Our house in southern Vermont has its own well and septic system, so before we bought it, we had the water tested. That is how I can tell you for an actual fact that on Feb. 1, 1994, the pH content of my well was 6.5, which was acceptable, but low.
As the years passed, however, we noticed that our plumber was spending far too much time at the house, ripping far too many holes in the ceiling and mending far too many leaks. Our water was acidic, he said. It was eating through the copper pipes.
Last month I had the well tested again. The pH was down to a dangerous 5.40.
Why? Acid rain, that's why.
So, a few weeks ago, I spent a thousand dollars on something called an "upflow neutralizer," which is gradually returning our water to a safer level. I'm considering sending the bill to President George W. Bush.
One interesting thing about our new filtration system is that the guy who installed it, Rod Pierce of Pristine Water Treatment in Troy, N.H., told me that while he was driving to the house, he passed the homes of many other clients. It means that in one tiny town, lots of people have been forced to put in expensive filtration systems. And those who haven't? They might want to send a sample of their water to the lab, just to see.
"If you follow the news in Europe, they constantly point the finger at the U.S. because of ozone depletion," Pierce told me. "We're the culprit. Ozone depletion causes acid rain. Most people are aware of ozone depletion and acid rain. They know about harmful ultraviolet rays and using sunblock. But do they know it also has an effect on water supplies?"
In late August, while I was still dealing with my acid water problem, Bush announced that his administration was relaxing the clean air rules to allow thousands of industrial plants to upgrade their facilities without installing pollution controls.
"The rule, for which industries have lobbied the Bush administration for two years, could save them billions of dollars," reported The Associated Press. "The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that more than 17,000 plants will be affected."
I hit the ceiling. Because of Bush and his greedhead administration, thousands of power plants, refineries, pulp and paper mills, chemical plants and other industrial facilities will be releasing more pollutants into the air.
More trees will die, more lakes and streams will accumulate more mercury, more fish will be poisoned, more skin will grow cancers, more lungs will clog up, more wells will go acid, more cars will rust. This isn't just an environmental problem. This is a serious public health issue with possibly catastrophic results down the road. People will die, and Bush
- that compassionate conservative - just doesn't care.
How bad can it be? In The New Yorker of Sept. 29, 2003, Elizabeth Kolbert wrote about the emissions from just one plant, the Detroit Edison plant in Monroe, Mich.
"In 2001, the last year for which complete data are available, Monroe's smokestacks emitted, among other things: more than 100,000 tons of sulfur dioxide (the principal pollutant in acid rain), nearly 46,000 tons of nitrous oxide (the chief ingredient of smog), and 17 1/2 million tons of carbon dioxide (the major culprit in global warming.)"
This is the plant, by the way, that Bush visited in August to "tout his latest air-quality initiatives," Kolbert wrote. She called his visit "either horribly ill-advised or, if you prefer, perversely appropriate."
Bush, defending the progress that America has made under the 1970 Clean Air Act, said: "Our economy has grown 164 percent in three decades. That's pretty good growth. And yet, according to a report that the EPA is releasing today, air pollution from six major pollutants is down by 48 percent during that period of time."
Kolbert pounced on his pronouncement. "Citing the success of the Clean Air Act in order to justify gutting it makes, on the face of it, no sense whatsoever; if there's any lesson here, it's that tough pollution standards work, and that they are perfectly consistent with a robust economy," she said. "But the weakness of the President's arguments only makes the broader message of his trip to Monroe that much plainer: nothing is going to stand in the way of the Administration's environmental program, least of all logic."
Vermont has been suing the Bush Administration's Environmental Protection Agency for several years now, along with Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Maine, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland and New Jersey. "Midwesterners enjoy cheap power rates," said Vt. Attorney General William Sorrell. "But this same power entails huge costs for Vermont and her neighbors... Stop sending dirty air our way."
These lawsuits take time. One filed by Vermont against a major Midwest polluter in 2000 is still in the discovery stage.
We must stop Bush's attempt to steal the clean air out of our lungs, the clean water out of our ground, and the money to deal with the problem out of our pocketbooks.
What can we do? Vermont, New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and New Hampshire are preparing to sue the EPA over this latest ruling. If you live in one of these states, then support your governor and your attorney general with letters and phone calls. If your state is not among them, then try to agitate for change. It might be a good idea to write the EPA or the White House, although chances are your pleas will fall upon deaf ears.
Another thing we can do is vote Bush out of office; millions of us are already working on it.
And we can test our wells. If your water turns out to be acidic, take it from me that you'll want a filtration system sooner rather than later.
Send the bill to that clown in the White House.
Joyce Marcel is a free-lance journalist who lives in Vermont and writes about culture, politics, economics and travel.