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The Race to Protect Our Most Important Natural Resource: Part 1- The Source of the Problem

March 22, 2017

Source: As we take a look at the poor water quality issues that have hit major metro centers such as Flint, Michigan and Newark, New Jersey, we examine the source of these issues and what some are doing to rush in to protect the most important natural resource vital to the existence of the human race.

While the world’s population grows and our available sources of clean drinkable freshwater dwindle, the critical demand to find ways to preserve and protect our current water supplies have rapidly increased. Alternatives on how to clean up used and polluted water supplies are now being explored. Schools of thought and tech companies are eager to create the ability to filter recycled water for reuse as fresh water supplies continue to be maxed out.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, only 2.5 percent of the all of Earth’s water supply is fresh water. The main sources of available drinkable freshwater supply mainly come from glaciers, ice caps, ground ice and permafrost, as well as lakes and ground water. It is surprising to realize that with this natural resource being so scarce, we as a society have not done more to preserve and protect it. Ironically, we continue to sabotage ourselves by contributing to actions and behaviors that increase pollution of our rivers and lakes. Only about half of the world’s population has access to clean drinking water, leaving the other three billion people to fight for a source of quality water. In addition to that, according to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) 783 million people have no access to any clean water sources and are left to rely on “dirty” water or no water at all.

It seems this issue would be a problem that only plagued impoverished countries; those lacking infrastructure and societies with undeveloped economies. Apparently, that stereotypical outlook has been crushed by the recent developments which now haunt cities of Flint, Michigan and Newark, New Jersey. In one of the richest developed nations in the world, it seems it too, struggles in the area of getting quality fresh water to its citizens. Flint first announced its dilemma as early of May 2014; although it was only disclosed to a few circles in the political arena. Neighboring Detroit residents showed up to rallies where political candidates would be speaking in the race for state governor, determined to share their concerns for the tainted water that was now coming out of their faucets.

Nearly a year later, the truth would finally be revealed, detailing the issue of lead contaminated water.The culprit was decidedly the aged infrastructure as the source of this inescapable problem. It was believed that the city had switched locations of where it was receiving its water supply; however, it never added any anti-corrosive agents to the new water supply as was required. This misstep was the singular contributor which caused aging infrastructure to break down much faster; exposing lead from old lead pipes, which would then be carried to the point of distribution (the faucet) in people’s homes.

Not only does Flint (and Detroit) face the challenge of finding quality water—free of chemical laden supply—it must also create a way to deliver this water to residents. This must be accomplished without the impedance of additional poison entering the water supply at the source of delivery; its aging infrastructure. The city faces a huge uphill battle in financing the replacement of its now unfit pipes. Detroit and its neighboring suburbs has lost half of its population over the last twenty years. This means fewer residents available to spread the cost around in making affordable tackling the price tag for replacing pipes and infrastructure.

Flint is not alone. Newark has now joined the ranks of cities that are now dealing with a contaminated water supply. This is no surprise that one of the largest metro areas in the Garden State is facing serious issues with their own water supply. New Jersey is known as the state that has the most environmental issues, with the most superfund sites listed with the U.S. EPA than any other state.

New Jersey took measures to try to protect valuable clean drinking water supplies when its governing body passed the Highlands Water Protection and Planning Act in 2004. This law was ushered in with the hopes to slow urban sprawl and protect hundreds of thousands of acres responsible for contributing to supplying the majority of the state’s residents with fresh drinking water. It included land surrounding some of the state’s largest reservoirs, natural preserves, and wildlife sanctuaries, so that areas of the state are not over developed to the point where its fresh water supplies become choked.

Again in Newark, aging infrastructure was pointed to as the culprit; however, there is a larger issue that no one dares to mention; one that is more of a risk than aging infrastructure threatening the city’s water supply at the source. In the foothills of the highlands are reservoirs which are responsible for collecting runoff water from neighboring regions of West Milford, Ringwood, and Wanaque. At the center of years of environmental controversy is the former site in which Ford decades ago once used as a dumping site for paint and other related chemicals in the heart of the Ramapo Mountains.

Located just miles from this dump site is New Jersey’s largest fresh water supply. It has taken years for the by-product of this site’s pollution to reach water supplies with traces of this site’s contaminates found as far away as Totowa, New Jersey. Deemed too costly to clean up, both the New Jersey State Governor and the U.S. EPA have shuffled this issue along, with little or no action in addressing this monumental crisis. Residents in this area continue to fight for environmental justice. Tragically, it is deemed too little too late, as traces of these same chemical compounds are now making their way to faucets around the state.

So with little public money available to solve these issues now, and with the clock ticking, how do we solve the problems facing these two cities? It is estimated by Flint’s Mayor Karen Weaver that it could cost as much as $1.5 billion dollars to correct the issue in Flint-Detroit. Until the concern is solved at the source, New Jersey will also be left with tainted water supply originating from the Ramapo Mountains for generations to come. It is paramount we find solutions to abate these dilemmas.

The World Green Energy Symposium 2016, was recently held in Washington, D.C. There, during his address on Water Solutions, speaker Paul R. Puckorius, CEO of Puckorius & Associates Inc., was asked about how to deal with the Flint water situation. Puckorius answered, “…One of the best ways to tackle the situation in Flint and now in Newark is invest into filtration at the source of water coming into the home and at point of delivery/usage. This will cost much less and allow for the cities to plan infrastructure upgrades and funding.”

Currently, residents of Flint are receiving bottled water, which in reality will only go so far. The faucets and taps at Newark Schools are turned off for now. However, a remedy is needed to long-term solutions to this epic concern. Stay tuned as we investigate into other stories regarding water supply concerns in the United States, and how we should begin to address this very sensitive issue.

Samuel K. Burlum is an investigative reporter who authors articles related to economic development, innovation, green technology, business strategy, and public policy concerns. He is also a career entrepreneur and currently the CEO/President of Extreme Energy Solutions Inc., a green tech company located in Sparta, New Jersey. Burlum lends his expertise as a consultant to start-up companies, small businesses, and mid-size enterprises, providing advisement in a number of areas including strategic business planning, business development, supply chain management, and systems integration. He is also Author of the books The Race to Protect our Most Important Natural Resource and Life in the Green Lane – in Pursuit of the American Dream.

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