Friday, August 8, 2014

The choice is clean water or green glop


     Clean drinking water is taken for granted in the United States. Last week, however, residents of Toledo, Ohio, discovered what can best be described as green glop coming from their taps. Soon, they may not be alone in that discovery.

     Toledo gets its water from Lake Erie, part of the world’s largest freshwater system. This shallowest of the Great Lakes experiences an algae bloom each summer. Those blooms first reached crisis levels in the 1960s. Following passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, cities and commercial users began to control pollutants. The blooms shrank. In the 1990s, however, progress reversed. Now the blooms are back at crisis levels.

     Farming, especially corporate farming, was largely untouched by the Clean Water Act, and phosphorous is one of the major components of the chemicals widely used by agribusiness. Chemical runoff enters the rivers that fill Lake Erie and the phosphorous feeds the algae.

     Phosphorous is only the proximate cause of water concerns, however. A more insidious but powerful force lies in a political climate that twists community concerns about clean water into fearful resistance of any government regulation, even at the cost of keeping water potable.

     On Tuesday, Missouri voters approved a state constitutional amendment that guarantees the right to “engage in farming and ranching practices.” Essentially, farmers can do anything they like without concern for how it might affect the water used by those around them. North Dakota has a similar law. Three other states are considering similar legislation.

     Missouri’s “Right to Farm” vote is only the latest action in what has been a virtual war since the 1980s on the Clean Water Act and on other environment-related regulations. “These toxins are more toxic than cyanide,” said Jeff Reutter, director of the Ohio Sea Grant College Program and F.T. Stone Laboratory at Ohio State University, in referring to the algae bloom. Yet resistance to environmental regulations threatens to reach extreme levels.

     Ironically, Toledo is not only an example of how water gets polluted, it is also a lesson in why efforts to keep it clean pay off. Because of the Clean Water Act, Toledo installed water-filtering technology and controlled industrial pollution sources, giving them the capacity to clean up the water flows that the bloom had suddenly overwhelmed.

     Keeping water clean and safe will require farmers, industries and even households to make inconvenient and even costly changes. If we are unwilling to do so, we had all better develop a taste for drinking green glop.




About Comments

Comments with content that seeks to incite or inflame may be removed.

Comments that are in ALL CAPS may be removed.

Comments that are off-topic or that include profanity or personal attacks, libelous or other inappropriate material may be removed from the site. Entries that are unsigned or contain signatures by someone other than the actual author may be removed. We will take steps to block users who violate any of our posting standards, terms of use or any other policies governing this site. Use of this system denotes full acceptance of these conditions. Please review the full rules governing commentaries and discussions. You are fully responsible for the content that you post.

The comments below are from the readers of mtexpress.com and in no way represent the views of Express Publishing, Inc.

You may flag individual comments. You may also report an inappropriate or offensive comment by clicking here.

Flagging Comments: Flagging a comment tells a site administrator that a comment is inappropriate. You can find the flag option by pointing the mouse over the comment and clicking the 'Flag' link.

Flagging a comment is only counted once per person, and you won't need to do it multiple times.

Proper Flagging Guidelines: Every site has a different commenting policy - be sure to review the policy for this site before flagging comments. In general these types of comments should be flagged:

  • Spam
  • Ones violating this site's commenting policy
  • Clearly unrelated
  • Personal attacks on others
Comments should not be flagged for:
  • Disagreeing with the content
  • Being in a dispute with the commenter

Popular Comment Threads



 Local Weather 
Search archives:


Copyright © 2019 Express Publishing Inc.   Terms of Use   Privacy Policy
All Rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part in any form or medium without express written permission of Express Publishing Inc. is prohibited. 

The Idaho Mountain Express is distributed free to residents and guests throughout the Sun Valley, Idaho resort area community. Subscribers to the Idaho Mountain Express will read these stories and others in this week's issue.