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Troubled Waters:Farm Pollution Threatens Drinking Water

Troubled Waters:Farm Pollution Threatens Drinking Water

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Published by Patricia Dillon
Water that runs off fields treated with chemical fertilizers and manure is loaded with nitrogen and phosphorus, two potent pollutants that inevitably end up in rivers and lakes and set off a cascade of harmful consequences, contaminating the drinking water used by millions of Americans. Treating this water after the fact to clean up the contamination is increasingly expensive, difficult and, if current trends continue, ultimately unsustainable. The only solution that will preserve the clean, healthy and tasty drinking water that people expect is to tackle the problem at the source. This paper explains why.
Water that runs off fields treated with chemical fertilizers and manure is loaded with nitrogen and phosphorus, two potent pollutants that inevitably end up in rivers and lakes and set off a cascade of harmful consequences, contaminating the drinking water used by millions of Americans. Treating this water after the fact to clean up the contamination is increasingly expensive, difficult and, if current trends continue, ultimately unsustainable. The only solution that will preserve the clean, healthy and tasty drinking water that people expect is to tackle the problem at the source. This paper explains why.

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Published by: Patricia Dillon on Apr 24, 2012
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ENVIRONMENTAL WORKINGGROUP
TROUBLED WATERS
Farm Pollution threatens Drinking Water
America’s pure drinking water is at risk frompoor farming practices that contaminatestreams, lakes and groundwater with fertilizerand manure.
by
Olga V. Naidenko
, Senior Scientist
Craig Cox 
, Senior Vice President forAgriculture and Natural Resources
Nils Bruzelius
, Executive Editor
www.ewg.org • 1436 U Street. NW, Suite 100 • Wasington, DC 20009
///
April 2012
http://www.ewg.org/report/troubledwaters
 
ENVIRONMENTAL WORKING GROUP
2
www.ewg.org
/// April 2012
Table of Contents
Acknowledgments
......................................................................................................................................................
3
Troubled WatersFarm Pollution Threatens Drinking WaterExecutive Summary
....................................................................................................................................................
4
Careless Farming Takes a Toll on Drinking Water
................................................................................................7
In Most Agricultural Waterseds, Farm Runoff Causes te Bulk of Water Quality Problems
..........................7
Source Water Overloaded wit Nutrients Treatens Tap Water
........................................................................7Nitrate ...................................................................................................................................................................
10Disinfection Byproducts
.......................................................................................................................................
10Cyanobacteria and Cyanotoxins
.........................................................................................................................
10
The Health Risks – Why It Matters
........................................................................................................................
11Nitrate – Deadly for Infants, Dangerous for Adults
...........................................................................................
11Disinfection Byproducts – Cancer, Astma and More
.......................................................................................
12Cyanobacteria and Cyanotoxins – No Legal Limits
...........................................................................................
13Nutrient Overload is Common
............................................................................................................................
14
Nutrient Pollution in Streams ..............................................................................................................................
14
Nutrient Pollution in Lakes ..................................................................................................................................
15Nitrogen Pollution in Groundwater
....................................................................................................................
17
Agricultural Contaminants in Source Water and Tap Water
.............................................................................
21Nitrate in Tap Water
.............................................................................................................................................
21Domestic Wells are Especially Vulnerable
.........................................................................................................
22Disinfection Byproducts – Making a Bad Situation Worse
...............................................................................
25Disinfection Byproducts are Too Often Found in Tap Water
............................................................................
25Cyanobacterial Blooms are a Worsening Problem
............................................................................................
26Cyanobacteria in Iowa Lakes
...............................................................................................................................
30National Lake Survey Findings of Cyanobacteria in Illinois, Minnesota and Wisconsin lakes
.......................
33
 
TROUBLED WATERS
FARM POLLUTION ThREATENS DRINKING WATER
3
Acknowledgments
Tis report was made possible tanks to te generosity of te Te McKnigt Foundation and Te Walton FamilyFoundation and EWG’s community of online supporters.
 
Te autors tank EWG analyst Andrew hug for is elp and keen insigt, and Taylan “Ty” Yalniz for te amazing
design work.
Cyanobacteria in Illinois Lakes
............................................................................................................................
34Cyanobacteria in Minnesota Lakes
.....................................................................................................................
36Cyanobacteria in Wisconsin Lakes
......................................................................................................................
36
The High Cost of Cleaning Up Source Water
......................................................................................................
36Iowa Water Utility Survey: Treating Source Water Contaminated wit Agricultural Cemicals
...................
36
Case Studies
..............................................................................................................................................................
38
Nitrate Removal ....................................................................................................................................................
38Te Cost of Cyanotoxins
.....................................................................................................................................
41
Conclusion
..................................................................................................................................................................
43Source Water and te Farm Bill
..........................................................................................................................
43
References
.................................................................................................................................................................
46

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