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Great Lakes Article:

Activist raises concerns about future water quantity & quality
By Carol Reece
The Morgan Messenger
05/21/03



Rick Eades, an ecologist, hydrogeologist, lobbyist and teacher, lectured at Coolfont Resort on Earth Day last month.

Eades' objective was to raise public awareness of water issues and build a coalition to move legislators to implement water protection laws in West Virginia.

He spent some time explaining why he believes water resources around the country and the world are threatened.

Eades discussed the problems of two large reservoirs in the Chapel Hill, North Carolina area. They are are being filled with sediment from upstream development. Also, the huge Ogallalla aquifer out west is being depleted at an alarming rate, and the level of the Great Lakes are at an all-time low.

"Ninety five percent of the Aral Sea has been depleted in the last 30 years," said Eades. "Most of these problems can be attributed to global warming and extractions."

Chemical pollution

"West Virginia puts its water at risk to get cheap electricity," Eades said. "Once those chemicals are in your body, they don't leave."

He cited the power plant in St. Albans, which burns coal and emits 88,000 pounds of lead, 100,000 pounds of arsenic, and thousands of pounds of mercury into the air every year. This eventually pollution enters bodies of water.

He attributed the rise in autism cases to mercury in drinking water.

Even antibacterial soaps cause problems in the ecosystem because only mutant forms of life will survive in water filled with their residues, he said.

Eades recalled growing up in West Virginia, fishing with his father, and never worrying about whether the trout was safe to eat.

These days, the West Virginia Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) has a long list of fish consumption advisories. They recommend that people not eat carp, suckers and channel catfish from the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, and limit meals of certain sport fish to once a month.

The advisories are based on studies that show certain chemicals tend to accumulate in fish. Dioxin and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are particularly worrisome in West Virginia, he said.

According to the DHHR web site, Dioxin is a by-product of the combustion of fossil fuels, wood, municipal and industrial waste.

Though the manufacture of PCBs has been banned since 1979, the residues continue in the environment.

Eades also worries about the large amounts of antibiotics used in agriculture, as well as those consumed by people.

"Antibiotics never break down after elimination, and remain in the soil and water," he said.

Corporations eye water

"Although West Virginia has some water quality laws, it is only one of two states east of the Mississippi without laws governing the export and sale of water," Eades said.

He explained that many of America's municipal water systems are being acquired by international companies that hike up the rates.

For example, West Virginia-American Water Company, which is part of a large English corporation, has expressed interest in the past year in buying or managing Berkeley Springs Water Works.

The same company recently asked the Public Service Commission for a 15% rate hike in Charleston, though its current rates of $56.78 a month are among the highest in the nation, Eades said.

"Our water is being sold out from under us," he said.

The World Trade Organization is currently considering measures that would give international corporations more clout to buy or manage American water systems after the General Agreement on Trade in Services is fully worked out, Eades maintained.

The agreement seeks to liberalize trade in services and to phase out government barriers to international competition in the service sector, including municipal water companies.

To help protect West Virginia water, Eades lobbied in the last legislative session for a comprehensive plan to protect against selling and exporting the state's water resources. The bill passed the State Senate, but the House of Delegates voted it down.

"Our state is 140 years old and has never had any statutes to protect the quantity of water," Eades said. "We are a geographically high elevation state, so our water is gravity fed to the whole east coast. It's an incredibly valuable resource."

Conservation helpful

"Americans are water gluttons," said Eades. "We need to reuse water, and rain water collection is a great place to start."

He said people should interest children at a young age in water conservation and quality.

"Show children that a simple filter on their home water faucet is a good way to start. But I try not to load too much on kids at once so that they get issue fatigue. I try to present the information positively," he said.

Eades said there have been great improvements in rain water collection technology in recent years - it's no longer just the simple cistern in the back yard. He felt West Virginia should take a lead and use this technology.

Rick Eades, an ecologist, hydrogeologist, lobbyist and teacher, lectured at Coolfont Resort on Earth Day last month.

Eades' objective was to raise public awareness of water issues and build a coalition to move legislators to implement water protection laws in West Virginia.

He spent some time explaining why he believes water resources around the country and the world are threatened.

Eades discussed the problems of two large reservoirs in the Chapel Hill, North Carolina area. They are are being filled with sediment from upstream development. Also, the huge Ogallalla aquifer out west is being depleted at an alarming rate, and the level of the Great Lakes are at an all-time low.

"Ninety five percent of the Aral Sea has been depleted in the last 30 years," said Eades. "Most of these problems can be attributed to global warming and extractions."

Chemical pollution

"West Virginia puts its water at risk to get cheap electricity," Eades said. "Once those chemicals are in your body, they don't leave."

He cited the power plant in St. Albans, which burns coal and emits 88,000 pounds of lead, 100,000 pounds of arsenic, and thousands of pounds of mercury into the air every year. This eventually pollution enters bodies of water.

He attributed the rise in autism cases to mercury in drinking water.

Even antibacterial soaps cause problems in the ecosystem because only mutant forms of life will survive in water filled with their residues, he said.

Eades recalled growing up in West Virginia, fishing with his father, and never worrying about whether the trout was safe to eat.

These days, the West Virginia Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) has a long list of fish consumption advisories. They recommend that people not eat carp, suckers and channel catfish from the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers, and limit meals of certain sport fish to once a month.

The advisories are based on studies that show certain chemicals tend to accumulate in fish. Dioxin and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) are particularly worrisome in West Virginia, he said.

According to the DHHR web site, Dioxin is a by-product of the combustion of fossil fuels, wood, municipal and industrial waste.

Though the manufacture of PCBs has been banned since 1979, the residues continue in the environment.

Eades also worries about the large amounts of antibiotics used in agriculture, as well as those consumed by people.

"Antibiotics never break down after elimination, and remain in the soil and water," he said.

Corporations eye water

"Although West Virginia has some water quality laws, it is only one of two states east of the Mississippi without laws governing the export and sale of water," Eades said.

He explained that many of America's municipal water systems are being acquired by international companies that hike up the rates.

For example, West Virginia-American Water Company, which is part of a large English corporation, has expressed interest in the past year in buying or managing Berkeley Springs Water Works.

The same company recently asked the Public Service Commission for a 15% rate hike in Charleston, though its current rates of $56.78 a month are among the highest in the nation, Eades said.

"Our water is being sold out from under us," he said.

The World Trade Organization is currently considering measures that would give international corporations more clout to buy or manage American water systems after the General Agreement on Trade in Services is fully worked out, Eades maintained.

The agreement seeks to liberalize trade in services and to phase out government barriers to international competition in the service sector, including municipal water companies.

To help protect West Virginia water, Eades lobbied in the last legislative session for a comprehensive plan to protect against selling and exporting the state's water resources. The bill passed the State Senate, but the House of Delegates voted it down.

"Our state is 140 years old and has never had any statutes to protect the quantity of water," Eades said. "We are a geographically high elevation state, so our water is gravity fed to the whole east coast. It's an incredibly valuable resource."

Conservation helpful

"Americans are water gluttons," said Eades. "We need to reuse water, and rain water collection is a great place to start."

He said people should interest children at a young age in water conservation and quality.

"Show children that a simple filter on their home water faucet is a good way to start. But I try not to load too much on kids at once so that they get issue fatigue. I try to present the information positively," he said.

Eades said there have been great improvements in rain water collection technology in recent years - it's no longer just the simple cistern in the back yard. He felt West Virginia should take a lead and use this technology.


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