NM City Illustrates Problems of America's Drinking Water

Sunland Park has had illegal levels of arsenic for years, with no resolution
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 21, 2024 9:00 AM CDT
NM City Illustrates Problems of America's Drinking Water
A bicyclist pedals past a welcome sign as he enters Sunland Park, N.M.   (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Big headlines occasionally surface about serious problems with drinking water in American cities, as with Flint, Michigan, and Jackson, Mississippi. But the Washington Post reports that the issue may be more widespread than is realized five decades after the passage of the Safe Drinking Water Act. The newspaper zeroes in on the small city of Sunland Park, New Mexico, and drops a jarring stat:

  • "State and federal records show that in each of the last 16 years, drinking water samples tested in this 17,400-person town near the Texas border have contained illegally high levels of arsenic, including in 2016 when levels reached five times the legal limit."

The city is emblematic of the nation's water problems in another way: Low-income areas and Hispanic communities tend to have more arsenic in their water than other parts of the country, and Sunland Park is both. The story by Silvia Foster-Frau explores how the problems have persisted for so long, how both the state of New Mexico and the Environmental Protection Agency have stepped in amid mounting anger with the city's water utility, and how some residents have taken the first steps toward a lawsuit. "This is a classic example of government at every level failing to protect public health for an inexcusable period of time," says Erik Olson, a former EPA attorney who is now with the Natural Resources Defense Council. "It's outrageous it has been allowed to continue for well over a decade." Read the full story. (The EPA is addressing "forever chemicals" in US water.)

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