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Native Sun News Today: Pine Ridge Reservation residents worried about water

The Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Photo: Rachel Harris

Water accessibility concerns Pine Ridge residents
By Aly Duncan Neely
Native Sun News Today Correspondent

PINE RIDGE –– Pine Ridge residents find themselves increasingly worried about being without water. With winter settling in and wreaking havoc on water pipes, streets, and household budgets, drinking water is a big deal.

In Porcupine, a case of 24 bottles of water costs almost $9. If a person drinks only four 12-ounce bottles a day, the cost is $1.50 a day per person. If rationed well, two people can drink a whole case in just 3 days.

What exasperates this situation are the facts that unemployment is high, incomes are low, transportation to and from the store is difficult if not impossible on days when the snow and ice make roads impassable, and natural freshwater supplies are limited. Even with piped in water to households, many cannot access fresh water.

One Pine Ridge resident stated that sometimes you can rely on filling up empty gallon-sized jugs at a neighbor’s house and sometimes you can’t. If the weather is bad, this may not be an option, so household income has to be budgeted for securing emergency drinking water supplies. This can occur in winter months when pipes freeze, or even in summer months when purified water supplies may not be sufficient or reliable.

A woman from Minnesota said that even if you can afford to purchase bottled water, you still have to drink from plastic containers, and then you have plastic waste and contaminants to content with. Some plastics are more toxic than others, like PVC which contains lead and other toxins, plastic bottles and food liners which can leach chemicals like BPA and BPS, especially if they become warm, heated or microwaved.

According to the Environmental Working Group organization, “Bisphenol A is a toxic plastics chemical found in polycarbonate plastic and the resinous lining of food cans.” The group writes, “In April of 2008, the National Toxicology Program raised concerns that exposure to BPA during pregnancy and childhood could impact the developing breast and prostate, hasten puberty, and affect behavior in American children.”

According to DNEWS on Discovery Digital Networks on the Seeker news forum, BPA is an endocrine disruptor that “mimics the hormone estrogen, potentially causing a variety of health concerns. One of the unique qualities of BPA is that it only takes a small amount to produce effects.”

Further studies, confirmed that bisphenol S, or BPS, has similar estrogen-like effects as BPA. The Seeker article quoted a University of Texas researcher, Rene Vinas, one of the researchers who found that low levels of BPS acted in a similar manner as BPA, who stated, "We didn't think would have those effects, but it's essentially the same as BPA.” The full study was published in Environmental Health Perspectives.

To reduce exposure to BPA the EWG recommends the following actions: Limit canned foods – BPA leaches into canned food from the lining. When possible, and especially when pregnant or breastfeeding, limit the amount of canned food your family eats. Particularly avoid canned soup, pasta, and you do not need a water permit in SD if the use is for one acre of land (for gardening) and you do not use more than 25,920 gallons daily, however, some residents have been told that they cannot collect rainwater for drinking.

This hardly seems consistent with the actual law on the books. So where is the precedent that allows the “water police”, as one Pine Ridge resident describes the authorities, to confront residents who choose to drink their harvested water?

In chapter 3, page 57 of the South Dakota Drought Mitigation Plan‘s final draft from Novermber of 2015, the South Dakota Drought Task Force in partnership with the South Dakota Office of Emergency Management Department of Public Safety state, regarding physical and public health,

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