TROUBLED WATER by Seth M. Siegel


What's Wrong With What We Drink
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A close analysis of the contaminants in our drinking water.

Water activist Siegel, whose book Let There Be Water (2105) explored how Israel has dealt with water scarcity, now turns to the quality of drinking water in the United States. As the author makes abundantly clear, Flint, Michigan, is not the only place with problems. He shows the widespread nature of the problem, relating chilling stories and interviews with experts, activists, and victims. The causes are varied: chemicals from factories seeping into groundwater, lead leeching into pipes, deficiencies in Environmental Protection Agency policies, and the multiplicity of small, private water utilities exempt from testing regulations. At the beginning of the narrative, Siegel grabs readers with an up-close-and-personal story of a son’s response to his father’s death from kidney cancer after their town became home to a factory producing Teflon. From there, the author turns to a history of federal regulations regarding safe water, pointing out their omissions and their lack of clarity. On a more positive note, Siegel cites the Orange County Water District in Fountain Valley, California, as a model of what can be done with better technology. Unfortunately, he does not see the drinking water industry as open to new ideas, and he urges bipartisan support in Congress and state legislatures of measures that encourage innovation. He includes some of his own recommendations, such as consolidating small water utilities, funding research through a tax on disposable water bottles, replacing old water pipes with smart ones, adopting nanofiltration techniques, and moving drinking water safety out of the EPA and turning it over to the Department of Health and Human Services. Siegel’s concluding suggestions about how readers can protect themselves from impure drinking water are less than reassuring, perhaps designed to spur action.

Well-presented, hard truths about our drinking water, which “is less safe than we deserve.”

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2019
ISBN: 978-1-250-13254-3
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2019