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pinion Best of 2012: Is the "Dirty Water Gang" Making You Sick?


Half of our streams and waterways are already unable to provide what a hundred million people in America rely on them for: clean water. So why would legislatures refuse to support environmental regulation that could remedy this growing problem? We can thank the congressional members of the "Dirty Water Gang," for shooting down another attempt to save our fouling waters. 

In a vote last Friday, Amendment 12 of the House "Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriation Act" (H.R. 5325), failed, 139 to 245, with 47 representatives not voting. The amendment was introduced by Congressmen Jim Moran (VA) and John Dingell (MI) with much effort by President Obama, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to safeguard against the growing number of endangered U.S. waterways.

Americans have struggled for decades to get residuals from chemical plants, sewage treatment plants and other waste out of their surface water, yet 44 percent of our lakes, 37 percent of our rivers and 32 percent of our estuaries remain unsafe due to toxic water pollutants. 

Waterborne diseases generally fall into three categories: bacterial, parasitic and viral. Once a waterway's PH changes, suffers from dissolved oxygen, becomes septic, or is subjected to any number of other anomalies, the water quickly becomes dangerous. Millions of Americans fall ill to bacterial and chemical contamination they get from their drinking water. The cost to the public is in the billions annually. 

Arsenic is tasteless, so are protozoans, and the sicknesses that result due to their presence aren't easily diagnosed. Months or even years can go by before someone finds out they have been ingesting toxins from their everyday way of life. 

Heavy metals, parasites and or bacterium, seldom announce their arrival. Many impoverished people struggle with even greater discomfort, unable to afford a doctor appointment to find out what could be causing their hair loss, chronic pain or inability to keep food down.

Worldwide, waterborne diseases are tied with cardiovascular diseases for the leading cause of death. Removing debilitating substances from our waterways will lower the cost of healthcare and improve the quality of life for those who live on the polluted side of the tracks.  

The "Clean Water Act" (CWA) remains under attack in the courts, endlessly fighting major polluters over jurisdictional classification. The CWA's intention was not to protect drinking water, but to protect navigable waters, which is the source of drinking water for more than half of all who live in the U.S. 

The question is: What's in the water in Washington

Thursday, Eco Watch.org reported the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee passed Congressman John Mica's (R-FL) "Dirty Water Bill" (H.R. 4965) by a 33-18 vote. This bill was targeted to block President Obama's proposed guidelines to restore Clean Water Act protection for America's waterways. 

The "Dirty Water Gang" doesn't think there's a problem; That's because these congressional leaders are puppets to the pockets that put them there. To earn their keep, they just reiterate some polluter-science and lie about some phantom jobs, in hope that the tit-for-tat gets them through another election.  

What the rest of us will reap isn't as rewarding: higher healthcare cost and loss of worker productivity, due to more waterborne diseases. Perhaps forcing legislators to drink only bottled "Potomac River" water when in Washington, might change their minds. 

Some of the diseases that can result from contaminated water include typhoid, cholera, bacterial dysentery, hepatitis A and amebic dysentery, to mention just a few. All of these can be life threatening and compromise function of the kidneys, liver, heart, lungs and other organs; ending many lives of even the healthiest individuals prematurely.


Water was the first, and will be the last frontier fought on American soil, and there is not a more important subject than our use of it. Those who have bargained away what is essential to all of our wellbeing, for votes and a few bucks, will have to live knowing they betrayed their oath to the public and that they are responsible for many on the ramifications that occurred from their decisions. 

There is one language that all representatives speak -- the language of the vote. Whether they understand it or not, the ballot has the last say. Let your representatives know if you think they have underestimated how essential water remains to us all. Tell them in the mail, and if they don't listen, tell them at the ballot box. 

John Rehill is a local government and environmental journalist for The Bradenton Times. He can be reached at john.rehill@thebradentontimes.com.


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