There can be devastating consequences to conservative political malpractice. In more ways than one.
Thanks to Rachel Maddow’s exhaustive coverage and the Congressional hearings in Washington D.C. today, most of us are aware of the poisoned drinking water in Flint MI. In short, a decision made by an appointed, unelected official, in an effort to cut costs by changing water sources, led to the leaching of lead into the pipes and ultimately into the city’s drinking water supply. People in Flint are sick. Children have permanent learning disabilities thanks to the poisoned water supply. The bottom line is, Republican austerity measures and its dereliction of duties are dangerous for one’s health and well-being.
Other states have a similar problem with it’s drinking water supply. Texas is one of them. And because this is a state in which regulation of any sort is considered a root of everything evil, few pro-active efforts to protect the safety of residents are in place. After all, this is a state where the Governor and Attorney General are at constant war with the “job killing” EPA. So it should come as no surprise to learn that some of the water supplies in the state contain high levels of arsenic.
Tens of thousands of Texans live in places where the drinking water contains toxic levels of arsenic — a known carcinogen — and the state isn’t doing enough to discourage them from consuming it, according to a new report from an environmental group.
Analyzing state data posted online, the Washington D.C.-based Environmental Integrity Project found that 34 rural drinking water systems serving about 51,000 Texans have exceeded the federal drinking water limit for arsenic for at least a decade — many by a long shot. The report, titled “Don’t Drink The Water,” also found that Texas requires public water utilities to use less urgent language than some other states in the notices they send to customers when their drinking water exceeds the arsenic standard.
In 2006 the federal Safe Drinking Water Act required the nation’s water systems to reduce the level of arsenic from 50 to 10 parts per billion.
For the past two years, for example, about 650 people in the South Texas town of Bruni have received drinking water containing more than 80 parts per billion of arsenic, which is known to cause lung, kidney and other types of cancer. The inorganic contaminant, which has no distinct taste or smell, is widespread in soil and groundwater in much of the world.
Bruni is not alone.
For example, in Jim Hogg County in South Texas, more than 5,000 people have been exposed to arsenic concentrations more than four times the limit in the Safe Drinking Water Act for at least five years, state records show. In the City of Seagraves, in West Texas, 2,396 residents have been exposed to water with arsenic more than triple the health standard for more than a decade. (See Table 1 for a list of the communities and their two-year and long- term average arsenic levels.)
Now if we thought the state regulators would let their own families drink water that is laced with high levels of arsenic think again.
It seems unlikely that state regulators who advise the public about health risk would let their own families keep drinking water that violates the Safe Drinking Water Act limit for arsenic year after year. If that is the case, then Texas health advisories should stop implying that water that keeps failing those standards is somehow safe to drink.
But don’t worry. Residents should go ahead and continue to drink arsenic laced water because, according to state officials, the federal government is “overly cautious.” The water might taste a little bad. And we can’t tell folks the truth about cancer causing drinking water because the bad news might upset residents or cause panic. Or worse, lawsuits. That and it would cost too much to bring the arsenic level to the federal standard. In a conservative state spending of any sort is considered as evil as Satan himself.
I’d say I am glad the federal government has our backs, to a certain extent, because in this Republican state small government and its government loathing lawmakers have no problem telling residents to deal with whatever ourselves. You see it is our right and we have the freedom to protect ourselves from environmental forces over which we have no control. In a state with lax regulations and little oversight. When the worst happens the state will demand for FEMA or other federal agencies to bail us out.
A new study by a Massachusetts consulting firm on the impact of arsenic is expected soon. But another organization has stated the health risks associated with the consumption of arsenic are greater than previously thought.
The Environmental Integrity Project report says new evidence suggests that the cancer risk associated with arsenic may be much higher than previously thought, noting that the EPA currently is revising its assessment of cancer risks to account for more recent science.
“A 2010 draft of the assessment indicated that the risk of getting cancer from drinking water containing 10 (parts per billion) of arsenic is closer to 1 in 136, more than 17 times higher than current assumptions,” the report says. The EPA’s current assumptions are that the risk of developing cancer after drinking water containing 10 parts per billion of arsenic over a lifetime are 1 in 2,000.
Many scientists say the increased risk of cancer in humans who drink water, inhale dust or ingest soil contaminated with high levels of inorganic arsenic puts the chemical’s danger level in the same category as that of smoking cigarettes.
Imagine how one would feel after giving up smoking only to realize one has been smoking all along. Without having smoked.
The arsenic concentrations cited in the report "needless to say represent a threat to public health,” said Houston environmental toxicologist Stephen King, noting links to cancer, cardiovascular disease, respiratory and other health issues. "This is significant and my recommendation is that anyone drinking water with an arsenic concentration at 10 (parts per billion), should not drink the water" or use it to prepare food.
Regardless of the exact health risks associated with arsenic, Environmental Integrity Project Director Eric Schaeffer said they are indisputably high enough that people whose drinking water exceeds the federal limit — particularly pregnant women and children — should receive notices that encourage them to seek alternate sources of water.
"This isn’t about whether it’s illegal for somebody to keep drinking out of their tap, but it’s about what they should be advised to do, and I think people take public health advisories fairly seriously, if they’re clear enough," he said.
When the state's public water companies pass along warnings to their customers the notices are accompanied by “but this is not an emergency.”
Shhhh. Not a peep about the health risks involved in drinking poisoned water. One might get cancer but don’t worry about it. Drink the water anyway. Someone else will get the cancer.
Ignore a health risk in a state that boasts the highest number of residents who lack healthcare insurance. And one in which the former and current Governor refuse to accept federally expanded Medicaid.
"However, some people who drink water containing arsenic excess of the (arsenic limit) over many years could experience skin damage or problems with their circulatory system, and may have an increased risk of getting cancer," it continues. "You do not need to use an alternative water supply.”
Bad news is not permitted. It might cost money.
It found that a handful of states, including Florida, Michigan and Maine, voluntarily require public water utilities to send notices that specifically discourage consumption of water containing high levels of arsenic.
The rest likely do not go that far because they are not required to and don't want to be bearers of bad news, Schaeffer said. Seeking an alternate source of water can be difficult and expensive, he acknowledged, explaining that you can't get rid of arsenic by boiling it. But he said people have the right to know so they can at least try to act.
Of course. But if the EPA required more direct language and comprehensive warnings of the public water providers, the Texas Attorney General would file a lawsuit against the EPA in a NYC nanosecond. Get big government and “job killing” regulations out of our lives.
I am glad Houston is the home to one of the most well-known and respected cancer hospitals in the U.S., M.D. Anderson. But it cannot create its miracles for free. Nor can it care for all of the state’s cancer patients. And it should not have to deal with cancers and diseases that could have been avoided in the first place.
Conservative political malpractice and the dereliction of duties has not been lost on the editorial writer for the business section of the Houston Chronicle.
Quality roads and clean water are critical for the future of business in Texas. Funding these priorities with an unreliable revenue source was political malpractice, and now Texas businesses will suffer as a result.
Next thing we know a Republican conservative will reassure us that we can shoot the arsenic out of the water supply. And we can pave our roads with bullets and bibles.
Vote R at one’s personal peril.