Yesterday was a day of water woes. First, while sipping my morning cuppa joe, I read a few newspapers that had accumulated. Each told of massive destruction to our waters from our vast human and consumptive waste, and another highlighted the fact that our water supply is rapidly dwindling, driving home the point that we can hardly afford to destroy this precious limited resource upon which all life depends. Is there anything we can do to solve these problems before it’s too late? We’d better try!
In the Florida Times Union I read a story about plans to begin protecting the St. Johns River from unmitigated wastewater dumping and pollution over the past several decades. The photo showed the river keeper looking out at a black patch of water where treated sewage is pumped into the river water: Better Parks, Less Runoff All Part of Plan for River
About St. Johns Riverkeeper
Another article, same paper, detailed a British fiefdom where the Duke, who had supplemented residents’ water supply from a spring-fed lake on his property for more than a century, has called a halt to the generosity due to lowering groundwater reserves attributed to Britain’s worst drought in the past 30 years; the Duke will have to keep the dwindling supply for his estate.
A brief from the Associated Press reported that the government has determined that TCH, Trichloroethylene (TCE), a chemical common in wastewater adhesives, paint and cleaning solvents, is carcinogenic, and should be better regulated in our water supplies. The Associated Press report, drawn from a National Academies study, says that TCE is the most widespread industrial contaminant in drinking water, found at 60 percent of the nation’s Superfund sites, and that it should be better regulated.
National Academies Study: Evidence Growing on TCE's Health Risks
Then I read an article in the Biscayne Boulevard Times about wastewater dumping in South Florida – sewage spews around the clock from two eight-foot wide pipes out of Miami, and more pipes in Broward and Palm Beach counties dump sewage directly into the oceans. Scientists who study the coral reefs say that 98% of the world’s reefs have died in just the past few years, and high nitrogen levels from sewage and farm run-off are considered largely responsible. Beach closings due to bacterial contamination are common.
Biscayane Boulevard Times: You Are What You Fish!
Finally, I read an article in the L.A. Times, the most recent addition to its Altered Oceans series, about the floating pile of trash, twice the size of Texas, swirling about in the Pacific Ocean. A second, smaller gaggle of garbage spins in the sea off Asia. Occasionally the garbage crashes ashore – Midway Atoll in Hawaii, a sparsely inhabited island, has beaches covered with nylon fishing nets, basketballs and other children’s toys, coolers, cups and takeout boxes, grocery bags and bags and bags. Ninety percent of the garbage is plastic, the virtually non-decomposable substance produced with petroleum-based chemicals. Midway Atoll is a breeding ground for Albatross, yet half of the young birds die, starved and dehydrated with stomachs full of plastic.
L.A. Times: Plague of Plastic Chokes the Seas
What can we do to turn around this utter befoulment of our vital fluid?
We can begin immediately by reducing the amount of waste products that find their way into our waters. Ever heard of composting toilets? It’s completely unnecessary to mix our human waste with water for disposal. Although that is the habit that has developed over the centuries – remember the Roman culverts running along the earliest avenues that carried waste away with water? – it’s only a habit, and it can easily be changed with existing technology that’s already in use throughout the world. Composting toilets collect waste in a tank and homeowners find garden-ready compost when it’s time to empty the tank. Clivus Multrum Incorporated
Innovative cattle farms are burning livestock waste to produce fuel to power their enterprises.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Turning Cow Poop Into Car Power Cuts Harmful Gases
Both of these techniques keep poop from polluting our waters – done on a large scale, these could make a huge difference to the water pollution problems we face world-wide.
And what about the trash? How can we stop the flow of plastic into the oceans? By knocking back our use of plastics, we can reduce our level of plastic waste. This material is particularly pervasive for many reasons: its production generates toxic byproducts; it takes tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of years, to break down and it emits more toxic gasses in the process; and its relentless presence in the environment is killing wild animals at an alarming rate.
• When you buy things, seek out products that are not made with plastic.
• Choose items that are packaged in biodegradable material such as cardboard instead of plastic.
• Bring your own reusable cloth bags to the store to carry home your purchases without adding another bunch of plastic bags to the waste stream. (http://www.gogreengift.com/!)
If we make these changes, manufacturers will respond by giving us products made without plastics, packaged in biodegradable boxes and the proliferation of plastic bags will be greatly reduced.