Safely Diluted, Or Not?

There’s nothing like a flood to undo the notion that we are safely dealing with the numerous contaminants that we spew out daily, which in many cases, enable us to live our modern lifestyles. They all spread out equally when water does the joining: gasoline, former toxic waste sites, sewage, mine tailings, benzene, lead and other heavy metals, radioactive contaminants, arsenic, asbestos, and harmful bacteria and viruses.

We have a remote garden plot along a creek which stood in water for five days. It was nurtured all summer long by my husband’s careful watering and weeding. We were about to harvest the bounty: onions, carrots, squash, tomatoes, and multiple pepper varieties. But now we realize that even if it’s not rotted, it wouldn’t be safe to eat any of it. All that work “down the drain”.

Don’t ever take for granted the fresh produce on the shelves of your favorite grocery store. Farmers contend with weather and pests each year, sometimes successfully and sometimes not. In the end, they try to provide a product that weighs the balance between safety for your ingestion and the ability to produce the crop and get it to that shelf in your store.

In the aftermath of our Boulder historic flood, there is a must-read article titled “Boulder County floods: What’s in the water?” by Joel Dyer, describing the contaminants that entered the flood water which spread over everything, spilled into our houses, and across the organic farms. How much of the fall vegetable crop in our county will have to be discarded? How many consumers will opt against buying it?

Besides the flooding in the fracking region of Weld County, gasoline and oil has spilled from storage, stations, and drowned vehicles. A lesser known story was the breaking of a dam on Thursday at what is now called the Rocky Mountain Arsenal Wildlife Refuge. It required the evacuation of an industrial, residential, and farming region of Commerce City. In Dyer’s words, “A dam broke at a lake on the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, sending waters flooding across that property, a large parcel of land that at one time was considered to be one of the most contaminated places in the world due to having been a dump for such contaminants as nerve gas and other military waste from facilities like Rocky Flats.”

We report on the death toll from the floods, now at ten. But care must be taken in this time of receding water and sewage infested basements, that no further deaths occur due to illnesses related to bacteria, Hepatitis, and other diseases. The chemicals, metals, and other contaminants? Those we’ll have to live with wherever they park themselves.

Nature, through this flood, shows us that the hazardous materials required by us behind the scenes of our daily lives aren’t really out of sight and out of mind.

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