In May of last year, residents in the coastal community of Delray Beach, Florida, observed something unusual about the water coming from their taps.
It was smelly. Discoloured. Flecked with bits of dirt.
A Florida resident Reeve Bright, “You looked at it, and it was dirty. You started seeing the ice coming out of the ice machine, and you’re going, ‘What is going on? There is something in the frozen water.”’
Complaints to the authority prompted the discovery of sediment that had deposited inside one of the city’s enormous water storage tanks. The deposits had travelled along with the water into cookware, cups, bathtubs and ice trays.
It wasn’t a sudden occurrence or the result of some unpreventable problem. The ensuing investigation found no records that the tank had never been washed since it was built in 1972.
Water storage tanks, particularly those sitting above towers emblazoned with logos, shows the most visible symbol of a facility most people take for granted- clean water for cooking, drinking and bathing.
But they’re also one of the most pregnable points in a government water supply. A hole as small as a few millimetres could prove the difference between having a glass of clean water and one polluted by animal faeces or insects that can cause respiratory infections or diarrhoea.
Inspectors have found bloated mice, raccoons and snakes floating in water storage tanks after passing through holes and drowning. Animal excrement and pigeon droppings have sickened entire communities after slipping through cracks.
Polluted tap water causes ten millions of diseases each year, contributing to as many as 1,200 American deaths. No one analyses how many are related to water contamination.