Saturday, March 1, 2014
Water, Waste and What We Drink
By Jonathan Mallon
Water is one of Earth’s most important resources. It helps sustain life on our planet by keeping plants and animals healthy, aiding the overall ecology of Earth, and providing the places civilizations built their legacies on. Then stories about water pollution were revealed, such as the Ford car company’s dumping in New Jersey and the more recent situation with the chemical pollution of a river in West Virginia. It’s enough to question whether we really know (and maybe even care) about how dangerous polluting bodies of water really are.
A series of articles on the impact of Ford’s pollution in New Jersey was covered in the state’s local newspaper that covers North Jersey, The Record (and its website), entitled “Toxic Legacy.” One news story within that series talked about the pollution affecting the Ramapo River, even though water company officials said that the water downstream “meets or exceeds federal standards in all required tests for more than 90 chemicals and pathogens.”
A more recent article by Robert Johnson of businessinsider.com covered an angle to the recent chemical spill in West Virginia’s Elk River, where a former coal miner named Joe Stanley explained that his industry was responsible for polluting the water for many years before the incident. Stanley said that the chemical that was recently spilled into the river “was just one of the chemicals we were told was highly toxic but that we dumped into old mine shafts and slurry ponds, and it’s been seeping into the groundwater for years.”
It may be even worse in the developing countries, according to an article about water pollution on the environment section of the National Geographic website. In the page’s “fast facts” section, it said that “70 percent of industrial wastes are dumped untreated into waters, polluting the usable water supply” in those countries.
A web page on water on the EPA website explained that polluted water was overall unsafe for consumption and other uses. The web page stated that living organisms in the polluted water could either die from the pollution, or absorb some of it and become dangerous to consume as well. However, according to the web page, there are regulations in place that help keep the waste clean enough so that people can safely use the water for activities.
Despite this (and along with other movements and methods for cleaning and keeping local waterways clean), it shows ignorance in the actions of the polluters, whether it be an accidental spill or a deliberate decision to trash. No matter where it is, whether it’s a river, ocean, or underground aquifer, water must receive stricter protection. It’s not enough that we treat and filter the water we find, as who knows what may remain even after it is treated.
Water is something that, in the end, must be taken more seriously in a wider environmental context.
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