How to Keep Our Drinking Water Safe

Watershed Protection

How to Keep Our Drinking Water Safe

Posted: Tuesday, May 23, 2023
Source: The Philadelphia Citizen

By: Nathan Boon
Senior Program Officer of Watershed Protection, William Penn Foundation

Guest Contributor for The Philadelphia Citizen

The water quality of the Delaware River is the best it has been in decades. Thanks to the efforts of local advocates to secure regulatory safeguards and industry to reduce negative environmental impacts, on- and in-water activities like fishing, paddling, and swimming are on the rise as the river becomes the recreational destination it should be. But pollution risks, intensifying climate change, and severe weather are threatening that progress and further jeopardizing vulnerable communities — particularly communities of color — that are near to the river and have for generations been disproportionately impacted by the negative effects of pollution and environmental hazards.

Philadelphia sits at the midpoint of some 27 miles of Delaware River that run from Trenton, New Jersey, to Wilmington, Delaware. That stretch is susceptible to sewage and stormwater runoff and bordered by heavy industry. According to recent reporting by The Philadelphia Inquirer, 62 sites that use toxic chemicals are situated within one mile of the river.

Despite strict pollution discharge limits under authority of the 1972 Clean Water Act, millions of pounds of toxic materials are still discharged into the Delaware’s water. In addition, these 62 sites operate within the region’s floodplain, which means that even without an accidental spill like last month’s chemical discharge in Bristol’s Otter Creek, there is potential for catastrophic levels of chemicals and hazardous waste to reach the water in the event of flooding, destructive storm surges, and heavy rainfall — all projected to increase in the coming decades.

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