(CNN) – There are people across the United States of America who are literally living off of bottled water because they cannot drink the water coming out of their tap.
That’s because it’s contaminated with chemicals linked to health issues, but still unregulated by the EPA.
You may not know it, but you probably have traces of man-made chemicals in your bloodstream. Most Americans do.
For most of us, it might not cause any issues but in high amounts, it’s been linked to a long list of diseases, and it’s not regulated by the government.
“You have the chemical in your body?”
“Very high levels,” Sandy Wynn-Stelt said.
Wynn-Stelt never suspected the water that flowed through her pipes may be poisoning her.
“There’s a good chance this will be what ultimately kills me.”
Sandy’s water is tainted by PFAS, a class of chemicals that studies have linked to kidney and liver cancer, thyroid problems, high cholesterol, birth defects and pregnancy complications.
It’s in most products that are water, heat and grease-resistant – like non-stick pans, food containers, and fabric protectants.
And Belmont, Michigan where Sandy lives, has some of the highest levels of PFAS in the nation. The groundwater was contaminated by a nearby shoe factory, wolverine tannery, which dumped waste materials covered with Scotchguard for years, according to state officials.
“This is what I drink out of, brush your teeth out of, cook with…”
Sandy is suing wolverine, and 3m, which makes Scotchguard, over her contamination and the death of her husband Joel. He died of liver cancer in 2016, one year before she found out the water was tainted, so he was never tested for PFAS.
“Every night, you try to fall asleep and you wonder, is that what did it? Should I not have had him drink so much water?” Wynn-Stelt said.
The state of Michigan is also suing Wolverine, which in a response to CNN said it blames 3M, and that some of the lawsuits against it “include misleading and unsupported allegations.”
3M told CNN it “regularly and proactively examines the environmental impact of our products” and has “invested more than $200 million globally on PFAS remediation efforts.”
“Is this the largest environmental crisis that this state has seen?” Marsh said.
“In terms of drinking water, residential drinking water impacts, yes,” Abigail Hendershott said.
Thirteen-hundred miles away every day, dairy farmer Art Schapp milks 1,800 cows on his New Mexico dairy farm.
And every day as he has been for nearly a year, he dumps it all down the drain.
“That would be about 12,000 gallons a day of milk,” Schapp said.
The milk, is contaminated, according to FDA tests and his milk license suspended.
Cows lie dead from old age on his farm because no one will buy their beef.
“We have no income. For our family it’s been devastating,” Schapp said.
Firefighting foam used in training exercises at a nearby military base contaminated the groundwater on Schapp’s property.
PFAS contamination sites are everywhere – 712 locations in 49 states have been discovered, according to the Environmental Working Group, an activist non-profit.
Manufacturers like 3M and Dupont have stopped making two of the chemicals in the class, but they’re still shipped in on products from overseas.
They’re so prevalent, CDC scientists believe PFAS chemicals are in the bloodstreams of nearly all Americans.
Despite all that, the chemicals are unregulated.
“I almost feel like we live in a third world country when we see a problem like this that’s polluting the groundwater, we have proof from the tests, yet everybody’s standing sitting on their hands,” Schapp said.
Environmentalists have been trying to get the EPA to act for years. The Obama Adminstration took some steps to address PFAS issues, but there’s little confidence the trump EPA will make any new regulations.
Betsy Southerland worked at the EPA for 33 years before leaving in 2017.
“They’re solely devoted to deregulating, to repealing public health protections, not putting any new ones on,” Southerland said.
Internal government emails shows the trump administration wanted to suppress a CDC study that showed the chemicals were dangerous even at levels the EPA had deemed safe.
A White House aide wrote in an email they could not get the CDC ” to realize the potential public relations nightmare this is going to be.”
After mounting public and congressional pressure the study was released.
The EPA did put out an action plan in February but critics say it’s just promises, with no real movement.
The EPA is responsible for regulating these chemicals.
In a statement the EPA said it was a top priority for the administrator and it will decide whether to set a limit for the chemicals by the end of the year.
Members of Congress say that EPA isn’t acting with enough urgency, so there’s a bipartisan move to force the EPA to act within two years.