Steve McEllistrem

The Devereaux Dilemma

Clean Water

Water is the most important substance on Earth – the one element we believe is absolutely essential to life – and yet we disrespect it all the time. Why?

We all agree that clean water is vital. Even the most deranged of madmen concedes that we need clean water for drinking and bathing, to prevent disease and maintain the healthy balance of our planetary ecosystems.

But the devil, they say, is in the details – and so we differ on how to achieve that goal.

Yes, the oil industry says, clean water is important. That’s why we inject polluted water (a byproduct of fracking) deep underground. We make sure this dirty water is nowhere near the aquifers and water tables beneath the surface. We have tremendous confidence that the earth will filter this contaminated water before it leaches into groundwater sources.

Yes, the politicians say, clean water is vital. But it’s also vital that we keep taxes low to maintain economic growth. So we can’t raise the money we need to remove the lead pipes that service older, poorer communities, poisoning our nation’s most vulnerable children. And we can’t regulate business too heavily or we’ll lose it to some other county/state/nation that doesn’t demand absolutely pure water discharges.

Yes, the manufacturing industry says, clean water is critical, but our process yields a certain amount of wastewater that must be disposed of in some manner. We take the greatest precautions when dumping our water to ensure that it goes into holding ponds where it can’t escape unless there’s a flood or some other unforeseeable disaster (like a lining failure) that releases the contaminated water into the river.

Yes, the farmers say, clean water is vital. But animals are naturally going to relieve themselves outside. Plus, the pesticides and fertilizers and antibiotics we use are mostly safe and we can’t build extensive barriers to keep these chemicals out of our lakes and streams because we need that land to farm/ranch. If you take away our ability to earn a living, we can’t grow the corn or raise the chickens you need to survive.

Yes, we individuals say, clean water is of great significance, but we’re already overtaxed and we don’t want to have to pay more for our clothing, food, electricity, gasoline, housing. How much harm can I do by pouring this used motor oil into the ground or taking an extra long shower or fertilizing my lawn three times a year or flying to my timeshare in Orlando every winter or driving my SUV that gets only 20 miles to the gallon?

Those people in Asia and Africa – they’re the problem. Burning dirty coal (that we sold them), peeing in rivers (because they can’t afford houses, let alone bathrooms), cutting down trees (to get more space to farm or cook their food or just keep warm at night). They should stop what they’re doing so we don’t get acid rain.

Yes, that’s the solution. You other people need to stop polluting your water so mine will be clean.


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