Environment: Get the Lead Out!

by Judy Ferro

Most of us find cooking and shopping make December challenging enough, especially with snow and ice providing obstacles.

Apparently a few, however, take time to wrap up special projects before launching into holiday mode. At least, I think that’s why I recently got an e-mail from a friend saying “sending this to you so you can see that I really am a writer!”

Attached was a preview of a 64-page book she’d written about drinking water.

That amazed me a little, but the real surprise came when I searched Amazon and found this friend had previously published 10 e-books. You’d think something like this would have come up in our day-to-day (or week-to-week) conversations.

These are a few of the things that I learned from reading Get the Lead Out by Joyce L. Griffith of Caldwell.

Six of the ten major cities with the poorest water quality are in California and Nevada. In 2016 Boise’s water system was one of 18 winning an American Water Works award.

Four different emergency managers have ruled in Flint, Michigan, since Gov. Snyder ejected the elected officials in 2011. The switch to river water in 2014 was meant to save the city $19 million over eight years. After months of stopgap measures, the Federal government promised substantial aid to Flint. (The bill that passed last week appropriated $170 million. That’s for a city the size of Nampa.)

Idaho’s Coeur d’Alene River got the nickname “Lead Creek” after 30,000 tons of lead turned the river gray. The river was also polluted with “an estimated 100 million tons of arsenic, cadmium, and zinc.” Cleanup efforts began soon after the area was declared a Superfund site in 1983. In 2011 the Hecla Mining Company agreed to pay $263.4 million plus interest for damages. Recent official estimates are there is still $2 billion in work to be done.

(Sometimes the saying “penny wise and pound foolish” fits too well.)

The U.S. has over 15,000 abandoned uranium mines with tailing leaching minerals. Half the homes in the West have drinking water with measurable amounts of uranium. Six million persons in the High Plains Aquifer, from Texas to South Dakota, have drinking water with “uranium concentrations that exceed the EPA standard.”

Early in 2015 the water utility of Des Moines, Iowa, filed suit accusing drainage districts in three agricultural counties of dumping nitrates into its water system. Some drainage systems apparently deposit nitrate levels seven times the EPA-allowed levels.

I’ve avoided mentioning the symptoms that the various pollutants cause, but Griffith includes them. I had no idea that babies could die from high nitrate levels in water.

In spite of the seriousness of her subject, Griffith’s writing style is breezy and easy to read. Chapters are short and usually left me wanting to know more. Get the Lead Out could be a great resource for young science students seeking project ideas. Griffith not only explains how to check your local water system, she suggests areas to compare and actions to take.

Now, with a new administration promising to eliminate many regulations on business, we need to consider what regulations are valuable—and what we are willing to do to support them.

Get the Lead Out is available as an Amazon Kindle e-book. You do not have to own a Kindle device, however; the software for most mobile devices and computers can be downloaded free.

May your Holidays be merry—and may you reserve some time to read, reflect, plan, and be thankful.