I have been thinking about water a lot this year. Really, ever since the news broke about the catastrophic mess with the drinking water in Flint, Michigan. Still not resolved to anyone’s satisfaction.
Human bodies have been called walking sacks of water, because H2O comprises so much of our biological make up, averaging 50-60% (higher percentages in infants). Water is vital to our survival.
I have just returned from a short visit to the Pacific Northwest, specifically the Portland, Oregon, area. It rained off and on during our entire visit. Everything was soggy, including me. It was gray. I got tired of it, and annoyed. The cold, damp made my joints ache. But it was water, and we need our water.
As we visited various parts of the countryside I marveled at the way moisture shapes the landscape. Waterfalls galore. Moss of all kinds draped on trees, growing around trunks and branches, coating boulders and rock faces. Ferns gone amok.
The Columbia River gorge is a National Scenic Area, for good reason. I visited three impressively sized waterfalls that are named and well known, and saw myriad smaller waterfalls, perhaps ephemeral depending on rainfall levels. Multnomah Falls is perhaps the best known of the three I visited, though not my personal favorite. It is big, impressive, just a bit too much.
I preferred Wahkeena Falls, for its multilevel beauties. An upper falls and a lower falls that flowed under a bridge before tumbling down beautiful rocks, creating white water delights before running under the roadway on its way down to the Columbia River.
A close second favorite is Horsetail Falls, simply because it is so near to the roadway that you can get more up close and personal, even if you don’t have time to hike.
And the Columbia River itself is a wide, impressive body of water making its way to the Pacific Ocean. Water is everywhere, falling from the skies, falling from cliffs, down hills, down to the seas. Outside of us, inside of us. Vital. Precious.
Shouldn’t we protect it with all our might?
Which brings me back to Flint. Which takes me to Standing Rock Reservation and its protest sites in North Dakota. NoDAPL. They say water is sacred. They say water is life. It is. They call themselves the Water Protectors.
Energy Transfer Partners is the company building the pipeline that is meant to carry oil from the North Dakota Bakken fields, crossing the Missouri River (which drains into the Mississippi River near St. Louis), through Iowa, into Illinois. The Water Protectors worry about oil spills polluting the Missouri and Mississippi River basins, which provide drinking water for millions and millions of people. ETP says they operate very safe pipelines.
Sunoco is a wholly owned subsidiary of ETP, one of the four partners that make up the entire ETP entity. Consider this. Just this year, only two days apart, with the first on October 21st, two different pipelines leaked. The first in Pennsylvania, a Sunoco pipeline, dumped about 55,000 gallons of gasoline in Lycoming County. Flooding carried it into the Susquehanna River. A pipeline in Oklahoma, this one owned by Seaway Crude Pipeline company, sprang a leak two days later. The point being, no matter what company, no matter what promises of safety they make, leaks happen.
But they may happen to Sunoco more frequently than ETP would like to believe. Or admit.
NPR reported that Reuters analyzed government data on oil spills and found that Sunoco pipelines “leak more often than any other operator, with 200 releases since 2010.” You can read the article for yourself. I provide the link below.
Water. I have been musing about it. Perhaps we should all think about it. A lot. And a lot more seriously.