Buffalo's drinking water intake, at the confluence of Lake Erie, the Buffalo River, and the Niagara River strait.  Photo by Jburney
Buffalo's drinking water intake, at the confluence of Lake Erie, the Buffalo River, and the Niagara River strait.  Photo by Jburney
Water is Life

GreenWatch Sunday: Our Public Health Crisis

by / Oct. 22, 2017 10am EST

The Environment in the Age of Trump


What is in our water?


One thing that the American media consumer has been exposed to in the last few months is the world water crisis. We have known about it for decades but it is not always on the top of our minds.  The daily distractions surrounding the Trump agendas tend to have us chasing daisies.


Here are a few reminders of what we face.


GreenWatch Sunday Television  22 October 2017: Big Sister Creek/Bennett Beach runoff


We have a public health crisis in the Age of Trump.  -it’s name is water.  As in “water is life”.  This public health crisis is roiling right into us on this end of Lake Erie.



The Great Lakes

The Great Lakes, which hold 20% of the earth’s fresh surface drinking water. It is important to remind ourselves continuously that these waters are a global as well as a local resource.  The health of these waters continues to tipple. They may have toppled. Our future is inextricably linked to how we use this public resource that we share with each other and the living planet.


All humans rely on clean water. The truth is that across the world, access to clean water continues to vanish.


Both climate change and conflict are essential conditions across all continents that have deep relationships with water.


It isn’t too difficult to understand how important the health of the Great Lakes are.  These waters are our source of life.



Flint Michigan

It was shocking, just shocking, when the world became aware that a scam designed to steal money from the poor people of Flint turned into a public health crisis when the Flint drinking water system was  intentionally poisoned. The killers and criminals were revealed to be a corrupt group of political corporatists working on behalf the kind of financial interests that have the moral bearing of “take all the money and run”.


We first wrote about Flint in February 2017.


It’s not enough to just “remember” Flint.  This Great Lakes city is in an ongoing crisis. It is not a solved problem. It is a growing problem.


Initial health impacts have grown into life long health impacts for children and others exposed to the poisons.

The costs to fix the problem are astronomical.

The way our culture thinks and acts means that it to expensive to save the health and often the lives of the people exposed.  But not to expensive to extract the profits.  It is what our culture does.

Who is to blame in Flint?? Elected officials, especially fiscally conservative republicans that represent a corporatist agenda based on a deliberately manipulated economy carefully characterized by criminals as “the free market”. These interests sing the war song of eliminating oversite and regulations by shrinking the government to a size that can be drowned in a bathtub. Meanwhile they use their power and privilege to steal lives and the future. This system is a killing machine.


Another Michigan official to face manslaughter charge in Flint water crisis  Chicago Tribune  9 October 2017


Judge: Breathtaking lack of leadership on Flint water crisis

Wisconsin Gazette, 19 October 2017


ACLU wants Flint kids screened for impact of lead

Detroit News, 18 October 2017



Puerto Rico

The hurricanes of late summer and early fall have exposed millions of Americans to the reality of a lack of clean water in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.


Today as we drink our coffee, read our stories and watch football, huge swaths of the population in Puerto Rico are without shelter, health care„ power, food, and water. On Saturday it was reported that fully one month after Hurricane Maria destroyed so much of this American territory, only 12% of the power has been restored. Lack of access to medical care and a response by FEMA that is wholly inadequate are going to exacerbate this human catastrophe. My family in Puerto Rico say that the worst is yet to come. This the age of Trump.




The U.S. could have avoided Puerto Rico’s water crisis. 

Grist, 20 October 2017



The unrelenting crisis in Puerto Rico is forcing people to drink dirty water

VOX, 18 October 2017



Lake Erie/Buffalo

Our region is already experiencing an influx of the new class of refugees based on climate issues.  Many of us have families in Puerto Rico, and many of those people are desperate to survive.  How can we help?  Climate refugees are our future.  We need to open our communities and find ways to support the 10’s of thousands of people that are headed our way. Sadly these refugees are not just young men. They are the elderly, the young, and those millions that continue to struggle to participate in the economic culture. They may stay here and help us build our futurre.


We need to provide access to a better life to our families. We need to do it here, now.


WNY is located in in a place in the Great Lakes that is critical.  It is critical because we are located at a bottleneck that provides a physical connection from the upper Great Lakes to the lower Great Lakes.  For the most part, the water flows through here, through the Niagara River Strait.


This water is our life. We drink it. This water is us.


Unfortunately, in this Age of Trump, the Great Lakes and the waters that come through our area, face pollution challenges that many are only beginning to understand. Solving these pollution challenges will be the story of our generation. It will be our legacy to future generations. It will not be easy. Why? Because we still believe and invest in an economic system that considers things like pollution, extraction of natural resources, and the environmental and social impacts of this twisted strategy as externalities. That is the costs and damages are “external to the profits.” 


David Suzuki calls our adherence to this conventional economic system,  “ a form of brain damage”



The greatest threat to the environment, and the primary cause of climate change, is this political economic system. As long as profit is the only motivation of this system, our earth, our atmosphere, our water, and our lives are subject to the overwhelming scientific evidence that the ecological systems and our waters are collapsing dramatically. Many people today, environmental and social activists alike, say that changing our energy system is the only solution to climate change. We have to do that, we have to move away from fossil fuels.  But it is not enough. Consumerism and the culture of profit and external measurements of the destructive results, including climate change, are the greatest failure of our corporate economic system. In the Age of Trump, this is only escalating.



The problems associated with our drinking water are overwhelming. But we cannot give up. We must fight with every essence of our being. Every tributary to every lake is full of human made poisons including industrial, agricultural, raw and treated sewerage, and chemical and plastic contamination that comes from our consumer culture’s dependence on things including plastic bags and packaging. We need to fix this stuff. And we can.


In 2015 Erie County NY, led by Erie County Legislature Pat Burke and Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, passed the nations first law banning microbeads in products such as cosmetics, shampoos, and toothpastes. GreenWatch covered this extensively.



This was soon followed across the nation and in 2016 President Obama signed a national ban on microbeads. 


However, this is not enough.


For instance, plastics, including the more visible microbeads addressed by the legislation, break down into microscopic plastic particles. This particles are molecular. The are not only abundant in our waters, but they have become transcendent.  Our waters, our wildlife, and ourselves are fully immersed in these poisons.  Lake Erie, and the areas near the eastern basin where we live, have some of the highest concentrations of these micro plastic particles of anywhere in the Great Lakes, and anywhere on earth.  You may have heard of the Pacific garbage patch.  We have a bigger problem right there. And these micro plastics are just the tip of our rapidly escalating water crisis, right here in WNY.


This is an eye opening presentation by Professor Sherri A. Mason,  a pioneering researcher based at Fredonia.



Additional Link:

GreenWatch Special Report Oct 2011 A Seluchur of Profit, a Review of Our Stolen Future and Poisoned For Profit

In the Age of Trump the environment and environmental regulations are threatened in every way.  Trump and his EPA administrator and his elected and appointed supporters have pledged to rid this nation of costly to profiteers regulations. We are the government, and they are drowning the government in the bathtub.



More on Microplastics:


USGS September 2016 “Widespread plastic pollution found in Great Lakes Tributaries


Ecowatch, December 2016  “22 million tons of plastics enter the Great Lakes every year”


USGS “Microplastics in our Nation’s Waterways”


5 Gyres Institute