By Emily Kuo, Expedition PR
When you think of areas with contaminated, undrinkable water, which places come to mind? Countries like Bangladesh and India, where arsenic poisoning is prevalent, or areas in West China and Africa, where water is so scarce that people must walk for miles to the nearest source of water, before carrying it all the way back. In the driest parts of China, residents only bathe three times in their lives: when they are born, the night before their wedding day, and after they die. Only 3% of the world’s water is fresh water, even though three-fourths of the Earth’s surface is covered in water. There are about one billion people today who do not have access to fresh water, and two billion who lack basic water sanitation. Millions die each year from waterborne diseases, and 4,500 children each day. Climate change and increased demand for food due to global population growth are further straining our already fragile water supply.
Living in a first world country where potable water comes out of any faucet, it is easy to take what we have for granted. It might be hard to imagine that the waters that surround us in New York City are just as polluted and toxic as in third world countries.
A Look at New York City Waterways
Many of our surrounding waterways have become contaminated with chemicals and raw sewage. In the 1970’s, many factories dumped waste into the Hudson River and near the Gowanus Canal which left toxic chemical residues that are still present today. While the dumping has since stopped, untreated sewage is released into nearby waters every time heavy rain hits. The New York sewage systems are designed to carry both sanitary waste as well as storm water. The problem with this is that heavy rain can overflow the system, and the overflow is released into nearby rivers. Untreated sewage in the waterways has led to the growth of antibacterial resistant microbes. Researchers from Columbia University found Hudson River bacteria to be resistant to ampicillin and tetracycline, two antibiotics that are often used to treat ear infections, pneumonia and salmonella. While there have been efforts to clean up the Hudson, the Gowanus Canal is still one of the most polluted waterways in the US.
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