uranium industry have bred a deep sense of distrust.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In one Washington D.C. middle school contractors installed filters at some drinking water sources in 2016, while other fountains are still shut off. Students had limited access to clean drinking water because their schools didn’t provide them with bottled or filtered water.

FORMER GEORGE AIR FORCE BASE – The former George Air Force base sits on the edge of the Mojave Desert in California. Many parts of it are abandoned, but while almost any sign of military life is gone, the water contamination is not. In 1990, the base was added to the EPA’s Superfund list. Jet fuel, benzene, trichloroethylene (TCE), pesticides and radioactive wastes have contaminated groundwater, EPA records show.

To view the complete interactive online web story from Carnegie-Knight News21, click here.