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  • Writer's pictureTap Water Facts

Aging Infrastructure Releasing Toxic Chemicals Into Our Tap Water

To supply the nation’s homes and businesses with water, the United States depends on a country-wide network of aging underground pipes, many of which are reaching, or have exceeded, the end of their useful life.

In a 2001 report titled Dawn of the replacement era, the American Water Works Association (AWWA) pointed out that cast-iron pipes that were laid in the late 1800s have an average lifespan of 120 years; pipes laid in the 1920s, constructed using different manufacturing techniques, have a lifespan of a 100 years, and pipes laid during the post-World War II economic boom are expected to have a useful lifespan of about 75 years. This means that much of the underground pipeline network will be due for replacement in the next two decades. AWWA estimates that the cost of restoring underground pipes will total at least $1 trillion over the next 25 years.

So you may be asking, why is this a big deal?

The answer is that lead and copper can leach into drinking water if pipelines made of lead or copper are corroded. Prolonged exposure to lead and copper can result in brain damage, kidney failure, and gastrointestinal sickness, as well as hinder the production of red blood cells. Because of this, lead and copper in drinking water pose a potent risk to public health.

You wouldn’t knowingly serve your family water from these pipes, but that is exactly what you may be doing. We just don’t know it because the pipes are hidden from our view.

There is no simple solution to our aging water infrastructure. In the meantime, we must do our best to drink water that we know is pure and safe.

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