NewsHour science correspondent Miles O’Brien begins a two-part look at America’s drinking water and the regulatory system 

NewsHour science correspondent Miles O’Brien begins a two-part look at America’s drinking water and the regulatory system

Gwen Ifill: Now NewsHour science correspondent Miles O’Brien begins a two-part look at America’s drinking water, and the regulatory system that is supposed to guarantee its safety.His report is the result of a partnership with the Center for Public Integrity. It begins in the small desert town that made Erin Brockovich a household name.

Roberta Walker, Resident of Hinkley, Calif.

:Come on, you want some water? Want to get some water? Come on.

Miles O’brien:Clean water is something most of us take for granted, but not Roberta Walker. She, her dogs, and her family drink spring water that is either bottled or trucked in, because where she lives, people can’t drink the well water.Welcome to Hinkley, Calif.

Roberta Walker:This is bought out, this home on the right. This is all boarded up. So you can see how these are all boarded up.

Miles O’brien:Yes.Roberta drove me around town, what’s left of it.

Roberta Walker:There was a home here on the corner and that, of course, is gone.

Miles O’brien:It is a ghost town?

Roberta Walker:Yes. Yes.

Miles O’brien:The steady decline of Hinkley is rooted here at a natural gas pipeline pumping station owned by the giant California utility Pacific Gas & Electric. In the 1950s and ’60s, PG&E admits it dumped 26 tons of a coolant made of chromium 6 into unlined retaining ponds here. The chemical is toxic and causes cancer.It leached into the soil and contaminated the aquifer, the drinking water in Hinkley. The Hollywood version of the story is writ large in the movie “Erin Brockovich” released in 2000. Julia Roberts won an Academy Award for her portrayal of the crusading legal assistant who forced PG&E into a $333 million dollar settlement with the residents of Hinkley in 1996.But, for Roberta, there was no Hollywood ending.So your house was right about here?

Roberta Walker:Yes.

Miles O’brien:PG&E did buy and raze her old home, as they did for many others here. So she built this place on the outskirts of town out of harm’s way, or so she thought.So far, PG&E has spent $700 million dollars trying to clean up the stubborn mess. But the plume of chromium 6-tainted water persists.Sheryl Bilbrey is in charge of PG&E’s remediation effort.Why is it taking so long?

Sheryl Bilbrey,Pacific Gas & Electric: It’s a very complex project. We are highly regulated. There’s a lot of interested parties. The other thing is, it’s very important to us that we get it right.

Miles O’brien:Recent testing shows there is still chromium 6 in the groundwater in Roberta Walker’s neighborhood. It is less than it was in the bad old days, but Roberta is still girding to move once again, this time away from Hinkley.Did you ever think you would ever have to deal with chromium 6 or PG&E again?

Roberta Walker:Absolutely not. Absolutely not. In front of God and the world, they said they were going to clean it up.

Miles O’brien:And?

Roberta Walker:And they didn’t. It was just — it’s just a shocker.

Miles O’brien:For the real-life Erin Brockovich, it was also an unwelcome surprise.

Erin Brockovich, Consumer Advocate:I thought it was being cleaned up. The state thought it was being cleaned up. The community thought it was being cleaned up. So here it is 10 years later, I’m not paying attention because I thought it was all being handled.

Miles O’brien:And how are people finding you? Just through the social networking?Brockovich is now an environmental activist on a larger stage, curating a crowd-sourced map of reported cancer clusters, which she says are largely linked to chromium 6-contaminated water nationwide.

Erin Brockovich:There’s more and more mounting evidence or what chromium 6 does to the human health, what it does to the environment, what it does to the air. Every community that I deal with that has been exposed to chromium 6, they have the same health symptoms, they have the same problems.

Miles O’brien:In 2010, a nonprofit advocacy organization, the Environmental Working Group, tested tap water in 35 U.S. cities; 31 of them were contaminated with chromium 6. Utility testing records show about 70 million Americans are drinking this tainted water.With evidence mounting that chromium 6 may be more dangerous than once thought, the Environmental Protection Agency decided to revisit the drinking water standard for the chemical. The standard, 100 parts per billion, was set 20 years ago. It is 5,000 times greater than the California EPA’s public health goal for chromium 6 in drinking water, .02 parts per billion.Ann Mason is a senior director with the American Chemistry Council, which represents the chemical industry.Ann Mason is a senior director with the American Chemistry Council, which represents the chemical industry.

Ann Mason, American Chemistry Council:The people in the United States are drinking water that meets the EPA safe drinking water level.

Miles O’brien:So, you — would you say categorically, it’s OK? Everybody is safe?

Ann Mason:I would say if the drinking water meets the safe drinking water level, that EPA has set that level and that’s the rule of the land as we see it right now.

Miles O’brien:There is a lot of research that links chromium 6 in drinking water to cancer. In 2008, the National Institutes of Health weighed in with an eye-opening rodent study. It uncovered clear evidence that high doses of chromium 6 in drinking water cause cancer in rats and mice.Heather White is executive director of the Environmental Working Group.

Heather White,Environmental Working Group: We think the science is clear. There’s been a lot more research that we have seen over the last decade that shows that there is a big cause for concern about drinking hexavalent chromium, whether it would be stomach cancer, whether it be liver damage, whether it be toxicity. There’s even been studies that shows that it can have reproductive health effects.

Julia Roberts, Actress:By the way, we had that water brought in special for you folks. It came from the well in Hinkley.

Miles O’brien:After the “Erin Brockovich” movie in 2000, California lawmakers decided life should imitate art. They chartered a so-called blue-ribbon panel of scientists to help set a chromium 6 drinking water standard for the state.One of the scientists on the panel was this man, Dennis Paustenbach. The NewsHour and the Center for Public Integrity learned the company he ran, ChemRisk, had been hired by Pacific Gas & Electric during the lawsuit. At the time, the most compelling scientific study that linked chromium 6 in drinking water to cancer came from China in 1987. It studied villagers in Liaoning Province who lived near a chromium ore smelter and drank tainted water for years.The lead author, Dr. Zhang JianDong, found they had increased rates of stomach cancer. Acting on behalf of its client PG&E, ChemRisk paid Zhang to redo his study. Paustenbach offered this explanation before the California Senate.

Dennis Paustenbach, ChemRisk, Inc.:After he saw the questions that we raised about the analysis, he went back and examined and said, of course not. It can’t be true. My original conclusions don’t make sense.

Miles O’brien:The revised study reversed the original conclusion that chromium 6 was the likely cause of the villagers’ developing cancer.Scientists at the California Environmental Protection Agency were skeptical and took a look at the underlying data themselves.Allan Hirsch is with CAL/EPA.

Miles O’brien:The original study itself, was it good science?

Allan Hirsch, California Environmental Protection Agency:Well, our analysis which we completed in 2008 agreed with the original 1987 paper. And we found that the rates of stomach cancer in these five villages were significantly higher than stomach cancer rates in the overall province.

Miles O’brien:The California EPA set its public health goal of .02 parts per billion in 2011. The next step, changing the drinking water standards, has not happened.There’s been a fair amount of study about hexavalent chromium over the years. Isn’t the scientific jury in?

Sheryl Bilbrey:I don’t think so. There’s a lot of scientists that are still debating that question. I think that’s why the process has taken so long, from what I have read, both at EPA and at the state level. So, I think they’re still trying to figure out exactly what is the right answer there.

Miles O’brien:Back in Hinkley, I got tour of the massive PG&E cleanup project.Kevin Sullivan is the engineer in charge.

Kevin Sullivan, Pacific Gas & Electric:This barrier is about a half-mile-long.

Miles O’brien:They are pumping ethanol into the ground, which converts chromium 6 into a more benign form of the chemical called chromium 3. They have also planted acres of alfalfa that is irrigated with the tainted water. The rich organic soil also makes the conversion.So that is now chromium 3 in your hand.

Kevin Sullivan:Exactly.

Miles O’brien:There is so much alfalfa, the utility now owns a thriving dairy farm.But since the ethanol injections began, a new problem seems to have surfaced. Residents have started reporting elevated levels of arsenic and manganese in their wells. PG&E says it occurs naturally and has always been there. Nevertheless, when Sullivan appears at community meetings here.

Kevin Sullivan:These are concentrations of over 100, OK? And we wanted to cut that off right there.

Miles O’brien:There is dirty water on the table and angry accusations in the air.

Richard Johnson,, Calif.:Resident of Hinkley The community is in an uproar right now. We are not just being poisoned by chromium. We got high arsenic levels, manganese. All this can lead you to believe that PG&E really don’t give a crap about any one of you.

Teresa Sheeftsall,, Calif.:Resident of Hinkley I don’t want to live here. I don’t want my family here. I have no choice. No one will buy my home. Who wants to move into this?

Miles O’brien:But Sullivan insists they are making progress.

Kevin Sullivan:We have cleaned up like 54 acres. Now, I know that doesn’t — believe me, I understand that if it is not your property, what have you done for me lately? But 54 acres is a lot of progress in terms of getting this cleaned up. We have a lot longer to go, but these are positive signs that we have been able to achieve in the last few years.

Miles O’brien:But Sullivan says it will be at least another 40 years before they’re done with the cleanup here. It seems nothing moves quickly when the wells are poisoned.

Gwen Ifill:In part two of his report on Friday, Miles takes a closer look at the Environmental Protection Agency’s system for regulating toxic chemicals in the environment.Online, we go behind the scenes in Hinkley, and you can also check out chromium levels in the water of 31 U.S. cities.

Sources of Surface Water and Groundwater Pollution






Read Aloud

This entry describes the ways that surface water and groundwater can become polluted. Pollutants enter surface waters in fallout from the atmosphere, in runoff from the land, by water trickling through waste sites, or directly, from pipes, ships, and other sources. Groundwater becomes contaminated when polluted surface water trickles into an aquifer or when liquid infiltrates from leaking tanks or industrial waste sites. Once in the water, pollutants can be diluted, dispersed, or broken down. However, they may build up in the food web.


Surface water pollution is an enormous problem in the United States and elsewhere around the world. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, about one-third of rivers and one-half of lakes are unfit for swimming, fishing, and other uses. For example, 83% of the water along approximately 980 miles (1,570 km) of the Ohio River is withdrawn for use within five miles (8 km) downstream of effluent discharge from a wastewater treatment plant.

Pollutants enter surface water from a distinct, identifiable source or from an extensive, poorly defined region. Pollutants that originate at a single location, such as a pipe, ditch, tank, or sewer, are examples of point source pollution. Point sources are easy to identify and therefore are relatively easy to block. Point source pollutants can enter the water directly. Boats with outboard motors, Jet Skis, and other recreational watercraft release up to 30% of their fuel straight into the water. Ships on large lakes may leak oil or dump waste, sometimes inadvertently. Routine ship operations such as discharging ballast water (water that is used to stabilize a ship) can bring in nonnative plants and animals and cause the decline of native species.

Pollutants that come from a larger area, such as a fertilized field, livestock feedlot, parking lot, roadway, or even the atmosphere, are examples of non-point source pollution. Because non-point source pollution comes from many polluters, it is much more difficult to regulate than is point source pollution. Some non-point sources of pollution are described below.


The atmosphere is an important part of the water cycle and the location of the planet’s weather. This layer of life-giving gases is also the sink for the gaseous waste products of modern human society. These wastes create air pollution, the contamination of the atmosphere by gases and particles in quantities that may be harmful to human health and the environment. Air pollutants have a variety of ill effects, from raising global temperature, to destroying natural atmospheric processes, to causing damage to the environment and human health.

The burning of fossil fuel releases into the air enormous quantities of pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide (NO2), sulfur dioxide (SO2), carbon monoxide (CO), and hydrocarbons (organic compounds composed of hydrogen and carbon). These pollutants float through the atmosphere or are washed away by rain. Of particular concern to humans are heavy metalssuch as mercury and lead, which are wastes emitted from the combustion of coal and other materials. (A heavy metal is a metal with high specific gravity—that is, high weight for a given volume.) Sulfur and nitrogen from coal combustion form the acids that fall as acid rain and create acid streams and lakes. Acid rain is considerably more acidic than normal rainwater, which has a pH of around 5.6. Nitrogen wastes in the atmosphere create nitrates, which act as nutrients in the water.


Anything that is flushed down a toilet, runs through a sink, or enters a sewer drain in the street becomes sewage, the waste matter that passes through sewers. Sewage is 95% water. The remaining 5% is mostly human waste but also includes oil, toxic chemicals, fertilizers, pharmaceuticals (drugs), pesticides, pathogens, and trash. The organic material is biodegradable, which means it can be broken down by bacteria into stable, nontoxic inorganic compounds, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), water (H2O), and ammonia. Pathogens, synthetic (man-made) chemicals, and most trash are not biodegradable.

Sewage Pollution

Sewage Pollution

Sewage may run raw into lakes and streams, or it may be treated. In industrialized nations, sewage goes through a sewage treatment plant before it is released into the environment. But even where there are sewage treatment plants, the sewage is not always thoroughly cleansed. The sewage systems of many large cities are now old and overextended. Storms cause wastewater to overflow so that sewage is dumped directly into streams and lakes. Some pollutants, such as parasite eggs, nutrients, and synthetic organic chemicals, are not removed by the treatment regimen. Untreated sewage fouls the waters of many developed nations. In developing countries, sewage treatment costs are too high, and 90% of sewage enters inland waterways untreated. Large cities release hundreds of millions of tons of raw sewage into local waterways each year. Drinking or swimming in contaminated water results in hundreds of millions of cases of intestinal diseases each year.


Water that flows across roadways and rooftops and over landfills and contaminated soil often drains directly into streams or lakes. This runoff can be contaminated with oil, with pollutants that were applied as pesticides or fertilizers, with chemicals from improperly maintained landfills, with pathogens from pet waste, with road salts, and with heavy metals from mines and other sources. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, polluted runoff is the greatest source of water quality problems in the United States.

“Sprawl [urban development] ruins water quality,” James M. Tierney, the watershed inspector general for New York State, told The New York Times in 2007. “A good rule of thumb engineers use is that an acre of paved surface will have 15 times more runoff than an acre of natural forest or meadow.” For each acre of a construction site, the runoff is 1,000 times that of a natural forest or meadow.

More cities are diverting roadway runoff to sewage treatment plants. However, the plants are unable to remove some kinds of pollutants, specifically fertilizers and other chemical compounds, which wind up running off into surface waters anyway.

Animal wastes enter surface water as runoff, primarily from animal feeding operations at factory farms. These farms are enormous production facilities: In some cases, hundreds of thousands of animals—pigs, cattle, dairy cows, and poultry—are crowded into a small area. The main purpose of factory farms is to grow animals for slaughter as quickly as possible. Farmers are contracted to grow the animals for large corporations, which take the product but leave behind the pollutants. These pollutants include nutrients in the waste and whatever chemicals or pharmaceuticals were used to facilitate raising the animals. Such pollutants may kill fish and other aquatic life and contaminate drinking-water supplies.

Although factory farms do not bear much resemblance to family farms, feeding operations work under laws that were designed for small farms that did not house enough animals to cause major environmental damage. Factory farms are major polluters because of the sheer numbers of animals they raise and process. In all, the feedlots in the United States produce nearly 300 billion pounds (136 million metric tons) of manure daily. North Carolina farms raise about 10 million hogs for slaughter, mostly in the east-central part of the state. On a typical farm, between 880 and 1,220 animals live together in a barn with slatted floors where the waste can pass through. When operations are working correctly, some of the organic material is biodegraded by bacteria in wastewater lagoons. These wastes, which are rich in phosphates and nitrates, are then sprayed on fields as fertilizer. Some operations produce more manure than they have lagoon space for, so they spread some of it on farmland. Unfortunately, the crops cannot absorb all those nutrients, so the excess runs off into the water supply.

Leaks are caused by faulty pond construction or inadequate maintenance. Spills usually occur when floodwaters cause the lagoons to overflow. If the waste generated exceeds the facility’s capacity, it is not uncommon for farms to discharge the waste illegally.


Industrial waste may be piped into surface water directly, or it may be stored in ponds and contaminated waste sites. Water trickling through disposal areas brings contaminants to streams, lakes, ponds, and groundwater. Many waste disposal sites were built before regulations were in place. Others are improperly maintained, and there is often little enforcement.


Groundwater is less likely to be polluted than surface water. Pollutants are filtered out of the water as they seep down through the soil and rock above the aquifer or travel slowly through the aquifer. But the ability of soil and rock to remove pollutants from groundwater varies widely depending on the pollutants and the rock type. As a result, up to 25% of the total usable groundwater and about 45% of the municipal groundwater supply in the United States is contaminated.

Seepage and Leakage

Seepage and Leakage

Pollutants in groundwater come primarily from the same sources as those in surface waters. Water standing in ponds and lakes or in agricultural fields filters through the soil and rock into the aquifer. Groundwater is especially susceptible to toxins stored in landfills and underground storage tanks. More than 100,000 underground storage tanks in the United States are leaking, and millions more will develop leaks. Once pollutants are in an aquifer, they spread as a plume of contamination away from the source. The plume moves as slowly as the water in the aquifer, as little as a few inches a day.

Wells in 38 states contain pesticide levels high enough to threaten human health. In New Jersey, every major aquifer is contaminated. In Florida, where 92% of the people drink groundwater, over 90% of the wells have detectable levels of industrial and agricultural chemicals, and more than 1,000 wells have been closed.


Water pollutants may find their way out of the water or may be diluted, dispersed, or broken down. Pollutants in surface waters can leave a water body by flowing from one reservoir to another, as from a stream into a lake or the ocean. Some adhere to sediments that fall through the water and settle on the lake bottom. Eventually, these sediments, along with the pollutants, are buried by other sediments.

A polluted body of water will be diluted by rainwater or water from other streams, and these two types of water will be mixed by currents and waves. Bacteria will biodegrade organic pollutants, which make up the largest volume of waste, over time. This organic material acts as fertilizer in an ecosystem; if a lot of waste is added, the bacteria population explodes. Aerobic bacteria, which need oxygen, consume the waste until the oxygen runs out. Anaerobic bacteria, which do not need oxygen, then degrade the waste further, producing the byproducts hydrogen sulfide (the rotten-egg smell of rotting waste) and methane.

Non Biodegradable compounds may break apart or become ionized, may dissolve, or may combine with other chemicals to form new compounds. Some of these new compounds will also be hazardous. For example, a pesticide may break down into compounds that are more widely harmful to the environment than the original chemical. The insecticide dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) serves as an example of this process.

Pollution Case Study: DDT and Eggshells

Pollution Case Study: DDT and Eggshells

Some pollutants remain unchanged in the water. When water evaporates, chemicals that are left behind, like salts, become concentrated. Compounds may undergo bioaccumulation in the aquatic food web. First, zooplankton take in a small amount of a substance from the water. Then, small fish accumulate all of the substance from all of the zooplankton they eat. Next, larger fish accumulate all of the substance from all of the small fish they eat, and so on. Animals in the upper levels of the food web, the top predators, may accumulate enormous concentrations of the compounds and store them in their body fat. If the animals metabolize the fat (for example, during lean times), the toxic compounds enter the animals’ systems. Substances that have little noticeable effect in small animals may cause great damage in large predators because the substances become so concentrated. By contrast, aspirin does not bioaccumulate. A person can take the recommended dose of aspirin each day and have only that small dose within his or her body. But a small daily dose of mercury bioaccumulates so that in time a person’s body contains a large amount of mercury, eventually resulting in neurological problems and even death.


Water pollutants enter freshwater systems directly from the source or from the atmosphere, sewage, or runoff. Once in the water, the pollutants may be diluted, dispersed, or broken down. Alternatively, they may remain or even build up in the environment so that they cause damage to people or to the ecosystem in which they are found.

So its a 100 word summary on the article “Sources of surface water and Groundwater Solution” and 100 work summary on the 2 videos for a total of 300 words 3 (100 word summaries). The transcript above is for the first video Protecting Americans from drinking water…. I will send the third video.

Each summary must include

write summaries of at least 100 words each on the article and the two videos, for a total of three summaries.

Include the following in each summary:

The article or video title

How humans are affecting a water resource

How the environmental issues presented in the article or video affects you directly

How the environmental issues presented in the article or video affects you indirectly

Format the three summaries according to appropriate course-level APA guidelines.

Conserving Natural Resources Transcript

Natural resources are those parts of the earth’s environment that we depend on in our everyday lives.These include water, land, forests, even the air itself. We use natural resources to fuel our cars, build our houses,and power our appliances.

For the consumer, natural resources can be like a bank account. Use them wisely and you prosper. Waste them and you are the poorer for it. We may have little control over the depleted ozone layer, but you can control how you maintain your home, buy a new appliance or choose a new car. This problem will highlight economic and scientific data on the use of natural resources around the home. You need to be aware and informed, then make your own decisions.

Water is often thought of as our most precious resource.Only the air we breathe is more crucial to our survival.And yet many of us use water as if we had an endless supply. This is clearly not the case. Careful use of water should be a conservation priority. An easy way to start isto fix leaking faucets and toilet seals.

I’m seeing drips like this double people’s water bills. If you add up each drip for each hour for each gallon foreach day for each month, that’s going to affect the water bill. The more important thing on this valve, because it was dripping on the hot side, is that water has to be heated. So you have a double loss. You have a water bill.And you have a fuel bill.

Your local water utility can show you innovative ways to save water both inside and outside the home.

Inside the house, you can achieve significant savings by replacing your old toilet with an ultra low-flow toilet. You can use low-flow shower-heads. You can apply aeratorson your kitchen faucet. You can also use energy-saving clothes washers, energy-saving dishwashers, and, ofcourse, the ultra low-flow toilet. And because that is a fixture that is used more than any other fixture in the house, it has the greatest savings proportion.

New dual-flow toilets come with two options, half-flush and a full-flush. This gives you more water pressure with less water.

The majority of water is used outside the home. And the most waste takes place in landscaping techniques. Most people over-water their lawns by about 40%. You can use an efficient irrigation system. You can reduce the size of your lawn. Or replace it with a mixed border featuring native plant materials. You can incorporate what we call hardscape, which would be a deck or a patio or a path way made of flagstone or brick that would remove area from irrigation. Customers often ask me how they can get along without a lawn. My recommendation to them is to have lawn as an accent surrounded by a lovely border of native plants would do very, very well in making a lovely landscape as eye-catching and attractive as a lawn could be.

Another way you can help your garden, while saving water at the same time, is with composting. But that means giving your garbage disposal the day off.

If you throw kitchen scraps down the garbage disposal,large amounts of chemical and water will have to be used in order to treat them. By putting it in a compost pile that you will later on use in your garden, you are creating a material to enrich the soil and to make it have greater water-holding capacity. So you’re saving money,you’re saving resources, and you’re improving your garden– all in one activity.

New technologies and increased consumer awareness are making it easier to save money and to cut down on pollution at the same time. Here at the Lawrence Berkeley Lab in California, researchers for the US Department of Energy are using state-of-the-art technology to lower home utility bills.

If we worked to upgrade the insulation deal with the efficiency of the heating and cooling systems, we could probably save 40% to 50% of the energy consumed by completing such a redesign. If consumers were to save,under their own initiative, even half that amount, that would do a world of good. We’ve developed here at LBL aduct sealant. And you can see the little over-shots of the sealant. Air that has already been heated and cooled isn’t allowed to escape and just be lost. That’s fairly easy to lose 10%, 15%, and perhaps even 20% of the heated and cooled air through the ducts, if the ducts are not properly sealed.

Try these inexpensive fixes that pay for themselves in just one year. Find and seal all leaks with caulking or weatherstripping. Upgrade inefficient windows and doors. Install storm-doors and windows. And most important of all,insulate your walls and attic. New window technologies can now increase insulation and shade control,dramatically. Many of these are do-it-yourself products that you can find at your local hardware store.

Here we have just a regular dual-pane glass window–lets a lot of light in, lets a lot of heat in. You can always feel the heat transmittance at all times during the heat of the summer or the winter cold. Over here, we have a new product that’s called a low-E coating on this window. If you can get a good look, it’s kind of got a blue tint to it. Imean, it’s got a clear finish on the inside, kind of like sprayed on. What it does is it reflects the outside heat during the summer. And it reflects it back out of the house. In the wintertime, it’ll take your heat from your heaters, your fireplace. It will bounce that heat back in to keep your house a little more warm.

You don’t have to wait to build a new house before you can make smart energy decisions. Start by having your heating and cooling system cleaned, tuned up, and tested. In addition to regular maintenance, you can develop some energy habits that will save you money,month after month. Turn down thermostats to the lowest comfortable level, no higher than 68 degrees during the day, between 55 and 60 degrees at night. Install a clock thermostat. That way the thermostat remembers for you.

Cooling systems are another big expense in the home.Again, tightening your house is a big help, as is sealing airducts. Have your air conditioner checked for coolant leaks for more efficient use. Provide effective shade. Andkeep windows covered during the hot day to keep heat out and cool air in. Water heaters are high on the list ofenergy users in the home, especially if you use electricity.

According to Department of Energy, your top 3 in most homes, if you have gas water heating, are the heatingand cooling. Number 2 is the refrigerator. Number 3 is the water heater. If you have an electric water heater,usually your heating and cooling are number 1 on a yearly use. Then there is your water heating, and then the refrigerator.

You can change a lot of things in the way use energy at your home, things like setting your water heater to the correct temperature. Many people keep it way too hot.Particularly people with electric units, which can be significant savings once you get those adjusted. Yourelectric water heater can cost you from two to three times as much as a comparable gas water heater with the same exact usage. If it’s electric water heater, we don’t suggest you adjust it yourself. Get somebody qualified to do that because it is a 240-volt circuit. If, however, you have a gas water heater with a dial on the front, it’s very easy to reach and you just give it a twist.

To get an idea of just how much energy we use, let’s compare Americans’ energy use with the rest of the world.

When you think about human impact on the planet, the really impressive numbers to keep in mind is the fact that Americans use around 20 times as much energy is the average South African or Indonesian or Kenyan. Now,there’s only 250 million Americans out of 6 billion people in the world. But we use a third of all energy in the world.We use that energy yourself in a very inefficient and a very extensive way. And we set the model for doing that around the world. And so we are exporting our energyhog lifestyle.

Dan Kammen works at developing renewable energy in third world countries. He thinks renewable energy can also work here at home.

The options to do this clean energy have really sprung up everywhere. Well, right now the US utility industry isw hat’s called “restructuring.” Well, restructuring reallymeans is that we’re getting competition in the energy industry. And so right now in California, you can buy your power from the big power companies that you used to buy power from or from a bunch of new companies, and so much are green companies. You can buy power from a green energy company doing wind energy and you actually will save a little bit. Now, there’s a no-brainer, in my opinion. For me, it’s not at all a question to go buythat cleaner power. And all around the country right now,those changes are going on everywhere.

Another community effort that is paying off is recycling.Recycling can keep many landfills from overflowing. And reusing aluminum, glass, some plastic, steel and tin can save large amounts of water and energy needed for their manufacture.

It makes a lot of cents, C-E-N-T-S, to recycle. Well, you’re talking about all your tin cans, all of your aluminum cans, all of your paper products, your junk mail, your magazines, the cardboard box, the box that still come with a shirt in it. Put it out at the curb. Then when you come to the dump here, we do the rest of that. We take 70% off for you. You’ll pay going into the dump. And we’ve got 50, 60 people here sorting all that waste. And we’ve got a market for everything.

The only thing that we cannot recycle is plastic. It’s as courge. It should be banned from the face of the earth before we lose it all. Don’t shop at stores that give you plastic bags. And if they do, take it home in another way,a canvas bag or a paper bag. Because the plastic, once you take it home, when you put it into the dump, 1,000 years from now, that plastic bag is still going to be on the ground. You can’t get rid of it. And if you burn plastic, it becomes a dioxin film that causes cancer. So we’re stuck with a product that you can’t get rid off.

Everybody feels good about recycling. But to make it really work, we need to buy post-consumer goods,products made from recycled materials. And consumerscan stop waste at the source when they refuse to buy over-packaged products.

Don’t buy products that contain excess packaging. The Less packaging on a product, the better. As always, it all goes to a landfill. And for the most part, it’s not recyclable. I know it’s convenient. I do it at home because I’ve got kids and just buy small containers like you take in your lunchbox and stuff. But if you buy stuff that has post-consumer materials in it, and you look for it, and you ask the store manager for it, and that’s where it would get the ball rolling.

The single biggest decision you can make to reduce your energy use on a daily basis is to drive an energy-efficient car. Automobiles are the single biggest users of energy for most Americans– about one third of our energy diet.And cars are the biggest producers of greenhouse gases of any appliance. Right now, the auto industry is moving in several directions at once. They’re building bigger and bigger cars for the luxury market, while they’reproducing more energy-efficient cars than ever before.These choices are really striking. And here, you can havethe biggest impact on your pocket book and the environment.

The single most important way in which we’re going to conserve energy in transportation is through the design,maintenance, and use of the automobile. One of the most important things that every automobile owner,driver, user should be attentive to is the condition of his or her automobile. It turns out that about 10% to 20% ofthe vehicles are producing 70% or 80% of the pollution.

Remember to service your car. Change your oil every 3,000 miles. And keep your tires fully inflated. Empty the trunk of all nonessential to lighten the load on the engine. Roll up the windows. It takes less energy at highway speeds to run the air conditioning than to fight the drag caused by open windows. And stick to the speed limit. It’s safer and more economical.

Your vehicle is likely to be least efficient and most polluting when you start it up, and it’s been cold. So you can think about the way you use your car as a resource.And certainly, it would help the environment and help our energy problems if you were efficient. If you made two or three stops on one trip. If you also went to the store on your way home from work, rather than going home and then going out again later.

But it’s also important to take note of the fact that a fully warmed-up vehicle is actually fairly efficient. And so if you, for example say, well, what I’m going to do to help deal with the energy crisis and air pollution is I’m going to get in my car and drive it three or five miles to the train station. Park it there. And then take the train downtown.Your car will produce 80% or 90% percent of the pollution in that three- to five-mile trip as it would have produced had you driven all the way to work. So you’re not being as big a help in dealing with energy and the environment by doing that as you might think you would. Instead if you considered taking the bus to the train station or taking a bicycle to the train station, you would be making a much bigger impact.

Public transit is a great option, so use it when you can.But mass transit is not available everywhere. Maybe theanswer to short car trips is not to take a car at all.

Since 40% of our transportation trips are 2 miles or less in length, these are the perfect trips that we can be using for bicycling. The average person who owns a car spends$6,500 a year just to maintain the cost of their car. That doesn’t include the amount of money that it cost to buy the car in the first place. By getting on a bicycle, using public transit, you save a lot of money. So you can ride your bike to get to and from the post office, to the bank,to the grocery store, to all kinds of different places. And you don’t have to find parking when you need to do that.

There are many ways to use the bicycle. Sometimes that will help you make it so that you save money, that you help to improve the environment, and you also get some exercise. So people are realizing more and more that they’re voting with their dollars. And so what they’re doing is they’re hopping on their bicycles. They’re getting on public transit. And they’re using these alternative forms of transportation as much as possible.

Consumers can make a difference when they act together. Being a good consumer means being a good citizen as well.

I don’t think it makes too much sense for an individual tosay, I’m going to walk while everybody else drives their car. Because if I walk, and 10 million people drive their car, I’m contributing almost nothing to energy conservation. On the other hand, if I support legislation which requires more fuel-efficient cars, and I don’t balkor throw out of office people who support that, then we have the possibility of having everyone have a more fuel-efficient car. So I think it’s rational to think in terms of what public policy can do for us, not just what the individual consumer can do. And the individual consumer, of course, can influence public policy by the way he or she votes, and the way he or she addresses issues that are on the public agenda.

Buying a new appliance may be the best time to use your energy-efficiency knowledge. That’s when you should calculate how much electricity or gas it will use. Take your refrigerator, one of the largest energy consumers in the home. You will spend more on the electricity to runit, than you will to buy it. Choose wisely, and you could save almost $2,000 and 30 tons of carbon dioxide emissions over the life of the appliance. You’re never too young to learn about energy efficiency. And there is a bright yellow label that will tell you what you need to know.

Energy Star appliances are one that the government has taken the manufacturers ratings and compared them to their standard efficiency. What that really means is that if you buy an Energy Star appliance, you’re getting the better ones, if not the best ones available. You’re not getting the minimum efficiency units, which is really the worst you can do. You’re buying one that exceeds that by 10%, 15%, even 30%. So Energy Star units are always the first choice.

You can use your knowledge of energy efficiency to rate other appliances as well.

A microwave can be very efficient compared to youroven. To give you an idea, microwaves generally use 800,900 watts to cook. But an oven is a 5,000-watt heating element if its an electric unit. You can see the comparison. It’s all in favor of the microwave. And it’s faster, besides. Most gas units will use between a third and half as much energy, whether it’s gas or electricity,as an electric oven.

There are ways to make your electric stove more efficient. Small-sized ovens are more energy-efficient than larger ones. When using an electric cook-top, matchpan size to the size of the burner. And turn off the heat just before the cooking is done. The electric burner will keep cooking for a few minutes after it’s turned off. Keep pots covered and use as little water as possible. Forwashers, the most efficient units available are front-loaders. They use the least amount of water. For dryers,gas remains the economical choice. And new technology,in the form of moisture and temperature sensors, can control energy costs. Temperature sensors can reduce electricity usage by 10%. And moisture sensors can save a whopping 90%.

Other energy-saving tips– dry several loads in a row to use the heat still in the dryer. And make sure they are full loads. Clean the filter and check the exhaust vent to keep the dryer running at its peak. For the best energy saving sof all, try this very low-tech approach. Weather permitting, hang your clothes outside on a line.

While lighting only accounts for 5% to 10% of household energy use, simply switching from incandescent to low-watt fluorescent bulbs can save you 75% on your lighting bill.

Modern fluorescents do everything a modern incandescent can do. But they do it for one quarter of electricity. It will last 10 times longer. And if you have air conditioning loading, you have a lot of lights that you replace that they reduce the amount of heat the air conditioner has to deal with.

Other ways to save on lighting, use natural daylight whenever possible. Rely more on task lighting and lesson background lighting. And turn off lights when you leave the room.

The wise use of our natural resources in our daily lives makes good sense for consumers. Whether buying a fuel efficient car or weatherizing your house, using drip-irrigation, or looking for the Energy Star logo, what webuy can make a big difference. Using natural resources wisely means using the earth’s resources to our best advantage. As we consumers become more aware of our natural resource choices, we can create a better world for ourselves and for future generations.

Solution preview for the order on NewsHour science correspondent Miles O’Brien begins a two-part look at America’s drinking water and the regulatory system

NewsHour science correspondent Miles O’Brien begins a two-part look at America’s drinking water and the regulatory system 


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