WATER POLLUTION and SAFE DRINKING WATER

Environmental Health Action Guide - compiled and maintained by the Sustainable Cleveland Partnership and NeighborhoodLink

 

WHAT IF…

In her newspaper, Shawna read about an outbreak of cryptosporidium in the city of Milwaukee's drinking water. Cryptosporidium is a parasite found in some lakes and rivers. In Milwaukee, over 400,000 people became sick from drinking this contaminated water.

Shawna wants to make sure this will not happen to the drinking water in her community. Where can Shawna go to get information about the safety of her drinking water?

 

DO YOU KNOW?

Cleveland’s waterways were once very polluted. Years of dumping from the area’s factories and sewage plants left Lake Erie so choked with sewage that it was once considered dead and the Cuyahoga River so saturated with chemicals it caught fire several times. In recent years, however, stronger clean water laws have resulted in cleaner water. Many Cleveland residents live near Lake Erie, the Cuyahoga River, or many smaller lakes, rivers, and streams. Clean water is very important to city residents because these water bodies are important recreational resources, offering swimming, boating, fishing, or leisurely walks along their shores. More importantly, Lake Erie is the only source of drinking water for most Cleveland residents. Keeping Lake Erie clean will help keep our drinking water more pure.

  

Ohio Waters: Key Facts

While progress has been made to clean up Ohio’s waterways, pollution remains a serious problem.

 * Clean Water Network

 

Two Common Sources of Water Pollution:

Point-Source Pollution: This is pollution that is discharged directly into water from a pipe, usually from a municipal or industrial wastewater treatment plant, or sewer overflows, especially during heavy rainfall. The key to reducing point source pollution is both improving water treatment technologies and reducing the use of toxic contaminants that need to be treated in the first place.

 

Non Point-Source Pollution: This type of pollution does not come from a pipe or specific facility, but from water or snow that runs-off over farm fields, city streets, or suburban yards. It picks up pollutants along the way before ending up in lakes, rivers, streams, and groundwater. Non-point source pollution is considered to be the most serious water pollution problem today. Non-point source pollution comes from:

Access information on U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s comprehensive plan to address non-point source pollution in the U.S.

  

Watersheds:

Watersheds are areas of land where all rain and melting snow drain into a specific waterway. Cleveland’s watershed drains primarily into the Cuyahoga River and Lake Erie. Point and non-point source pollution anywhere in this watershed can cause water pollution problems in Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River. Reducing this pollution and carefully managing the way we use land within a watershed is key to improving water quality in our lakes, rivers, and streams.

 

Three Common Types of Surface Water Pollutants:

  

Cleveland’s Drinking Water:

    1. Microbiological – These include bacteria, viruses, and protozoa and come from human or animal waste. For example, Cryptosporidium is a parasite found in rivers and lakes that are contaminated with sewage and animal wastes. This parasite is not easy to remove from the water, even with common water treatment technologies. A cryptosporidium outbreak in Milwaukee’s public water system in 1993 killed nearly 50 people and sickened thousands. Cleveland’s Division of Water regularly tests for this parasite and has not found it to be a problem. Watch For Boil Alerts – Boiling your water before you drink it will kill some types of microbiological pollutants. Cleveland’s Division of Water is required to issue boil alerts on local radio and TV stations or in local newspapers if it detects some types of pollutants.
    2.  

    3. Chemical – In general, these include metals and minerals and can occur naturally in the water but are usually caused by point and non-point source pollution. Long term exposure to chemicals in your drinking water can cause health problems.

  

Major Government Clean Water Policies:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

GET INFORMED!

Local:

Contact the Ohio Public Interest Research Group at 216/791-1116 for information on local efforts to protect water.

 

Regional:

Contact Ohio EPA’s Division of Drinking and Ground Water at 330/963-1200 for information about drinking water protection in Cuyahoga County.

Contact Ohio EPA’s Division of Surface Water at 330/963-1200 for information on surface water protection in Cuyahoga County.

Access the Ohio Lake Erie Commission Homepage for information on Ohio’s efforts to clean up Lake Erie and funding for projects working to protect its waters and coastline.

Contact the US EPA Great Lakes National Program Office at 800/621-8431 for information on the Federal government's efforts to clean the environment of the Great Lakes.

Contact US EPA Region 5’s Office of Water at 800/621-8431 for information on Federal drinking water programs.

Access the Great Lakes Information Network for information on a variety of environmental problems in the Great Lakes.

Contact Rivers Unlimited at 614/487-7511for information on pollution in rivers in Ohio.

 

National:

Access US EPA’s Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water Homepage for additional information on Federal drinking water programs.

Access US EPA’s Office of Water Homepage for information on Federal water pollution control programs.

Call US EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Hotline at 800/426-4791 for information on Federal drinking water regulations and the health impacts of various pollutants.

Contact American Rivers at 202/347-7550, a national organization working to protect rivers across the country.

Contact Clean Water Action at 202/895-0420 for information on its national fight for stronger Federal water pollution laws.

 

International:

Contact the International Joint Commission, the international body responsible for implementing the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and coordinating American and Canadian efforts to protect the Great Lakes, at 519/257-6733, for information.

Full mailing addresses and phone numbers of organizations listed on this factsheet are available in this Guide's Directory of Organizations.

 

 

 

TAKE ACTION!

How You Can Reduce Water Pollution

Drinking Water:

Find Out About Pollutants In Your Drinking Water: The City of Cleveland’s Division of Water monitors your drinking water for pollutants. Call them at 216/664-2444 and ask them for a report of what pollutants they have found.

 

Make a Complaint: Call the City of Cleveland’s Division of Water at 216/664-2444 if you are concerned about the taste or smell of your drinking water, or about disruptions in service.

 

Find Out About Drinking Water Violations: Information on violations of drinking water standards by the City of Cleveland’s Division of Water is available by using the Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS) on Envirofacts or by calling Ohio EPA’s Division of Drinking and Ground Water at 330/963-1200.

 

Find Out About Lead In Your Drinking Water: While this tends not to be a problem in Cleveland, lead from old water pipes and fixtures can get into your drinking water, causing health problems for many people. (See Lead Poisoning Fact Sheet) Call the Division of Water at 216/664-2444 if you think you may have lead in your water.

 

Considering A Home Water Filter: Water filters remove some pollutants from your drinking water, although they can be expensive and sometimes unnecessary. Contact NSF International, an independent, nonprofit water certification company, at 800/673-8010 for information on home water filters.

 

Get Information on Bottled Water: Drinking bottled water may help you avoid common drinking water contaminants, although it can be expensive and unnecessary. Contact NSF International, an independent, nonprofit water certification company, at 800/673-8010 for information on bottled water.

 

Contact Your Local Elected: Encourage them to support strong local, state, and Federal policies to protect our drinking water.

 

 Lakes, Rivers and Streams:

Find Out If Water Bodies Near Your Home Meet Pollution Standards: Ohio EPA’s Division of Surface Water tests local lakes, rivers, and streams for pollution. Call them at 330/963-1200 to find out about a water body near your home.

 

Find Out About Pollution At Popular Swimming Beaches: Call the state operator at 216/787-3000 and ask for the Ohio Department of Health to find out about water pollution at beaches within the City of Cleveland. The Cuyahoga County Board of Health tests the water at Cuyahoga County’s other beaches. Call them at 216/443-7520 to find out about pollution at beaches outside of Cleveland.

 

Find Out Who Is Dumping Toxic Pollution Into Your Lakes And Rivers: Use the Environmental Defense Fund’s Chemical Scorecard to find out which companies are discharging TRI chemicals in local waterways, which chemicals they are releasing, and the health effects of those chemicals. This information is also available by calling the TRI office of Ohio EPA's Division of Air Pollution Control at 614/644-3608. Access US EPA’s Water Discharge Permits Database to find out which companies have NPDES permits to discharge pollutants in local waterways, or call Ohio EPA's Public Interest Center by dialing the state operator at 216/787-3000 and ask for Ohio EPA's Public Interest Center.

 

Conserve Water: The average American uses 60 gallons of water each day. Conserve water by economizing, repairing leaks, installing water-saving devices, and reusing water.

 

Find Out About Fishing Restrictions: Fishing is a popular recreational activity for Cleveland residents, and while our local waters are cleaner than they have been in years, many types of sport fish are still unsafe to eat. Access information on fishing restrictions in Ohio by calling the Ohio State Operator at 216/787-3000 and ask for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources.

 

Contact Your Local Elected Officials: Encourage them to support strong local, state, and Federal policies to protect our lakes, rivers, and streams.

SCP

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