In a state that is known for its abundance of crystal-clear lakes and rivers, Wisconsin residents are growing frustrated with highly-contaminated drinking water that resembles that of a third-world country.
According to MinnPost, hundreds of thousands of Wisconsin’s 5.8 million residents are dealing with the disturbing consequences of unsafe water in their wells and taps on a daily basis. The problem continues to worsen, and Wisconsinites are desperate for answers.
Lynda Cochart, a Wisconsin native, said her well water is so bad that researchers compared it to something found in an underdeveloped nation. Last year, she penned a letter to the U.S. Environmental Agency expressing her growing fear and frustration with the water quality in her state.
“Realize that we can’t drink, brush our teeth, wash dishes, wash food; we can’t use our water,” Cochart wrote in the letter. “Our water is on our mind all the time. If drinking it doesn’t kill us, the stress of having it on our mind and worrying about it all the time will.”
The Wisconsin Center for Investigative Journalism found that most of Wisconsin’s water is overrun with lead, nitrates, heavy metals, disease-causing bacteria, and several other contaminants. Much of the problem stems from agricultural runoff which creates geological deposits of harmful chemicals in the water system.
According to UN Water, a dearth of potable drinking water is one of the biggest crises facing third-world nations today. About 783 million people around the world do not have access to clean water for drinking and bathing.
Unsafe water can lead to a host of serious health effects, and about 80% of illnesses in underdeveloped countries are linked to poor water and sanitation conditions. Experiencing these issues in America has left many Wisconsin residents dumbfounded and furious at the lack of response from municipal water authorities.
In 2012, researchers linked the presence of viruses in 14 different Wisconsin municipal water systems to acute gastrointestinal illness. In response to this, a number of Wisconsin residents petitioned the EPA to revoke pollution discharge permits from farmers, which is believed to be a primary cause of the contamination.
No progress was made as a result of this petition, and thousands of Wisconsinites still face the numbing reality of poor water quality on a daily basis. Kimberlee Wright, executive director of Midwest Environmental Advocates, summed up the crisis in one simple but telling statement.
“(Residents) think the government is protecting their water,” Wright said. “It’s not.”