We are fast approaching a world in which the most hotly-contested resource for development and survival is not oil, but water. In today’s times, we here in the US do not think that the lack of clean fresh water would be a problem. However, most people would be surprised to know that this issue is a real concern. The water contamination in the Appalachia Region is a modern day water crisis that is affecting not only the environment but also many people living in the region.
The Appalachian Region, as defined in ARC's authorizing legislation, is a 205,000-square-mile region that follows the spine of the Appalachian Mountains from southern New York to northern Mississippi. It includes all of West Virginia and parts of 12 other states: Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia. Forty-two percent of the Region's population is rural, compared with 20 percent of the national population.
The issue of contamination is twofold. Firstly, in order for families in this region to have running water in their homes people hook up PVC pipe and lead the stream water into their homes. And as a vicious circle they in turn run the used water back to the stream, which puts the human feces back into the streams. This contamination continues downstream and worsens as it goes.
Secondly, a recent government study showed that West Virginia streams are dangerously contaminated by mercury. Fish from these streams contain toxic levels of mercury that can harm those who eat them. The threat to human health from the consumption of mercury-contaminated fish is much higher than previously thought and is especially damaging to fetuses. EPA now calculates that twice as many people, one-sixth of all women of childbearing age in the U.S., carry blood mercury levels that threaten the health of the unborn. Children exposed to even low levels of mercury before birth can experience catastrophic neurological and developmental impairments, permanent IQ loss and numerous other serious diseases. EPA estimates between 300,000 and 600,000 children each year are exposed in the womb to mercury levels high enough to pose risks of lowered IQ and other problems.
Aqwalife is looking to partner with some of the states to help alleviate families having to use the unsanitary water from the streams into their homes. We are planning to place water systems so that they will centrally help a community and provide continuous improvement as this will be an ongoing project.