by Christine Maccabee 

Our Precious Water

From the Mountains to the Bay, and Beyond

Everyone knows that human beings are a part of nature, not apart from it. An ecological understanding of how everything is connected should be included in every child’s education. Sadly, I personally never learned it in school as a child, though innately, I felt the connection through my love of nature. Plus, my parents were involved in the Better Air Coalition in Baltimore, so through them, I had an even greater awakening in my early twenties.

Not only are we all connected to the natural environment in so many intricate ways, but our consumerism profoundly affects our air, land, waterways, and wildlife and human life on the entire planet. Up here in Frederick County, and in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Virginia, our habits and lifestyle choices, our cars and our livestock, all affect the health of people, crabs, oysters, turtles—you name it, downstream as far as the Bay and the Ocean.

So, why should we care? In an article written by Whitney Pipkin for the Chesapeake Bay Journal, “swimming in streams and stormwater runoff can be dangerous and hazardous to your health.” It can be dangerous and hazardous to the health of aquatic animals as well. A frequent concern is E. coli bacteria, bacteria present in high numbers after a rainfall, which can flush animal waste and raw sewage into the water. Upper Potomac RiverKeeper Brent Walls made a documentary about this problem, citing the runoff from cattle allowed to roam right up to, and into, the water’s edge. Legislation is underway to restrict cattle and other livestock within a certain footage of river and stream banks, but it’s not an easy battle.

In that same documentary, I was shocked to learn how coal mining holding ponds are overflowing and polluting long-time residents’ wells. They now have to buy bottled water, have developed health problems, and some have moved away from their dream homes. Chemicals used in fracking (the process of injecting liquid at high pressure into subterranean rocks, boreholes, and so forth, so as to force open existing fissures and extract oil or gas) can do the same harm. As well, waste from a paper mill is discharged directly into the Potomac, killing all aquatic life for a stretch of one mile. Certainly, I would not want to wade, or permit my children to play, in waters downstream from all that.

Over the last four years, federal pollution regulations have been loosened, not tightened. That must change. As the population grows, and the need for paper, gas, oil, and food continue to grow, I and others fear for the ongoing quality of human, aquatic, and plant life—both here and downstream. Remember, everything we do affects everything else; we are all connected. From suburban areas with small lawns to larger acreages of soybeans and other crops where some people use pesticides, herbicides, and chemical fertilizers, the runoff after heavy rains runs quickly to the sewer, making tracks for our streams, rivers, and, ultimately, the wonderful Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean.

These lines from my favorite patriotic song encapsulate my sentiment exactly:

From the mountains, to the prairies, to the oceans                   white with foam. God Bless America, my home, sweet home.

So, be a patriot, and do your part. Fight pollution!

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