Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Shame on Ohio for the Poisonous Algae on Lake Erie! "Just Thoughts" Essay

Algae Bloom (this one from 2009 by Pelee Island)
Nice Glass of Lake Erie Water [Tom Bridgeman,]

Just Thoughts: Stewardship of Our Precious Water Resource

We woke this past week to news that nearly a half million people in the Toledo area have been warned not to drink or even bathe in their water. Toledo water, which comes from Lake Erie, has been poisoned by an algae bloom, caused by run off of fertilizers and sewage system failures. The toxin, microcystin, is extremely dangerous, causing nausea, vomiting, skin rashes, with the danger of liver failure and death to people and animals. Babies are at considerable risk. The National Guard has had to bring emergency water tankers and bottled water to the people of Toledo. And this in the part of the world most blessed by abundant fresh water!

The same day this disaster was reported in the Plain Dealer and Toledo Blade, the first reading at mass was Isaiah singing, “All you who are thirsty, come to the water . . . .” Water is a major theme in Judeo-Christian scripture and liturgies, partially because it was so scarce in Palestine, and so crucial for life. We in Ohio seem to have wasted and abused this precious resource. We are wasting it in myriad other ways, with pollution being dumped into our rivers and lakes (the Ohio River at times is full of dangerous chemicals). And we are increasingly allowing nearly unfettered hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) of oil and gas wells, using up 3 million gallons (some sources say 6 million gallons) of water per frack (and each well can be fracked over and over again, up to 12-18 times!).

This abuse of a resource necessary for our lives, given to us abundantly by God, is the result of bad state policies and shameful political lack of will. Pope Francis and American Bishops have made clear the call to conserve our precious land and water resources. Bishop Jaime Soto has offered this prayer: “May God open the heavens and let His mercy rain down upon our fields and mountains.  Let us especially pray for those most impacted by water shortages and for the wisdom and charity to be good stewards of this precious gift.  May our political leaders seek the common good as we learn to care and share God's gift of water for the good of all.”

Shame on Ohio! Let's fix this!

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