It’s a popular vision, growing your own plants, eating local, buying local. Many families like ours are focused on choosing our sources for life, living and food closer to home. Retail industry is in the business of making food last, of chemically altering food, containers, and processes to further their profitability. I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer my food fresh please.The problem with learning your water has been contaminated with PFOS and PFOA and your soil may be involved, as may be your well, your springs, and health, is that we are trained to believe contamination has a specific look. My garden looks healthy, my soil and grass is growing plants, but just because water is clear doesn’t mean its not contaminated.
The last two years at the tacky brown house we have been aware that local landfills have offered free offerings to fertilize our garden spaces. Each year we’ve chosen NOT to use anything in our garden we were not aware of what someone had put in it. Our water did not occur to us to be something we needed to consider. Little did we know that the water we were watering the land with was the ultimate toxic fertilizer available: PFOA and PFOS in our water system itself.
As the weeks since the announcement that our water was unsafe to drink, I have been researching what the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has said about our area’s reports, finings for industry missteps, and outcomes of on-going toxicology reports.
PFOA and PFOS may be lessened by flushing it out, the particles are small and they travel. What does that mean? They are less likely to cling to things like pipes, but that is if there is a clean water flushing happening that is not laden with additional chemicals. Our Alabama situation is much different. We have a utility company up the road legally permitted to dump toxic chemicals into the Tennessee River daily. It is happening every day as I type. We also have sludge fields that were created in Lawrence County as waste removal sites. Other farms have been brought New York human refuse as fertilizer. This has been going on for years, and the tests from the EPA itself show that the chemical damage is present in the soils, the people, and the things grown on the land. That means the wheat, the grasses we are feeding the animals, which are feeding some of us, are contaminated as well.
As a land owner, concerned wife, mom, and citizen it seems surreal that our local authorities, state authorities, and federal authorities with information presently available.We are being told our state will not support the fight. We see Hoosick Falls and other Attorney Generals leading the charge, but ours in Alabama is oddly silent. Even with all the EPA information and documentation known from the past and the current findings, authorities are still are not declaring a state of emergency, calling in the Superfund for immediate support of testing, citizen support and cleanup. It’s obvious that the problem is known and is being ignored by those put in office to protect our people. Poverty has a way of making people expendable. We are a poor county, the highest number of American Indians in the state and the average home income is low in Lawrence County. At the last community meeting families told story after story of their family’s illnesses, awareness of dumping on the land, open landfills of known contaminants, and decades of being ignored despite illnesses, questions, and asking for help.
We are not even receiving the BASIC information EPA provided Hoosick Falls on how to handle things like vegetables grown on our land, or best practices at home…suggestions like not boiling the water, not taking steamy showers, avoiding breathing your dishwasher’s steam or drying heat released air. The authority’s stance seems to be “those simple country folks are just not informed”….well, they are absolutely right, for when we gather the facts, pictures, stories, lab results and reports, I suspect you’ll see Alabama country folks rise like you’ve never imagined. It has already begun with citizens groups such as Warriors for Clean Water, Concerned Citizens for WMEL Water Authority Grassroots and many, many more.
The fight will be long and hard, but that’s never been an issue for Alabama folks on a mission. We’re use to having to work hard for what we achieve and earn.
Last night private donations provided 360 or so families gallon jugs of water for their homes, for drinking, cooking, and the preparation of formula for fragile and young children. We have over 10,000 families affected. The water drives have been one maybe two per week. Alabama, we have a problem. It’s 90+ degrees in North Alabama. The health authority recommends officially that pregnant women, nursing children and children under 14 not drink PFOA or PFOS existant water, even small amounts. However, there is no public method for support of providing water to the families in need.
Every day I read, I talk to local community members, the stories and the facts being proven with lab results, paperwork from corporations, and personal presence of contamination outcomes are breathtaking. Personally, it seem surreal that our community is facing such atrocities in agency allowed permits, state government lapses in caring about the environment, and personal inattention to the citizens that elect our officials.
We are only too aware in the WMEL that we’re risking our economy, after all, who wants to bring more industry to a place that is contaminated. Who will bring tournaments where their participants are at risk for fishing in contaminated waters? Citizens are sick. Lands are contaminated. The Tennessee River is contaminated and like the Goldilocks tale, the contaminators are still sleeping in MY bed…our community. Reports from long ago already have identified the problems exists and are on-going.
I look out to our garden and yard every morning, I walk the land knowing that the very place we dreamed of, have nurtured into a home and space we chose to live, is now contaminated. How much damage is done is unproven until testing is done and studies are proven. The septic systems may also be leeching it into our wells or ground waters. We simply don’t know how deep, wide, or long the contamination of the River and the local utility has been going on. What we do know, is it’s time to stop ignoring damage that is being done, that has been done, and will be done if we do not demand change.
http://sweetieberry.com/water Links as I gather them of reports, local data, and previous EPA and agency findings.