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As storms grow more severe and temperatures climb, contamination of groundwater by animal and human waste could be on the rise as well.

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Photo courtesy of Luther College

By Kari Lydersen for Ensia | @ensiamedia | @karilydersen1

Editor’s note: This story is part of a nine-month investigation of drinking water contamination across the U.S. The series is supported by funding from the Park Foundation and Water Foundation. View related stories here.

Many people assume that the water that flows from our taps is free of harmful microorganisms. But each year thousands of Americans in rural areas, small towns and even some cities are sickened by living pathogens that can flourish in untreated or inadequately treated water from private wells and municipal systems.

An increase in heavy precipitation with climate change means the risk of drinking water contamination by bacteria, viruses and other microbes could also increase, especially in places where reliance on groundwater, proximity to agricultural operations and certain types of geology increase vulnerability. …


Though less common than in the past, microbes that contaminate tap water continue to sicken — and sometimes kill — Americans.

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Photo © iStockphoto.com | Rost-9D

By Lynne Peeples for Ensia | @ensiamedia | @lynnepeeps

Editor’s note: This story is part of a nine-month investigation of drinking water contamination across the U.S. The series is supported by funding from the Park Foundation and Water Foundation. View related stories here.

Before her 73-year-old mom contracted Legionnaires’ disease at a nursing home earlier this year, Monique Barlow knew little about the deadly pneumonia and the waterborne pathogen that causes it.

“Until then, I didn’t give it much thought,” says Barlow. “I didn’t even really know what it was.”

Sheryll Barlow, a resident of Room 325 at Arlington Court Skilled Nursing and Rehab Center in suburban Columbus, Ohio, died in late February. Arlington Court was just one of at least five Columbus-area facilities to report an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease, which is caused by Legionella bacteria, since May 2019. …


As the Covid-19 pandemic decimates tourism, poaching is on the rise in Africa. The search is on for alternative ways to meet communities’ basic needs.

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Photo courtesy of Wikiseal from Wikimedia Commons, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

By Wendee Nicole for Ensia | @ensiamedia | @bohemianone

Editor’s note: This feature, part of a collection of stories around reducing the threat of wildlife-transmitted disease, is supported by funding from the Solutions Journalism Network.

Under a waxing gibbous moon, Felix Byamukama set out into Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in southwestern Uganda to hunt bush pig and duiker. He didn’t plan on coming face to face with a 400-pound silverback in the dense jungle — but when he did, fear got the best of him. Byamukama speared the mountain gorilla, then left him to die.

The gorilla’s death sent shock waves through the conservation community around the world. Scientists and conservationists have devoted decades to saving endangered mountain gorillas, about half of which live in the park. Tourists pay hundreds of dollars to track them in the wild. “It really came as a big shock to us all,” says Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, founder of Conservation Through Public Health (CTPH), a non-governmental organization that operates around Bwindi. “It is likely that hunger and desperation drove [Byamukama] to the forest.” …

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Ensia

Ensia is a solutions-focused nonprofit media outlet reporting on our changing planet.

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