The Stream, June 7: 100,000 North Alabama Residents Told Not to Drink Tap Water

The Global Rundown

New EPA health standard prompts Alabama water authority to warn against drinking its tap water. Global hydropower capacity and generation increased in 2015. Flint’s water problems are much broader than lead pipes. Fishermen in Quebec caught an invasive Asian carp species in the St. Lawrence River. Residents in the San Francisco Bay Area vote today on a property tax to address local effects of sea level rise. California city-dwellers again surpassed the 25 percent water conservation standard. Saving water is also reducing California’s electricity demand. Meanwhile, the California Senate moved to ban new irrigation wells in depleted groundwater basins.

“I would rather be over-cautious than under-cautious. I’m not a doctor, I’m not a chemist, but when they tell one class of people the water is not safe, I don’t want to be the one to say ‘you drink it and you don’t.’ So I said nobody drink it.” — Don Sims, general manager of the West Morgan East Lawrence Water and Sewer Authority on his decision to warn about 100,000 customers not to drink the tap water because of chemical concentrations that now exceed a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency health standard. Sims was reacting to the federal agency’s May 19 notice that lowered the recommended levels of PFOA and PFOS, two compounds used as water repellents. Concentrations in the Tennessee River, the authority’s water source, are higher than the EPA’s 70 parts per trillion standard.

By The Numbers

$US 214 million: Cost of a thorough overhaul of Flint, Michigan’s water system, according to an engineering firm’s assessment. The estimate includes replacing 10,000 lead service lines over five years and upgrading more than 500 miles of water mains over 50 years. Detroit Free Press

922,543 megawatt-hours: Amount of electricity saved as a result of California’s water conservation mandate, according to the University of California, Davis. It is enough electricity to power 135,000 homes for a year. San Diego Union-Tribune

26.1 percent: Water savings in April for California cities compared to the same month in 2013. State Water Resources Control Board

Science, Studies, And Reports

The world added 28 gigawatts of hydropower capacity in 2015, increasing global capacity by 2.7 percent. More than half of the new capacity — some 16 gigawatts — was built in China. Hydropower generation increased 1.4 percent. Renewable Energy Policy Network

Fishermen in Quebec caught a grass carp in the St. Lawrence River, prompting the provincial government to step up efforts to halt the spread of the invasive species. CBC

On The Radar

The Chinese government is prioritizing the cleanup of soil pollution, setting a goal that 90 percent of polluted farmland be “safely usable” within four years. The government will establish a special fund to help pay the bill, estimated at several hundred billion dollars. The announcement garnered praise but critics wonder how the goals will be enforced. South China Morning Post

The California Senate approved a bill that would ban most new wells in 21 groundwater basins that are in “critical overdraft,” as defined by the state. Because new household drinking water wells would be exempt, the bill targets irrigation wells. The bill, which is opposed by farm groups, now goes to the Assembly. Desert Sun

Voters in nine counties surrounding San Francisco Bay will vote today on a $US 12 per year property tax. The money will be used to restore the bay’s wetlands to counter sea level rise. The measure needs two-thirds support to pass. KQED