Saturday, February 22, 2014



In Ireland—which is where I come from originally—water just comes down from the skies. I used to regard this as decidedly inconvenient because it made for a soggy childhood, but now I appreciate the value of rain. Just as well—since I live in Seattle.

My childhood was soggy because I spent a great deal of time out of doors and the available raingear at the time was either hot and heavy—or didn’t keep out the rain for any length of time. My school approved gabardine raincoat, for instance, would start leaking after about 20 minutes in steady rain which was a fat lot of good if you were watching a rugby match for two hours in chilly North Yorkshire (which is where I went to boarding school). You got soaked, and stayed soaked, and got very very cold.

Today, there is a vast array of light, comfortable, breathable raingear—but that certainly wasn’t the case back in the day.

Why was I sent to boarding school in England? Because I am Anglo-Irish and it was something of a family tradition. It also meant that I ended up with an English accent—which confuses the hell out of people. The Anglo-Irish used to be the ruling class in Ireland when the place was occupied by the British. We used to be the people living in the big houses—owning much of the land. Now—as is appropriate—we are dying out.

Do I mind? Worrying about death is pointless—as for the housing aspect, though I grew up in big houses, not in the least. In fact, I have been happier living in relatively small places such as my Irish thatched cottage. I have all the space I need in my mind. It’s one of the many joys of being a writer.

Back to water. Oddly enough I do think about it a great deal because I have a sneaky feeling that we are contaminating it much more than we realize—and that the quality of our water is one the reasons why Americans age sicker, die sooner, and roughly half of us suffer from chronic conditions.

Do I know about the contamination for sure? No—I don’t—and I still drink the stuff, and bathe in it; but it niggles at me. I don’t wake up screaming about it—but I’d like to really know. And I do feel decidedly concerned when I read about water supplies being contaminated—and remarkably little being done about it. West Virginia comes to mind—as do the consequences of fracking. But, there are numerous other examples—not to mention our way of life.

But surely our water supplies are tested?

Inadequately is the answer. Essentially we check for a certain number of known contaminants such as arsenic and lead—but we don’t check routinely for the mass of what one might call ‘lifestyle’ contaminants. These include tens of thousands of industrial chemicals, pesticides, fertilizers, and—above all—medications. Everything we ingest ends up being flushed away—and eventually is recycled into our water supply.

Am I sure?


But surely if our water supplies were contaminated, we’d be experiencing the consequences—and would be doing something out it.

If people were dropping dead after drinking a glass of water, we would certainly be taking action—but we tend to be complacent where slow insidious threats are concerned—especially where identifying and eliminating the threat costs money (and makes a few very rich indeed).

All this writing is making me thirsty. Time for a mug of tea.

Photo is of pollution in China. We have more than enough in the U.S. as well.

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