This is my wife Joyce’s personal story of her childhood experience growing up with river pollution.
In February, 2017, Donald Trump signed a measure to cancel the Stream Protection Rule written by the Obama administration. This rule sought to protect 6,000 miles of streams near coal mining sites.
As children, my brother and I lived in a house on a hill overlooking the Acushnet River in Massachusetts. We were surrounded by fields and trees where we spent hours with our friends, playing baseball and searching for arrowheads. Our parents allowed us the freedom to roam within a mile of the river. We could go no further as they told us the river was poisoned and we would become ill if we went too close. We believed them because of the constant foul odor in the air, the unnatural looking color of the water, and the foam which we sensed did not belong in a river.
From our home, we could see the many factories lining the banks of the Acushnet River. As we grew older, we learned that these factories were responsible for the daily dumping of refuse into the river. Over the years, many people had been employed by the factory owners and enjoyed middle class lifestyles in small New England towns because of the consistent salaries provided by the work. My brother and I were among the recipients of this prosperous arrangement. Our parents worked at a factory which released some of the worst chemicals into the water. Along with an improved regional economy came destruction and pollution. The dumping of PCBs and other chemicals made the once beautiful natural resource unuseable for swimming or harvesting of food.
In 1899, the local Board of Health declared that going swimming in the river would be detrimental to health. By 1904, the river was closed to swimming and fishing. It was not until 1983 that the Acushnet River was designated a Superfund site by the EPA and today, after a massive clean up project, PCBs still linger in the sediments at the bottom of the river.
It was reported in an article from The Atlantic, dated March 27, 2013, that the EPA found half of all U.S. rivers and streams cannot support healthy aquatic life. According to a summary done by Food and Water Watch, approximately 3.5 billion people in 2025 will face water shortages due mainly from water pollution.
When I first read about Donald Trump’s executive order to allow coal companies to dump coal dust into the rivers again, I could hardly breathe. First, I felt disbelief, then anger, then finally deep grief. How could he so blatantly ignore the lessons of the past? How could he and his administration be so unaware or uncaring about the future of this planet and its inhabitants which cannot survive without clean water? How long will we allow the desecration of our earth and water?
We should not destroy our streams and rivers for short term financial profits. There are many alternatives to turning the clock back to 1899. We do not need to pollute any more waterways. The future holds the possibility of many jobs and economic growth connected with the clean energy industry. If you agree, please join Gene and I in considering the following actions:
1. Starting in March send postcards to the White House and tell #45 and the Congress that we will not go back to 1899’s environmental standards.
2. Stand in solidarity with Standing Rock. WATER IS LIFE NoDAPL
3 Call and visit your Senators and Representatives and tell them environmental standards must be improved, not destroyed. Clean renewable energies are our future, not dirty fuels of the past like coal and oil. Cleaning up our environment instead of polluting it will be the economic future of good jobs for years to come. We want to start the cleanup now.
4. Join your local groups taking actions now. Join the Resistance to the trump agenda.
5. Join together with others to take away the Republican majorities in the House and Senate in 2018. We must unite.
6. Please download the postcard below to send your note to your elected officials.
Peace, Joyce and Gene