Saturday, March 22, 2008

Small Business Times Surveys The Entire Great Lakes Compact Debate

The headline, meant to grab attention, is unnecessarily fearful, but the content is extensive in this Small Business Times piece about the Great Lakes Compact.

3 comments:

Dan Sebald said...

What's so scary about Farrah Fawcett?... Oh! Fair Faucet?!

The article is actually fairly well written. A good introduction for the uninformed reader.

What worries me is the pettiness of the political side of things that is conveyed by the content. In one breath the argument is to weaken the pact with "we're a democracy, majority rules" (blocked in committee is a democracy?) and in the next breath it's "behave like adults and manage the resource". Who's not the adult here? Who's playing politics?

The one that really seems disingenuous is Matt Moroney. He says that returning the water is no big issue. However, then comes the age-old "we need jobs" argument; we're competing with the Midwest and the rest of the US for jobs. I just don't follow. What kind of jobs does the water compact destroy other than outright selling the water to other states or countries (through piping or bottling)? So is returning the water the big issue, or not?

There are some common counter arguments in the quotes and letter of Sen. Lazich. Well, not counter arguments, really. More like confusing the issue in hopes to make a mess of things--just like what the Bush administration did with Kyoto, EPA, etc. (People think Al Gore was some kind of guiding light on the issue when really the nation was just as aware back in the 1990s... just like back in the 1970s.) The non-democratic nature of it. The litigious lawyers fear factor. The here-to-fore as yet invented technology that will eventually solve the problem for the rest of the world argument. To quote: "Where else do we have a dictatorial or totalitarian form of government where we give up our decision-making authority?" How about commander-in-chief war powers?

The only concern that's been raised that rings true is the exemption for Illinois and the Des Plaines River. I live in the area now, and it really is time for Chicago and Illinois to get with the program. The huge land fill site on the south side of the city is indicative of the wasteful nature of the lifestyle around here. The rest of the states should make the Great Lakes Water compact debate an opportunity to address this. Using fresh water from the Great Lakes for things other than drinking is so wasteful. Why not look at the feasibility of community rain water collection and recycling to run toilets and water lawns. There is technology that may be more feasible than desalination; rainwater is desalination after all, isn't it?

Think about it. This big hubbub in Waukesha is about not being able to drink water with high levels of radium. But what percentage of the water supply is actually drunk as opposed to flushed or washed down the drain? If we were to separate the drinking water supply from a more general water supply, we'd almost immediately have a solution. (Similarly, multiple waste water outlets would have an application... also, industrial waste should have its own treatment facilities for which business pays for.) With a line dedicated to drinking water, Waukesha could treat the radium at minimal cost because the volume that'd need to be treated is small. What is the counter argument? Cost of infrastructure. But guess what; building the infrastructure is jobs.

[Jim, any resources you know of that study the level of radium tolerable in bath water?]

Dan Sebald said...

Here's a timely report from Monday's NewsHour about an Orange County program to recycle waster water by essentially finely filtering it and then placing it in lakes to eventually replenish the underground aquifer:

http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/science/jan-june08/water_03-24.html
http://www.pbs.org/newshour/indepth_coverage/science/water_recycling/

There is a faction supposedly exaggerating the opposition to the program because of the "toilet-to-tap" yuck factor. An alternate proposal is to desalinate ocean water. But the odd thing is that moments earlier in the story is this:

"JEFFREY KAYE: Orange County authorities used to pump partially cleaned wastewater into the ocean, but now 70 million gallons a day of that treated sewer water goes through a three-step purification process to make it fit for human consumption."

How that is any different in terms of yuck-factor (i.e., pumping less-finely filtered wastewater to the ocean and then desalinating ocean water) I'm not sure, but I'm not familiar enough with the politics of the problem on the West Coast.

James Rowen said...

Thanks, Dan;

I think that updates this posting from November:
http://thepoliticalenvironment.blogspot.com/2007/11/treated-with-high-tech-equipment-sewage.html