The hidden impact
Many views were expressed during the recent hearing on Freeman’s Coolfont plan to discharge treatment effluent into the waters of Sir Johns Run, but questions remain.
Freeman has planned a treatment system involving a “membrane” component, which addresses specifications for levels of nitrogen and phosphorus typical of human activity, discharged into Sir Johns, and addresses some of the “technological” impact upon the water and the permitting process.
But there is also the hidden human impact of household chemicals like drain cleaners, organic solvents, food byproducts and chemicals that will bypass the treatment process and show up in Sir Johns and eventually in the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay. Some pharmaceutical, hormones and antibiotics will persist in the discharge.
Many people don’t understand that “water treatment” technology only addresses a few major pollutants, while hundreds of chemicals persist in the discharge which will pollute Sir Johns Run. The same chemicals, some carcinogenic, persist in the “treated” water provided by utilities and in private well water that we consume regularly.
Everyone should have some idea about the impact of drugs, hormones and herbicides in water on the amphibian, invertebrate and other animals on both sides of the food chain, altering normal sex differentiation so frogs, for instance, are often unable to reproduce. Animals drink these waters, and we eat the animals. Any estrogenic compounds, mood/mind altering drugs, hormones, antibiotics persisting in water derange human, animal and plant ecology.
Another point is the “privatization” of these waters by a corporate entity. If Freeman is allowed to pollute the water, the function of the waters becomes their asset, which they have acquired for free. Should the people of Morgan County be compensated in some way — leasing, for instance?
The Department of Environmental Protection seems willing to hand over this public resource to Freeman. Why would a town or state with quality water so central in its perception and commerce not protect this resource?
Something like this occurred in Vermont when development at Killington Mountain ski resort, sprayed effluent from snow-making machines onto the mountainsides above the Ottuaquechee River. People don’t regard the river in quite the same way and feel something has been lost.
It is essential that we orient to the future in our stewardship of natural resources. The pollution and privatization of the waters may make potable water unavailable should some future need arise. Today’s technological answers are often tomorrow’s problems.
Robert J. Dixon