Neglect in the water tank maintenance in some communities across the United States has sickened millions of Americans and killed thousands each year, according to the USA Today report.
The problem lies in the lack of EPA regulations and rules regarding these critical infrastructures, as each state has its own sets of rules.
Delray Beach, Florida residents, complained about their unclean water, with specks of it coming from the tap.
The city authorities discovered that their massive water tanks have been accumulating sediments, and they did not clean them since they were built in 1972.
Inspectors have found bloated snakes, mice, and raccoons floating inside the water tanks that got inside a tiny opening. Decomposing animal and their excrements have contaminated the water and causing the community to get sick.
Though these water tank towers are visible, yet they are often neglected.
According to a finding from a joint journalism investigation led by USA Today, aside from gaps in water tank management, some states appear to have no rules regarding water tank management, which exposes the public to multiple risks.
Additionally, agencies responsible for water systems management, like the department of environment and department of health, do not require regular water tank checks.
According to the article, although some states have sanitary surveys required by federal law to examine the entire water system from the source to its treatment and distribution every three to five years, whether it is effective is not clear.
Industry professionals have varying views. Christine Gunsaullus, a water tower expert, based in Pennsylvania, has encountered over 3 thousand water tanks and towers, said that only five have dead animals in them. For her, it is not a very serious problem but just a gut feel.
Chip Stein, a water tank consultant, says that the problem lies in states that fail to inspect their tanks regularly. For him, corroded holes in tanks do not happen overnight but result from decades of neglect.
Inspectors and water researchers say that water tank inspection is more than a simple task and emphasizes regular and careful maintenance to check for tiny gaps and holes that could prevent water-borne diseases.
There is a need to improve the water tank’s condition. According to Alan Roberson, executive director of the Association of State Drinking Water Administrators, water systems should have more than regular visual inspections. Still, the problem is that water authorities do not prioritize maintenance due to an absence of federal regulations, the report says.
Water tanks are more than just billboards for civic pride, according to the article.
The stored water helps meet peak demands, especially in the busy morning hours when people use water for various reasons; stored water alleviates pressure from the system.
According to the article, the EPA had known for at least two decades that many of the nation’s water storage tanks were deteriorating when it noted in its 2002 report that one in four tanks have serious sanitary defects. As many as 9 of 10 had a minor flaw that could lead to hygienic problems.
In its 2015 report, of the sample sediments taken from 18 water tanks across the country, two-thirds of them contain the deadly bacterium legionella.
The problem, however, is that the EPA has limited rules regarding water storage tanks. While it can limit the number of toxins and metals that can go into the water supply and order a water system to replace lead leaching pipes, it is silent when it comes to water tanks.
The American Water Works Association recommends a set of best practices and standards that include inspecting water tanks every three years coupled with a federal regulation to enforce it.
The article says that EPA is considering regulations for water tanks, but implementation will not be until 2027.
Suggestions from the upcoming rules include requiring uniform training and certification for inspectors conducting the sanitary surveys and increasing water sampling frequency.