Drink Up

A grand jury report on groundwater contamination in Escambia County, Florida, has been released charging that local, state and federal agencies responsible for protecting the environment and public health all failed to inform the public about industrial contamination of the county's water supply, with the Conoco oil company among the area's leading polluters. "The combined failure meant thousands of residents were unaware that more than half of the county's public water wells were laced with harmful contaminants for an untold number of years," reports Steve Mraz, noting that authorities were "more concerned about public relations and financial impacts" of their decisions than "than the health, safety and welfare consequences." As is often the case, the impetus for cleanup came, not from government regulatory agencies, but from Margaret Williams, a local grandmother turned activist, Margaret Williams, and her organization, Citizens Against Toxic Exposure.