‘It’s Much, Much, Much Worse Than We Thought’
Can you imagine hearing anything worse than “It’s Much, Much, Much Worse Than We Thought” – particularly when it’s the government saying that about your drinking water. That little statement implies that things are wrong – and have been wrong – but they are really bad to be acknowledged in such a way. Perhaps you already saw the article I’m referring to on MSNBC.com earlier this week?
The article starts out quite benignly, “Nitrate contamination in groundwater from fertilizer and animal manure is severe and getting worse” – yeah, lots of things are getting worse, it’s a fact of life. But, then they quote a resident of San Jerardo, CA who said her skin had become red and itchy, her eyes burned, her hair started falling out, lots of her neighbors became sick, — and “people were dying, and we didn’t know who was going to be next” – it was nitrates in the water. Yes, I would agree that things are worse than they thought!
Nitrates are odorless, tasteless compounds that form when nitrogen from ammonia mixes with water. The contamination comes from many sources – water treatment plants, septic systems, food processing, landscaping, and other sources, but by large the greatest contributor to the problem comes from agriculture. In fact, 96% of the contamination can be traced to animal waste and crop fertilizer leaching into the groundwater. According to the agricultural regulatory program manager for a California state water agency, “The problem is much, much, much worse than we thought.” High nitrate levels in drinking water have been linked to thyroid cancer, skin rashes, hair loss, birth defects, and blue baby syndrome.
Obviously California cannot simply cut off agriculture. Fertilization practices can be changed to diminish the amount of nitrates entering the groundwater, and while this is absolutely imperative for the future, the bad news is that the nitrates that are currently in water wells will be there for many years to come. There simply is no overnight fix. The good news is there is something these folks – and folks all over the country – can do if they are concerned with the quality of their well water. A home water filtration system that uses reverse osmosis technology is quite effective at removing nitrates. Of course, not all water filters are created equal, so homeowners must do a bit of research in choosing a reputable water treatment company and selecting a drinking water system that will meet their family’s needs.
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