As the panic of the Flint water crisis within the media subsides, other communities are starting to come forward to expose their own water crises. As a country, we are starting to understand that this was not an isolated incident. The products and chemicals that we wash down our drains don’t just disappear, and their accumulation is starting to catch up with us.
According to NPR reporter Hansi Lo Wang, communities in the Northeast are experiencing elevated levels of a suspected carcinogen, perfluorooctanoic acid, a chemical used to make Teflon pans, in their tap water. The problem with water contamination is that it impacts every aspect of life. If the water is unsafe, then so is the soil, and people can’t grow food, and the impact just expands and expands. The Pentagon is currently testing the water at 664 military sites that they believe could be contaminated with other harsh chemicals. This is an issue that impacts most communities, whether we know it at the moment or not.
On the bright side, nature has a solution. According to the Ecological Society of America, wetlands can remove 20 to 60% of metals in contaminated water. Riparian zones, or the forest growth at the edges of rivers can absorb excess nutrients and pollutants. Microorganisms can be used to break down metals or harmful chemical contaminants in water. According to NPR reporter Scott Simon, even cacti have the natural ability to filter water.