Carol Forsloff - LOUISIANA - Values and faith are involved in more than just politics and social issues but environmental ones as well, including the water folks drink.
Environmental groups, both private and public, raise concerns about contaminated water caused by hydraulic fracturing for gas or by chemical or waste companies of various types. Politicians and some religious conservatives maintain that agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency should be dismissed because oversight may lead to rules that interfere with “good business” when some of that business impacts clean water.
East Feliciana Parishn is under a boil advisory until June 2. The deadline has been extended as the Department of Health and Hospitals has not yet delivered its results on possible contamination following a lightning strike. But contaminated water does not result just from nature’s behaviors. Areas of contamination are often cited in public pronouncements and news in Louisiana. Natchitoches Parish folks, for example, regularly receive notices that the water of the area has a warning label. Another example is Plaquemine’s Parish in the area of Baton Rouge. Conamination by Dow Chemical waste has led to heavy pollution of the waters in the area.
Values impact choices. Environmental issues are often seen as of less consequence in Louisiana with its emphasis on being an oil and gas rich state than they are in places like Oregon where reducing waste has been the order of the day for more than 30 years. In the 1970’s people were found squashing and flattening cans with their feet in Oregon in order to reduce tin can rubbish in the landfills. Oregon also prides itself on its good water from lakes and streams, pointing to Bull Run water in Portland as the hallmark of the best. Portlanders are quick to brag about the water, as having good, clean water to drink is considered a significant value in the state of going green.
On the other hand, Louisiana’s pride extends to the Saints, the food, Mardi Gras events and anything goes, and often that “anything goes” means healthy water. Pressure on politicians to save the environment does not match that of ensuring that the productivity of oil and gas remains without interruption, even at the risk of people’s lives.
Already there are legal issues being raised by hydraulic fracturing from the Haynesville Shale, said to be poisoning cows that have been drinking water spilled from a natural gas wellpad.
Louisiana’s beauty in its foliage, fauna and flowing waters gives an atmosphere of nature at its finest; but it takes more than that to really going green. It means valuing what faith and ethics offers most: the benefits for the overall health of the community as a foundation for a wholesome life. So long as there is little demand placed upon politicians to ensure environmental safety, and a willingness to accept contamination as the price to pay for corporate bucks from oil and gas, boil advisories will likely continue to be part of Louisiana life when man ignores nature.