Monday, September 14, 2009

Water

Hey all you stupid small-government idiots: Check out the results of relieving polluters of the heavy burden of government regulation.

Jennifer Hall-Massey knows not to drink the tap water in her home near Charleston, W.Va.

In fact, her entire family tries to avoid any contact with the water. Her youngest son has scabs on his arms, legs and chest where the bathwater — polluted with lead, nickel and other heavy metals — caused painful rashes. Many of his brother’s teeth were capped to replace enamel that was eaten away.

Neighbors apply special lotions after showering because their skin burns. Tests show that their tap water contains arsenic, barium, lead, manganese and other chemicals at concentrations federal regulators say could contribute to cancer and damage the kidneys and nervous system.

“How can we get digital cable and Internet in our homes, but not clean water?” said Mrs. Hall-Massey, a senior accountant at one of the state’s largest banks.

She and her husband, Charles, do not live in some remote corner of Appalachia. Charleston, the state capital, is less than 17 miles from her home.

“How is this still happening today?” she asked.

When Mrs. Hall-Massey and 264 neighbors sued nine nearby coal companies, accusing them of putting dangerous waste into local water supplies, their lawyer did not have to look far for evidence. As required by state law, some of the companies had disclosed in reports to regulators that they were pumping into the ground illegal concentrations of chemicals — the same pollutants that flowed from residents’ taps.

But state regulators never fined or punished those companies for breaking those pollution laws.

This pattern is not limited to West Virginia. Almost four decades ago, Congress passed the Clean Water Act to force polluters to disclose the toxins they dump into waterways and to give regulators the power to fine or jail offenders. States have passed pollution statutes of their own. But in recent years, violations of the Clean Water Act have risen steadily across the nation, an extensive review of water pollution records by The New York Times found.

In the last five years alone, chemical factories, manufacturing plants and other workplaces have violated water pollution laws more than half a million times. The violations range from failing to report emissions to dumping toxins at concentrations regulators say might contribute to cancer, birth defects and other illnesses.

However, the vast majority of those polluters have escaped punishment. State officials have repeatedly ignored obvious illegal dumping, and the Environmental Protection Agency, which can prosecute polluters when states fail to act, has often declined to intervene.
But at least those more than half a million violations of the Clean Water Act have led to cost savings that have created thousands of jobs and stimulated the shit out of the economy.

Oh, right.

For a list of the polluters near you and the number of times they have violated the Clean Water Act without having to worry about the burden of fines, prison or any penalties whatsoever because government has wised up and gotten out of the way of free enterprise, click here. And I'm glad that the same government that looks the other way while corporations pollute our water is working hard to deny affordable healthcare to people sickened by filthy, toxic water. And to everyone else, for that matter.

And, in what I'm sure is a completely unrelated story:

Dangerous staph bacteria have been found in sand and water for the first time at five public beaches along the coast of Washington, and scientists think the state is not the only one with this problem.

The germ is MRSA, or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus — a hard-to-treat bug once rarely seen outside of hospitals but that increasingly is spreading in ordinary community settings such as schools, locker rooms and gyms.
I read the news yesterday and came away so depressed by the boundless greed in this country that is completely untempered by even the slightest grain of human decency and compassion. The health insurance industry is spending millions and working tirelessly to deny Americans access to affordable health insurance that won't be canceled the moment they need it, the Supreme Court is about to make it even easier for corporations to tighten their grip on elected officials, and polluters are poisioning our fucking water to save a few bucks while regulators yawn.

With everything that's going on, I am starting to think that raising a family in these conditions is simply irresponsible. And it pisses me off that I might have to leave my fucking country -- MY country -- in order to raise my family in a secure, healthful environment. People who used to say, "If that happens, I'm moving to Canada" used to sound like crackpots. Now they sound like pragmatists.

With all due respect to the late President Kennedy, when is it OK to ask what your country can do for you?

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