Friday, December 26, 2014

Clean Air and Water ... Way More Important Than Electricity. Just sayin'.

It's interesting to me when I hear people complaining about the EPA, particularly in regard to the recent more strict air quality regulations, but when stuff like the events that resulted in this over 200 acre "superfund" site happen, people get angry if the EPA does nothing. Granted, the dumping that occurred on this site happened many years ago, but it also continued for decades during which open pits of harsh chemicals and heavy metals just sat, seeping into the ground water ... and, eventually, flowing into the very fragile eco-system that is the Scarborough Salt Marsh ... and then, out into the Atlantic Ocean.

Deus Ex Machina and I have a friend who worked for the water company a while back, and he said that tests of the ground water in my area (only a few miles from this site) tested positive for arsenic. I think he has been trying to discourage my talk of digging a "garden well", because, in his belief, the ground water isn't safe.

A few years ago, Deus Ex Machina and I were looking at purchasing a house that was a few miles inland and in another community. Ultimately, we opted out of purchasing the house, because the water test came back with higher-than-we-were-comfortable-with levels of arsenic in the well. I didn't, really, know what it all meant, except that I had just given birth to a beautiful little girl who'd spent a week in the NICU and two more weeks in the hospital on antibiotics, and I wasn't going to risk doing any damage to her fragile system with bad water.

This house was sitting on top of a granite bedrock, and we were told, at that time, that drilling for wells through the bedrock was what caused the higher than okay levels of that particular heavy metal.

The common belief is that the ground water in much of Maine has fairly high levels of arsenic, because of that bedrock, although fairly high may be somewhat subjective, as the acceptably safe number of parts-per-million keeps changing, perhaps in response to learning that higher levels aren't good.

That said, given what I've learned about the superfund site that is, essentially, in my neighborhood, I wonder how much of the problem with contaminants in the groundwater in my neighborhood is because of naturally occurring arsenic and how much of it is due to industrial pollutants that weren't properly disposed of.

The fact is that humans need air, and we need water - both of which have been significantly polluted thanks to our incessant quest for more advanced technologies. When we learn that some "evil empire", some "corporate thug", has been polluting our environment and causing cancer or birth defects, we get all pissy and moany and start clamoring for something to be done. We call Erin Brockovich and she swoops in with her litigation experience and sues those bad guys for millions (which is little more than a pesky gnat to a multi-billion dollar company), of which the real victims get piddly, and Ms. Brockovich gets famous.

But, then, the next day, we find out that the EPA is cracking down on polluters, which might mean rolling black outs and/or brown outs for some parts of the country. And, suddenly, we don't give a shit about whether that coal-burning power plant is sending carcinogenic particles into the air, or the process required to get the coal in the first place is resulting in toxic sludge pits that have contaminated the ground water in hundreds of communities that are unfortunate enough to be located in areas of the country that are rich in that particular mineral.

We want natural gas ... until natural gas is being fracked in our community and the water coming out of our tap is flammable.

We want the electricity generated by Maine Yankee, until there's a meltdown in Fukishima and we all freak out about what will happen when it happens here.

The EPA is monitoring that superfund site up the road from my house. So far, nothing is leaking ... we hope. I'm glad the EPA is there. I'm sure the farmer a few miles up the road and all of the suburbanites who've built their McMansions around the corner and down the road are, too.

And now, the EPA is being called all manner of bad names, because they're going to make it tougher for electricity producers to continue polluting our air (which also, eventually, pollutes soil and water).

We need clean water and clean air to survive as a species. And we need the biodiversity of other plants and animals to have clean air and clean water so that they can survive, because we're dependent on those species for the survival of our species.

We're all connected. We all live or die ... together.

I applaud the stricter regulations, because I don't want the air quality that many of the Chinese are having to breath these days. Unless it's fog, air so thick you can see it is not something I want going into my lungs.

I can deal with brown outs and rolling blackouts. I'd even be okay with regular, scheduled black outs (and I'd actually prefer it be scheduled so that I could be ready. You know?), if it meant that I could have clean water and clean air. I like my computer, and I like the Internet, and I like this blog, but I'd even give up electricity, if doing so would ensure I'd have clean water and clean air.

How about you? Would you give up unlimited access to electricity (from coal-fired, natural gas, and nuclear plants, in particular) to ensure clean drinking water and clean air?


  1. As someone with ongoing respiratory issues I'm all for clean air :) And gotta have drinking water~~~

    1. Exactly, Nancy! Seventeen years or so ago, I met a woman who had some sort of advanced degree in environmental biology or something like that. She and I got to talking about the increase in asthma and breathing issues, especially in the Northeast US. She said that all of the pollutants from factories and smokestacks across the rest of the US blow right over us. She implied that all of this air pollution is responsible for the increase in asthma that we've seen. That was seventeen years ago, and the numbers of those suffering with asthma have just gotten worse.

  2. Wendy - certainly agree with you. I've backed the Sierra club for its fight against coal power. We have a solar on the roof system here in NJ with backup batteries that tides us over events like SANDY and other grid failures. Have a good 2015. Russ