The Signs Are There: Water Pollution May Be Bigger Threat Than Global Warming

Cuyahoga River Ablaze in 1952

Cuyahoga River Ablaze in 1952

Cuyahoga River Lit Up Again in 1969

Cuyahoga River Lit Up Again in 1969

On this date in history:  In 1969, the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland was a mess. All sorts of stuff spilling into the river made it a muck of sewage and chemicals. It was yuckadoo. It was so bad that on this date in 1969, the Cuhahoga River caught fire.  It’s a great example of what I complain about often today.  That is, we know that our water is polluted, yet we don’t do much about it.  Even Chinadaily opined last year that unclean water was a global threat.  But, instead, for the most part, we make jokes and post signs.  This is what the story was with the Cuyahoga River. The joke in Cleveland in  1969 was that if you fell into the Cuyahoga River, you would decay before you  drowned.   In fact, the jokes had gone on for years because the Cuyahoga River  had caught fire on previous occasions but no one did a thing.  This time though, the event served as a catalyst as it finally got the attention of legislators.  Global Warming may be happening, but we know that water pollution is killing the fish and wildlife in places like the Ohio River, Chesapeake Bay and the Gulf of Mexico, where there is a “dead zone” all around the mouth of the Mississippi River. I think its up to about 10,000 square miles at its peak.  Yet, we push our attention toward the possible in Global Warming and do very little for the factual, which is water pollution. 

1 out of 6 people do not have clean water

1 out of 6 people do not have clean water

The issue of water pollution in the Mississippi Watershed and others was made worse by the push toward ethanol.  Increased corn production resulted in an increase in fertilizer run-off into the river.  Ethanol is a zero sum game or worse when it comes to energy efficiency and global warming “causing” pollutants but is a big negative when it came to water pollution.   Water makes up 68% of our bodies and is an essential part of life, yet we focus instead on the unknown.  According to Charity Water, 1 in 6 people  in the world do not have clean drinking water.   I’d encourage you to help a family who is devoting their life to bringing water to the impovershed in the Dominican Republic.  Get involved, get a tax break and maybe win a house while you help others.   Let us hope that we don’t have another Cuyahoga River type disaster to get our attention regarding water pollution.  Unfortunately, in many regions, the wake-up call has been made, its just that no one seems to be listening.  

Water Pollution Comes From Many Sources

Water Pollution Comes From Many Sources

Anyway, as I said, the river had caught fire several times between 1936 and 1969.  In the famous 1969 incident,  the cause is unknown aside from the attrocious conditions of the river.  Some sources say the fire was started by spontaneous combustion. Others say that definitely it did not start that way. The one below says that the cause is unknown but it suspects sparks from a passing train….I didn’t know diesel electric motor trains caused sparks. Anyway, it points out that this was the 10th time the river had ignited.

The different sources also give different dates….some say the 22nd others say the 23rd. My guess is that it started on the night of the 22nd and burned all day on the 23rd. No matter. It happened and again, is an example of what can happen if one ignores pollution of waterways. This was an eye opening event and the leaders of Cleveland did more than simply post signs. They got together and worked to clean up and stop the problem.

Dead Zone Summer 2008

Dead Zone Summer 2008

Many historians point to this event as the one that got the ball rolling for the 1972 Clean Water Act.  Things have improved but not enough.   While,it is rather uncommon today for rivers to catch fire as they did frequently in the late 19th century, what we can’t see is killing our planet and we need to do something.  Maybe if Al Gore makes a movie, then someone will wake up.

This final link has some interesting tid bits, including a Randy Newman song they claim is linked to the big fire.

Global Warming has been in the front burner for some time yet there are many experts (more than the media has led you to believe) who dispute much of the “consensus” opinions. About 15 years ago, the topic was ozone depletion. A couple of laws were passed and suddenly that debate left the headlines, but has the problem or risk really gone away?  Hit the previous link and see the answer may be “no” its just that you don’t hear about it.

Global Warming and Ozone depletion issues are fueled by speculation and some of that speculation may have very strong merit. But, in my view, we are whistling past the graveyard regarding an issue that is real and is affecting us right now.

If you walk down along the river near the Belle of Louisville, you will see a sign warning of the pollution of the river following a rainstorm. Apparently, a heavy rain causes an overflow of contaminated water up and down the river. Our news department tells me they have reported on the problem. You can find numerous reports of all sorts pollution into the river from raw sewage to other items as pointed out by the Local Government Environmental Assistance Network:

Water is Under Attack Around the World

Water is Under Attack Around the World

Solvent cleaners and paints, mercury switches and lamps, lubricants and other wastes from operations and facility maintenance activities.
Disinfection by-products, i.e. trihalomethanes.
Corrosion by-products.
Leaking or broken lead from service lines, goose neck or service connections.
Radon in wells.
Pesticides and herbicides rinse waters and containers.
Industrial, commercial and household chemical discharges.

Here’s the deal. We know of these problems. Most people I know who fish laugh when you ask if they eat any fish taken from the Ohio River. Report after report confirms the pollution and where its coming from. Its not speculation that marine species are disappearing due to pollution in fresh water and oceanic ecosystems. That could affect the entire water cycle. It deserves more immediate attention and action than other more publicized “crises” and certainly more than merely posting a sign.

Some other time I’ll talk about the problem of a lack of water. Its a bigger problem than you think. Hydrologists know it and so do investors who are buying up water rights and investing in private efforts to create water resources.

McMahon Served His Country Well

McMahon Served His Country Well

Ed McMahon  died on this date in 2009. He was 86.  He is best known as the sidekick of Johnny Carson on the tonight show.  His first gig behind the microphone was as a bingo caller when he was 15.  He spent the next 3 years traveling the state fair and carnival circuit.  Here’s an interesting thing.  after serving in the United States Marine Corps as a fighter pilot in World War II, he sold vegetable slicers on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City to pay for his education at the Catholic University in Washington, DC.   He then hosted his own late-night show in Philadelphia and played a clown in the kid’s show Big Top for which he was also a writer.  He served the nation again in the Marine Corps as a fighter pilot in the Korean War.  After that he teamed up with Carson in 1959 as the straight man to Carson on the daytime quiz show, “Can You Trust Your Wife?”  Imagine how that show would unfold today.  When Jack Paar departed the Tonight Show, Carson was called as his replacement in 1962 and McMahon went along for a 30 year ride that ended with Carson’s retirement.    I loved Ed’s live Alpo commercials that he used to do on the show as the dogs were often sure to do something that wasn’t in the script.  He appeared in several movies that often received positive reviews.  But, his call of “Heeeere’s Johnny” became part of the American lexicon.  Here is a bio of McMahon, who was a great American, perhaps more so than people realize.  He retired from the Marine Corps as a full Colonel in 1966.

Weather Bottom Line:  There is a big fat ridge over the nation’s mid section.  We are generally on the edge of the ridge but deep enough underneath to suppress most t’storm activity.  However, it won’t take much of a break down for us to get into the old “ring of fire” where storms move about the periphery of the ridge.  Until that happens, we’ll be hot and humid.


12 Responses

  1. Diesel-Electric engines do not necessarily “spark”, but friction between carriage wheels and track might create this condition.

  2. Pollution is the source of global climate change…and the water issue is no joke—just think of what happens when you can’t see what’s in the water you drink….a la Stephen King and his Tommyknockers….

  3. YOu big dog you! Didn’t know that your frequented these here pages. I was talking about you this weekend as I was at my aunt and uncles not far from the Murphy Florida Estate. Twas going to email you. great minds think alike.

  4. // popular today…

    story has entered the popular today section on…

  5. Please don’t say ethanol is bad for the environment.

    CORN ethanol is bad for the environment.

  6. Other ethanol sources are being worked on but those that prove most efficient are not in wide use and also have other limitations. Anything you grow though in large quantity will require a lot of fertilizer…which will run off into the watershed. Ethanol in general can create as many environmental problems or more than it solves.

  7. Glad to have you back, Bob. I like your post on Ed McMahon. A good guy and a great American.

    Water quality is an important issue, no doubt, but the progress has been significant in the last few decades. In my business I heard the old timers talk about just throwing scrap paint and solvents out the back door of the building without any regard for water quality. I can also remember my Dad putting his old motor oil around the fence row of our house to keep the weeds down. Neither of those activities, particularly the former, are allowed today either by law or conscience. The days of factories dumping their organic and heavy metal wastes are long gone in this country, thankfully.

    With regards to our local water quality, the combined storm and sanitary sewer systems are the source of our problems from what I understand. When it rains heavily then the system gets overwhelmed and raw sewage pours into the river.

    More needs to done to be sure, but if it’s not global warming then seemingly no one wants to hear about it today.

  8. Tell you what, this little item kinda exploded on my today on the world wide web. Really launched a lot of debate. You’re right about the local stuff…it really PO’s me in that all up and down the Ohio River, municipalities have substandard water treatment and systems so that if it rains it over flows…like that’s okay. They know it and do nothing…but we have enough money for a new arena! Play ball….just don’t go fishing! Priorities are out of whack parks, arenas and such are nice, but when kids pools are closed, there are only 4 firemen on a truck that is supposed to have 6, potholes, storm debris for months and cops underfunded…then some of the wish list needs to be put on hold.

  9. Thank you for this post! Clean water is a passion of mine; I do not find that many others understand the seriousness of our global water crisis. Your article provides some much needed education!

  10. thanx. feel free to chime in any time

  11. O man i man man man man. Men touching is awsome!

  12. Global Warming and Ozone depletion issues are fueled by speculation and some of that speculation may have very strong merit. But, in my view, we are whistling past the graveyard regarding an issue that is real and is affecting us right now.

    Global warming and ozone depletion both are caused by pollution (and that’s not conjecture; it’s chemistry, and physics). You’re right. We need to control pollution. We can’t control the pollution you worry about here without also controlling some of the stuff that causes global warming and ozone depletion. Keep an eye on the big picture, too.

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