Watershed News is about watershed science, watershed pollution and how our estuaries, salt marshes, and rivers and streams struggle with nonpoint source pollution, stormwater runoff, and hardening shorelines. These watersheds feed and heal our coastal ecology, yet we know so little of how they work. We tell you more and why we must protect them jealously in Watershed News
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Wrong! Reading between the lines in this editorial it doesn’t take long to see where Ballone is heading and it’s counter to NBN’s fast-held belief in sustainability. Ballone says that 350,000 Suffolk County homes have their own septic systems, meaning their wastewater goes into the ground and not to a sewage treatment plant. That, he says contributes 70 percent of the nitrogen pollution going into the bays. Yet the EPA issued (PDF) a significantly different assessment of nitrogen loading into the Peconics. First of all, the clear majority of nitrogen, 56%, comes from the air. Another 41 percent come from “fertilizer use and on-site wastewater disposal systems,” also known as private cesspools. Ballone is right to say cesspools contribute to nitrogen loading, He’s wrong to leave out any mention of fertilizers. Particularly when discussing a skinny, sandy spit of land where lush green lawns and farm fields make up about 70 percent of the landscape.
Why does Ballone ignore in his article about nitrogen pollution a source of same the EPA listed first among the primary sources affecting the Peconics? Because he wants to build a sewage treatment plant to service those 350,000 homes. Nowhere does Ballone specifically propose such a project, but in his third sentence he incorrectly says those homes are responsible for 70 percent of the nitrogen pollution. Nowhere in his op-ed does he discuss reducing farm fertilizer and/or and eliminating the use of lawn fertilizers. Why?
Because building a sewage treatment plant, and this one will be the Mother of all Sewage Treatment Plants, increases tax revenue and creates hundreds of political patronage jobs. The political beauty of building such utilities is that once residents are hooked-up to them, they can’t get unhooked. Such utilities are a source of income that’s guaranteed to only grow with time. It’s not just recession proof, it’s Armageddon-proof. NBN does not want to appear to be coming out against a project that will clearly help the Peconics. We would support it. But only if it came after restrictions were placed on fertilizer use, or at the very least in conjunction with same. But its not even mentioned by Suffolk’s top government official. Why?
Because the folks applying those fertilizers, farmers and wealthy second-home-owners, would send Ballone back to the burger-flipping job he held before the political powers-that-be decided to make him king of one of the country’s wealthiest counties. Anyone thinking county officials are elected by popular vote on Long Island need only consider that Ballone got 130,000 votes in a county with 1.4 million residents. Long Island voters don’t care what county executives do until they discover they’ve been screwed, and then it’s too late. And Long Island tax payers have a long rich history of being screwed by their elected leaders. The political parties that go to war each election cycle in Suffolk County are the ones that elect county officials and they love big public projects that generate revenue guaranteed to only increase year-over-year. Again, NBN is not against building a new sewer plant. What we’re totally against are “solutions” that fix a problem without any thought to eliminating it.
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What’s eating Appalachia, consumes coast. 07.25.12
This convict out-polls Prez in coal country.
The Economist does an excellent job in this article of finding and describing an unexpected political fault line in this country. However, the author glosses over how this chasm surfaced and why it’s widening. It’s not so much about the purported principles embraced by Republicans and Democrats as it is about the haves and have-nots, and we’re not talking money. We’re talking about faith, of a few varieties. What the article does very well is explain who has the faith. It notes that in West Virginia a Texas inmate beat Obama 58-41 in the Democratic primary this year. Let’s let that percolate a moment: a convict serving a 17-year sentence for extortion in a Texan jail whipping the president in the president’s own primary in a state with twice as many Democrats as Republicans. Why? Because of environmental regulations, according to the article. The article goes on to suggest the good folks of West Virginia are also offended at the President’s embrace of environmental policies at the expense of tightly-held beliefs in those parts, of the sovereignty of property ownership. A leading state Democrat, who hates Obama, portrays these convictions as a faith in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. NBN thinks considerably less noble human traits are being tapped here and not just in Appalachia.
The cleanest waster is at the source.
What the article misses is a key geographic difference between the disaffected Democrats in Appalachia and the party standard bearers along the coast: the Appalachian Democrats are upstream. The Economist says these folks are older, whiter, less educated, and more religious. These are attributes the Republicans are quite successfully leveraging to their political advantage. it's also quite likely these traits are shared by the Democrats voting for the inmate over Obama in West Virginia. But anyone who has hiked the Appalachian Trail through that state knows, these folks live in a cathedral of greenery that can quite understandably leave its occupants wondering: what’s all the crap about environmental problems? These folks live at the source the East Coast’s watersheds. The poultry farms and mountain top mining these folks embrace as livelihoods are just the start of an avalanche of pollution dumped into these watershed that eventually washes past downstate Democrats’ homes and into oceans and estuaries the good folks of West Virginia rarely see, let alone swim, fish or snorkel in.
End of the river. Drink up.
So, with all due respect to The Economist—which is a great magazine—and with all due respect to the folks living in Appalachia—NBN has hiked these mountains and met many of these warm, wonderful folks—Obama lost his own primary in West Virginia to a convicted felon not because Appalachians hold more tightly their faith in life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. He lost because these folks don’t see as clearly as those living downstream what all this environmental handwringing is about. What if those Appalachian poultry farms didn’t have access to clean water? What if the coal mining Democrats lived well below the sources of the streams and rivers their livelihood contaminates. From a slightly flatter perspective, how many Iowa corn farmers fully grasp the breadth and depth of the marine deadzone growing at the mouth of the Mississippi. The political dispute in this country really isn’t much different from fights over natural resources that have spanned history. Those living upstream benefit at the expense of those living downstream. Since we can’t settle these disputes with guns in this country, despite the NRA’s best efforts, this is where politics comes into play.
Living downstream sucks.
It has become the entire Republican political strategy, through political contributions from those that benefit, to mask the opportunistic exploitation of resources we all must depend on behind a constitutional promise the country increasingly does not have the resources to honor. In 1776 this country had 2.5 million residents. There was clean water, land, and air enough for everyone. Today the U.S. has 311 million residents and we’ve run out of clean water, land and air pretty much everywhere but in places like Appalachia. To perpetuate the notion that land ownership confers exclusive right to natural resources that extend beyond property lines requires some real political craftsmanship. This is where the other kind of faith comes in. The Republican party, through its benefactors, have crafted the religion of Love Thy Neighbor and Luke 6:29 into the gospel of Gordon Geko. The Republicans now argue that’s what made this country so great from the beginning. It certainly did, back when we were 2.5 million people exploiting an entire, untapped continent full of natural resources. But in a country of 311 million, the folks living downstream are starting to realize there are advantages to living in the woods, while the folks upstream are a little too willing be believe they are the party of God, not greed.