Small-Town America Has a Serious Drinking-Water Problem

On a sweltering day last July, a team of scientists stood before a crowded room of people from the tiny town of Sanders, Arizona, and showed them a photo of a dilapidated wooden shack covered by hole-filled tarps. This, the scientists explained, was the town's water source.

The researchers' next image—a chart with a flat red line cutting through yellow bars—was even more worrisome. Tommy Rock, a Ph.D. candidate studying water contamination at Northern Arizona University, explained that the red line was the Environmental Protection Agency's threshold for uranium allowed in public water systems: 30 micro-grams per liter. The yellow bars represented uranium levels in Sanders' water supply dating back to 2003. They hovered around 50 micro-grams per liter.