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Green Living Journal

Issue 17

Earth Day 2013

Where Is the River Clean? by Bob Teague

I frequently enjoy good conversations about the Cumberland River. Some say that “the river is clean,” and, “it’s cleaner now than it was before.” My question is, “Where is the river clean?” Water is life giving and water is life sustaining. If you took a shower this morning with about 10 gallons of clean water, it should have felt good to know that it was free of toxic chemicals that would harm you, your family or your community. The river is the source of our drinking water, fishing and recreation, crop irrigation, manufacturing, etc., and we can all marvel at its aesthetic beauty and majestic power. All life would cease to exist if we ruined our most precious resource.

When used to cool industrial systems, generate electricity, or to be mixed with chemicals in the manufacturing process, and any other use, clean water must be tested before it is used and not released back into the environment until it is tested again. Government and industry must work together to make sure that the water is protected and the river is defended against unwanted pollution, poisonous toxins and unacceptable temperatures. We, the public, must permit its use.

The river is a critical part of our environment, carrying nutrients to our crops, providing habitat for fish, birds, animals, and healing to our spirits with its tranquil sounds and calm currents.

In other words, the public has the right to know where the water comes from, how it is used, and where it goes after it is used. To be clear, the water has to come from somewhere, be used for a lawful purpose, and then permitted to be returned to the environment as clean water.

You see, even if somewhere “the river is clean,” it’s definitely not clean downstream! Why? Because the river picks up rainwater, parking lot and soil runoff, sediment from its bottom, discharged liquids from boaters, freight terminals, industrial waste pipes, and discharges from municipalities and counties across the region, etc. As a matter of fact, everything eventually enters the river and is carried downstream. The flowing river is always moving, always mixing. Neighborhood residents, family farmers, and corporate agribusiness play an enormous part in adding to the mix. Home and business owners use powerful herbicides and pesticides without thinking that these chemicals gradually make their way into the food chain through the soil, in landfills and storm water drains. Golf courses use large amounts of chemicals as evidenced by algae plumes in the water holes and hazards. Farmers use industrial herbicides and pesticides. These highly concentrated chemicals wash away with rain or floods, become airborne through evaporation, and enter the food chain through contact with harvesting machinery and storage.

States should enforce strict laws and regulations that require public notice when water is used for any purpose, with public hearings of full disclosure before its use is permitted. This informs the public, provides transparency and accountability and assigns liability for the water used. The public also has the right to know its water is tested to be safe prior to its use, during its use and after its use in every case. We must make sure our water is tested before and after use and returned to its source without harming the environment. So, show me where the river is clean! Bob Teague supports SaveTheCumberland.org, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational organization founded in 1996 by Vic Scoggin after he swam the 696 mile length of the Cumberland River from Kentucky through Tennessee and into Kentucky. Vic’s swim called attention to industrial waste and debris being dumped into the river by cities, companies and industry along the way.

The 50% post-consumer recycled paper used to print this edition was contributed by Douglas Printing, Nashville.

Where is the river clean?  

Article by Bob Teague for the Green Living Journal Earth Day 2013 Issue 17 - Special Edition

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