Monday, February 06, 2017

Today I'm thankful for: EPA's regulation of tap water

Today (and every day) I'm thankful for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)'s regulation of tap water.

My ancestors would be amazed: everywhere I go in this country, potable water springs from a tap.  I don't need to haul it back home, and I don't need to filter or boil it before drinking it.  Most of the time, I can even control the temperature.

Maintaining a safe supply of running water is a huge investment, and EPA oversees the process to make sure the water is safe to drink.  There have, of course, been a few spectacular failures, such as the Cryptosporidium outbreak in Milwaukee County when I was a kid and the lead contamination in Flint, MI.  To use the cliche, these exceptions prove the rule: these failures are so shocking, horrifying, and unacceptable precisely because we have come to expect safe, clean drinking water to spring from the tap.

As with so many public health initiatives, EPA's regulation of tap water has become a victim of its own success: EPA has done such a good job that we have forgotten what it was like to not be able to depend on clean, running drinking water at every turn, even in our own homes, so cheap that it's practically free.  I know I've been privileged enough that the only times I have been unable to depend on safe tap water were times I've traveled out of the country.  We've made an investment in safe, running drinking water, and the people at EPA work hard to maintain it, and I am thankful.

No comments: