Video: Drinking water

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    >> thank you.

    >>> new report from "the new york times" says millions of americans are drinking dirty and sometimes toxic water . illegal concentrations of contaminants including arsenic, radio active substances and bacteria in our water supply and the federal government has known about the violations, but in many cases nothing has been done to correct the problems. i'm joined by the former environmental crimes prosecutor in the department of justice . david, thanks for joining me today. are we looking at an incompetent, impotent epa ?

    >> no, not at all, nancy. obviously, this is a very disturbing report. people have a right to expect that when they go to the faucet in the kitchen and get a glass of water that it's going to be safe. but it's not all that surprising that there would be violations of drinking water standards. that's very different from saying that people's health is in any kind of immediate danger. so, it's a disturbing report, but it's not -- we shouldn't alarm people.

    >> we all know there are trace amounts of all kinds of things we would really be surprised to know that are in our water and our food and in our air, but if only 6% cases that were brought to the epa 's attention are ever correct ed or acted upon, man, 6% doesn't pass anything. it doesn't seem like there's much meat or bite coming out of the epa to strengthen the water supply in this country.

    >> well, nancy, you're certainly right. if only 6% of the cases were being corrected, that would be a very serious problem. but what the 6% figure represents is the fact that in only 6% of the cases has epa sought any kind of court order , brought legal charges against the local drinking water supply companies. so it's not that the problem ? goes unaddressed. i think epa , quite rightly, in the states who work with epa quite rightly emphasized trying to help drinking water systems get in compliance with the law. that's the primary focus under the safe drinking act, not bring lawsuits against municipalities.

    >> i understand that. one, what's the potential health threat to me and my family and, two, how am i supposed to know if my water is okay?

    >> yeah, those are great questions. i do think consumers should do what they can to know what the drinking water quality is in their community. unfortunately, the government is required to tell us. they're required to tell us at least once a year, whether there are any problem with his drinking water in our community and any time there's a problem that poses an immediate threat to public health , they're supposed to let us know, tell us that we need to boil water, tell us we need to use filters, tell us if it's an extreme case that we need bottled water . we should never be in a situation where anybody is at immediate risk. the more difficult question is what are we doing to make sure that we're protecting people over the long haul, to make sure that they're not chronic exposure situations.

    >> i hope we're doing that. david uhlmann, thank you very much. a reminder that a lot of schools have their own water supply systems, too.

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