The Stream, October 4, 2019: Flash Drought Deepens in 14 Southern U.S. States

The Global Rundown

A flash drought worsens in 14 states across the southern U.S. Tainted water from a luxury estate containates an already-depleted waterway in Queensland, Australia. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cites San Francisco, California, for water pollution, a move threatened by President Donald Trump last month. A hospital in Southeast Washington has been without potable water for a week after legionella bacteria was discovered in the water system. A once-abandoned project to raise the height of California’s Shasta Dam is now moving forward. Residents of Newark, New Jersey, express frustration with the city’s water crisis. 

“Why did this happen, how did this happen and could it have been prevented? Those are the questions we would like answered.” –Anthony Diaz, a member of the Newark Water Coalition advocacy group, in reference to the lead water contamination crisis unfolding across the city. Around 15,000 households were forced to rely on bottled water for more than a month after the discovery of lead pollution and the subsequent failure of city-distributed water filters. A new round of filters seem to be working effectively, but residents and activists are still frustrated by the crisis and the speed at which it is being addressed. Washington Post

Latest WaterNews from Circle of Blue

116 Confirmed Cases in North Carolina’s Largest Recorded Legionnaires’ Disease Outbreak  — Outbreak investigation centers on a fairgrounds in the state’s western foothills.

Tracking the Atlantic Ocean’s Inland Creep in Miami-Dade CountyU.S. Geological Survey report documents underground movement of salt water.

By The Numbers

45 million People living in 14 U.S. states that are in the midst of a worsening flash drought, according to data from the U.S. Drought Monitor. Extreme drought conditions are currently present in parts of Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina and the Florida panhandle, with less severe drought also occurring in other southern states. PBS

18.5 feet Future height of California’s Shasta Dam, if plans to raise the structure are completed. A powerful group of California farmers, led by lobbyist David Bernhardt, had long advocated for the dam to be raised, but the project was shelved by the U.S. Department of the Interior due to environmental risks. Earlier this year, Bernhardt became the acting Secretary of the Interior, and now, work to increase the height of the Shasta Dam is progressing–a move that has drawn scrutiny from other government officials. The New York Times

Science, Studies, and Reports

Water testing on September 26 at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Southeast Washington detected the legionella bacteria, which is responsible for Legionnaires’ disease, as well as pseudomonas bacteria, which can cause severe infections. The psychiatric hospital, which serves several hundred patients, has been without potable water since then. Washington Post

In context: The Rapid Rise of Legionella: Q&A with Patrick Breysse of the CDC

On the Radar

Officials investigating degradation of an important wetlands site in Queensland, Australia, discovered that contaminated water is flowing out of luxury estate development called Serenity Cove. Authorities say the pollution is reportedly grey water, which could turn septic or breed micro-organisms. The wetlands have already been affected by dredging and other environmental issues in recent years. The Guardian

The U.S. EPA has issued a notice of violation to San Francisco, California, over water pollution a week after President Donald Trump criticized the city for its water quality and threatened a citation. The notice alleges that the city’s sewer and stormwater systems are functioning inadequately and allowing contaminants to wash into the ocean. City officials claim the notice is politically-motivated and an “attack” on the state. San Francisco Chronicle

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