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Podcast: Water Pollution and Underground Aquifers

Abrahm Lustgarten discusses what his latest story on companies releasing toxic materials into underground aquifers means for drought-affected areas like Texas, seen above. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Last week, Abrahm Lustgarten reported on how the Environmental Protection Agency has allowed companies to release toxic materials into underground aquifers that supply more than half of the nation's drinking water. To help explain the story, he joined the podcast to discuss what that means for your drinking water, the long-term ramifications for drought-affected areas like Texas, and why the exemptions were enacted in the first place.

During our discussion, Lustgarten addressed other ways to dispose of this waste. He said, "There are hundreds of thousands of disposal wells, and there are several hundred of them that handle the worst kind of toxic, hazardous waste. The vast majority of those wells, by regulation, go nowhere near drinking water aquifers. They comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act, they find relatively safer portions of underground systems — rock bodies — that they can dispose of that waste. And while there are risks to doing that, there's no one who would disagree with the idea that that is better than injecting it straight into the drinking water... There's also other opportunities to minimize the amount of risk. Increasingly companies are looking at recycling this waste water so that there's a higher concentration, but a lower volume, of waste that needs to be injected underground and disposed of, and also just trying to lessen the amount of waste that's produced in the first place."

Mike Webb

Mike Webb was the vice president/communications of ProPublica. He is a veteran communications specialist with experience in public relations, marketing, sales and campaign work at media companies, think tanks, political organizations and in the entertainment business.

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