Friday, April 18, 2008

Crash course in water pollution & contamination

One typical article of new developments, about Chicago starting water testing:,1,4136982.story

There's a lot in the news about this (FINALLY! Time's a wasting). So many have obsessed about carbon in the air that no one has paid attention to a far more serious problem, which is the contamination of the water supplies of the earth. Here's a crash course in the basics so you can understand better what's happening.

Water rolls downhill. It starts with rain from the sky and the melting of snow from high elevations every spring. This fills the bodies of water from which municipalities draw their water supplies. This is why during drought and after mild winters (of little snow), reservoirs start to get low and even run dry. People who are not connected to public water get their water from wells. Wells tap what is called the "ground water table." That is a layer of water that exists underground all the time. How much water is there and how easy it is to reach varies also according to drought. Sometimes wells "go dry" first. Sometimes municipal sources dry first while wells still supply. It varies according to the region of country and the weather.

Water enters your house in "drinkable" form (the technical term is potable). However it leaves in "undrinkable form" because obviously it is flushed down toilets and runs down your sink. Pipes take it to municipal treatment plants. Many are very primitive and only take the basic physical stuff out of it, plus disinfect, before emptying it into the ground again. They don't pour it right back into the reservoir but since it goes into the nearby bodies of water and the groundwater, whatever is in the waste water ends up in your water supply sooner or later again, and also in the environment (plants, animals and dirt) around you. So when people take drugs, both prescription and illegal, and pee it out, treatment plants do NOT have the capability to remove it. It ends up in the groundwater table, in lakes, in water supplies, and in the bodies of plants and animals, and the soil throughout your environment. This is why some fish have extreme deformities, especially of sex organs. They are exposed to the drugs humans pee out of their systems (and that manufacturers flush from their factories). So everything that you flush down the toilet or sink that is a chemical (including cleaning agents) does not "go away." Sooner or later it bounces back to your water supply and also ends up in your body tissue and that of plants and animals.

Now, water that falls as rain is like a big car wash. It carries along with it all the dirt that it strikes on house, building, road, farm and factory surfaces. In towns you have what is called "storm sewers." Run off from rain goes down these grates in the street and are directed "downhill" toward nearby bodies of water, such as streams, rivers and lakes. Obviously nothing is treated, since it does not go through the sewage treatment plants. All layers of dirt and contamination are washed by the rain into your ground and water supply, concentrating in its flooding whatever it picks up.

This is why, for example, you would not want to drink rainwater that runs off of your roof. While rain is pure in that it only contains what it picks up in the atmosphere as it falls (both natural or pollution), as it hits your roof it washes minute traces of the man made materials and chemicals that your roof is made up of, such as the shingles, tar, preservative and metal. Rain that falls on roads washes the roads of minute amounts of the road material itself, natural dirt, and also the exhaust of cars, oil, and other things that accumulate and stick to the roads. Where it falls on the ground it dissolves and washes away dog doo, garbage, and whatever materials it hits. On a farm that is a serious problem because this is where the large amounts of animal waste is hit by rain and washes along with the rain. Pollution as I listed above that results from the rain washing man made and animal surfaces is called "nonpoint" pollution. It's because it is a continual wave of pollution, rather than from a specific source of pollution, like the output of a factory or school.

Nonpoint pollution is also a HUGE problem because it has overwhelmed the natural cleansing that the earth systems can process on its own. This is because much of what is washed away are man made chemicals, not meant to be broken down into harmless components by nature. People remember that there was a huge bank breaking clean up required when PCB's sank to the bottom of bodies of water like the Hudson River. Nature can break down cow doo, for example, but nature cannot easily break down compounds of material that humans have manufactured, such as drugs, plastics and chemicals. Even cow doo becomes a problem if too much enters a natural body of water than it can clean on its own in a given time. One example is in Albuquerque where the Rio Grande river actually had too much dog poo to keep clean on its own, and the mayor and the governor have to continually educate people that their dog doo, small as it seems, is adding up and overwhelming the river (a water supply, by the way).

The HUGE example of this is that nonpoint pollution has been recently in the news. This is the increasing "dead zone" in the Gulf of Mexico, where for many square miles not a single fish or marine animal can live. The water is "dead" because of nonpoint pollution that runs off the coast of Texas. When huge quantities of any substance are endlessly poured into nature's ecosystems, even the powers of nature to break them down and process them are overwhelmed. People have thought the oceans are endless and can rejuvenate. Well, they cannot. Not only are the oceans choking on nonpoint pollution, but also the dumping of municipal garbage and sewage is overwhelming the ocean, plus the "litter," that is found all the way to Antarctica by the ton. The oceans are unable to recover from the quantities of unprocessed pollution poured into them. If the oceans pass the point of no return, so will humanity, mark my words on this and heed. While the oceans are not the source of drinking water (except through desalination), they are the kitchen for so much nutrition for the world's people, for the animals that occupy the ocean and the oceans are also the main generators of the weather systems that allow life to occur on earth.

The pollution of both fresh and sea water is THE global ecosystem crisis, more so than carbon based "climate change" worries. Carbon can be easily managed, and it is not an unnatural substance. The pollution that contaminates drinking water and sea water is man made and life altering artificial substances, combined with unmanageable amounts of natural pollution. If I'm scaring you I am glad, though I'm certainly not glad about the situation. There's hell to be paid on earth if the pollution of water continues unabated. Environmentalists do no favor to the environment by painting humans as the "enemy" and the "polluters." Years before human civilization the oceans teemed with life. It is estimated that the whales that are rare now numbered in the many MILLIONS. But the whales gobble food and take a crap in the ocean, just as humans do. So it is not like animals are all "noble" and people are old mean polluters, they are not. The key is that the oceans were able to process large amounts of natural effluent from animals because it was in balance using natural processes on natural effluent. It's not like the whales were crapping plastic and anti-depressants. The gift of life means that people should be able to multiple and prosper and give life to babies and their children. The earth can support billions more people than already exist. "Overpopulation" is anti-life propaganda. What should be done is the return of many people who focus on the harvesting and natural replacement of earth's resources, just as most humans used to be farmers. Rather than worry about minimizing "foot print," people should study ecosystems and use technology to cleanse what we do utilize and discard, and restock and recharge the parts of the earth that are under too much strain. The technology already exists. It is crucial that people start thinking in a cleansing and restocking strategy of "recharging the earth's batteries" so that earth can optimize its own natural processes. The water crisis is the ideal, and essential, critical, vital place to start.

I do hope this helps with perspective, ideas and background. Thanks for your attention and support in advance.