Disinfecting drinking water against pathogens is necessary, but by-products from the process are a ubiquitous — and likely growing — problem across the U.S. Solutions exist, though.

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Photo courtesy of Kevin Maillefer/Unsplash.com

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. Read the launch story, “Thirsting for Solutions,” here.

In late September 2020, officials in Wrangell, Alaska, warned residents who were elderly, pregnant or had health problems to avoid drinking the city’s tap water — unless they could filter it on their own.

More than 3,000 miles (4,800 kilometers) away, the people of Scituate, Massachusetts, received a letter that same month cautioning about the same group of contaminants in their drinking water. …


Wherever in the world you go looking for “wild and pristine spaces,” you encounter evidence of humanity

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Illustration by Kelsey King

By Philip Loring by Ensia | @ensiamedia | @ConserveChange

Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from Finding Our Niche: Toward a Restorative Human Ecology, published by Fernwood Publishing, a book that is an outgrowth of essays the author previously published at Ensia.

Author’s note: Throughout this book I will use the proper name “Turtle Island” to refer to North America. Turtle Island is the name given to this continent by several Indigenous societies. I do this to represent the fact that my stories are settler stories, stories that unfold on stolen land. …


Multi-stakeholder partnerships that include displaced people in the process show promise for helping overwhelmed communities deal with an influx of climate migrants from rural areas.

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Photo © iStockphoto.com | ssadikgulec

By Ambika Chawla for Ensia | @ensiamedia | @AmbikaChawla3

When the rains never arrived in the East African nation of Somalia in 2016, nor in 2017, hundreds of thousands of rural residents were forced to abandon their lands and livelihoods due to one of the most severe droughts in decades. Then, in 2019, from September to December, heavy rains led to severe flooding there, displacing hundreds of thousands of people from their homes in rural areas and towns in the districts of Belet Weyne, Baardheere and Berdale.

These climate migrants traversed barren and dusty landscapes, or traveled through torrential rains, in search of food and shelter. Many ended up in refugee camps in urban areas such as Badbaado, a sea of makeshift tents on the outskirts of Mogadishu that is now home to tens of thousands of internally displaced persons. …


Removing “forever” chemicals from drinking water is not an easy task

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Public Domain. Courtesy of SRA Jeremy Smith, USAF/Combined Military Service Digital Photographic Files

By Ismail Turay Jr. for Ensia | @ensiamedia | @IsmailTurayJr

Editor’s note: This piece was expanded and updated from an original report in the Dayton [Ohio] Daily News published in June 2020. 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. Read the launch story, “Thirsting for Solutions,” here.

A group of manmade substances that can cause serious health problems in humans and animals is increasingly threatening U.S. drinking water systems, experts say. …


Wherever you are in the U.S., there’s a good chance you can find harmful PFAS compounds in water near you.

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Photo courtesy of James Willamor from Wikimedia, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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. Read the launch story, “Thirsting for Solutions,” here.

Tom Kennedy learned about the long-term contamination of his family’s drinking water about two months after he was told that his breast cancer had metastasized to his brain and was terminal.

The troubles tainting his tap: per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), a broad category of chemicals invented in the mid-1900s to add desirable properties such as stain-proofing and anti-sticking to shoes, cookware and other everyday objects. Manufacturers in Fayetteville, North Carolina had been discharging them into the Cape Fear River — a regional drinking water source — for decades. …


Widespread immunity eventually will end the Covid-19 crisis. But it won’t end wildlife-related pandemics. What can we do now to reduce future risk?

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Photo © iStockphoto.com | Charoenchai Tothaisong

By Debora MacKenzie for Ensia | @ensiamedia | @debmackenzie1

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.

I recently wrote a book about Covid-19 in six weeks. I could do that partly because I have, in a way, been covering this pandemic since the 1990s — when scientists started predicting this would happen.

It started with warnings that population growth, economic expansion and habitat destruction were rubbing humans up against wild animals with dangerous viruses, while mushrooming cities and global air travel meant any germ that jumped to us could readily travel long distances. HIV showed how.


North Dakota’s water supplies are at risk from contaminants from fracking wastewater, but residents are fighting back

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Photo © Alamy / ZUMA Press, Inc.

By Elena Bruess for Ensia | @ensiamedia | @ellevarela

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. Read the launch story, “Thirsting for Solutions,” here.

Lisa Finley-DeVille started drinking bottled water around the same time her friend’s horses began to get sick and die. A half decade ago on the Fort Berthold Reservation in western North Dakota, Deville drove up to see her friend in the New Town area. The horses looked dehydrated and brittle, just skin and bones. …


According to one expert, “The risk of air pollution on the brain is a much broader risk factor than we’ve given it credit for.”

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Photo © iStockphoto.com | DianeBentleyRaymond

By Kasra Zarei for Ensia | @ensiamedia | @KasraZarei

When it comes to the health impacts of air pollution, most people think of lung and heart issues. However, a growing body of research suggests our brains could be at risk as well.

The brain starts developing weeks after conception, and like the rest of the body, continues to change throughout the rest of life, facing the threat of many environmental hazards — whether old, new, unknown or unregulated. For instance, the effects of lead and mercury on the brain have been known for decades and still present a large global health problem. Many pesticides are neurotoxic, and yet remain available for use.


Russia is warming 2.5 times faster than the planet as a whole, but young activists there say they have an uphill climb when it comes to drawing attention to climate change.

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Photo courtesy of Fridays For Future Russia

By Nikita Ponomarenko for Ensia | @ensiamedia | @Nikita7687

Arshak Makichyan, a 26-year old violin student, had been following Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg’s story closely. In March 2019 he decided he couldn’t stay silent anymore — he had to go on a climate strike in his own country: Russia. For several weeks he stood alone. Later other activists joined in; together they started Fridays for Future (FFF) in Russia.

Across the world, global climate strikes, inspired by Thunberg and FFF, brought millions to the streets in September of that year. But in Russia it was a different story. Russian megacities of Moscow and St. …


Manufactured substances known as volatile organic compounds contaminate drinking water around the U.S. — and recent wildfires are making the situation worse.

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Photo © iStockphoto.com | Kara Capaldo

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.

From his back deck, Bogdan Marian can see the scars running down into the San Lorenzo Valley: the pad of a destroyed home, the scorched brown trees at the ridge line.

Marian is grateful to have a standing home. Yet his family and many others in the area still face another worry: the safety of their tap water. After fires marred the valley near Santa Cruz, California, in August, the local water district issued a “Do Not Drink Do Not Boil” notice to residents. …

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Ensia

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

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