Monday, April 4, 2011

Not Just Water

Water. A different time. A time when safety of water was not considered. A time when rain was needed to keep the wells from getting low. Was it really a different time?

Going back to the farm had one very big drawback. Well water. We grew up with hard water that tasted like minerals. The hard water yellowed clothes, especially when the well was low. Household items over time had a yellow cast to them. Porcelain gradually yellowed. My children hated the water. After being away from the farm, I disliked it as well.

Our fields near the well were treated with fertilizers and insecticides. We cheered when the cropdusters passed over standing outside to watch the chemicals float over the fields. Little did we realize the threat to our water, to our lungs. Cattle grazed near the creek. What could it hurt? Hm.

Dad sprayed crops with insecticides not using a mask for protection. He breathed in the dust from the treated fields and from the grain he combined. There was always a new progression of fertilizers and chemicals to keep his crops strong and disease free. Did those very chemicals take his life?

In 2009, the EPA published a report on the Stillwater River which is the river into which our creek, Painter Creek, emptied.

The most pervasive problems facing streams in the basin is habitat destruction through channelization. Channelization is the removal of trees from stream banks coupled with deepening, and often straightening, the stream course. It is a direct cause of sedimentation, and greatly magnifies the effects of introduced nutrients. This latter problem is especially troublesome in the northern portion of the basin where large amounts of synthetic and organic fertilizers are applied to the land. The other pervasive problem in the watershed is organic and nutrient enrichment, primarily from land-applied animal manure and secondarily from failing septic systems and municipal waste water treatment works.

Here are some segments from a 1975 EPA report on the same area:

Painter Creek and Ballinger Run are polluted by municipal sewage.....Swamp Creek, Indian Creek, the North Fork and the Stillwater River upstream from Ansonia are polluted by fertilizers....Both phosphorus and nitrogen enter the stream as part of human sewage, animal manure, and fertilizer.

Twenty-four years and little had changed.

We didn't realize we were living under hazardous conditions. Our livestock ate the grain produced on the farm and drank the water. In doing what he could to produce better crops, to give us a better life, Dad exposed himself to dangers unknown.

Yes, I will return to Ohio in July. I will drink bottled water.

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