Why is it that the United States, the most industrialized nation in the world, is able to tackle everything from curing deadly diseases to genetic engineering but not able to resolve such a simple issue as the safety of our drinking water, which threatens the very health of million of Americans today. Over the last few years, Americans have spent an average of $2.1 billion dollars on bottled water and astounding $450 million dollars on home treatment systems. These numbers are increasing dramatically each and every year, leading Americans to wonder exactly how safe their drinking water really is (Uehling, 1996). Although many agencies have continually claimed that drinking water is completely safe and free of viruses and most bacteria, analysis of tap water across the entire nation shows that, in fact, the opposite is true. Many studies have confirmed that the levels of pathogen a disease causing organism are well above the normal or safe level as deemed appropriate by the Water Safety Commission.
The biggest threat to the nation's water supply includes three broad categories of pollution. First, industrial and agricultural pollutants; second, lead pollution; and lastly, biological pollution. Industrial pollution consists of contaminants which are the direct by-products of manufacturing and processing plants. A striking example if industrial water pollution involves mercury, which is used in paper manufacturing. Metallic mercury was permitted to flow is waterways as waste. The assumption was made the because mercury was inert, it would remain dispersed within the sediment. However, bacteria in the sediment converted the mercury into a soluble chemical, namely methyl mercury, which was in turn ingested by the fish and other aquatic life forms in the waters. If such seafood is then eater by humans, the resulting mercury can accumulate and pose devastating effects on the nervous system (Tortora, Fuke, & Case, 1998).