Is Clean Water not a basic Human Right?: A glance into the drinking water supply in Denmark, SC.

As an environmentalist I believe that in any place where the quality of water is compromised it is indeed a national emergency, and well…national emergencies should warrant the attention of everyone. Experts believe the city of Denmark South Carolina is in an extreme water crisis. In fact, this crisis could potentially be worse than Flint Michigan. For roughly 10 years, Denmark residents were suspicious of a rust-colored water and sediment build up coming from their faucets.  In order to regulate what seemed to be a naturally occurring iron bacteria that can leave red stains or rust-like deposits in the water, the South Carolina state government began adding HaloSan to one of Denmark’s four water wells.  All four of these wells feed into one water distribution system that supplied residents across the city of Denmark from 2008 to 2018, with a chemical that has never been used to treat drinking water.

I’m not the smartest person in the world, but something smells fishy. Just based off the available information I’ve viewed, I smell lawsuits.

Now, HaloSan contains the chemical ingredient 1-bromo-3-chlorodimethylhydantoin, or BCDMH, and is also used in other products with different names as well as being labeled as being a disinfectant pesticide. HaloSan is a chemical used to disinfect spas and swimming pools, and in fact has not been approved for treating drinking water by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). According to a 2007 EPA health risk assessment HaloSan can cause significant skin and eye irritations and is associated with health effects such as: skin rashes, itching, burning, red/discolored skin, blistering, allergic reactions including skin welts/hives, bleeding and allergic contact dermatitis, as well as eye irritations, including eye pain and swollen eyes. However, without knowing the actual concentration levels in the water, it is difficult to access the potential health impacts.

HaloSan did receive certification for use in drinking water and for cleaning wells by the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF). Because NSF said HaloSan was safe, South Carolina’s Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) approved the use of the chemical. Here’s the thing… all pesticides MUST be registered through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). It is a legal requirement that any “product intended to be used to disinfect drinking water must be registered by the EPA,” in order to scientifically access how a chemical degrades in the environment and its potential effects or lack thereof on human health and the environment.

It wasn’t until researchers from Virginia Tech and the University of South Carolina learned last spring that HaloSan was being injected into Denmark’s water and began asking questions. That’s when pesticide regulators said the chemical had not been approved by the EPA and ordered Denmark to stop injecting it into the water.

Which makes me wonder…. If this had not have taken place would they have stopped? Is clean drinking water not a basic human right? At the very least, our communities should be made aware if their water is unsafe.

A variety of water quality issues impact rural populations. Low-income communities across the country suffer from polluted water…an injustice expected to worsen under the Trump administration. The Trump administration will not back down on the repealing of the Clean Water Rule, which would clarify which small streams and wetlands should be protected under the Clean Water Act. If Trump is successful in repealing the Clean Water Rule, the drinking water of millions, or for every 1 in 3 people in the United States, would be at risk of contamination. Low-income communities and communities of color will suffer disproportionately from this rollback. Not content with that attack alone, Trump proposed a new rule that could go even further to decimate drinking water protections and the wetlands that protect our communities from flooding and filter groundwater.

Yours truly,

@meitai

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