Written By: - Date published: 8:56 am, October 11th, 2017 - 165 comments
Categories: business, capitalism, class, disaster, Environment, farming, health, human rights, water - Tags: ecan, federated farmers, mike joy, water is life
This isn’t new, but it came up again recently. Authorities and industrial dairy, including Federated Farmers and Fonterra have known about this from at least 2010. It’s worth revisiting in a week when the next government of NZ is going to be decided by a man who uses rural rhetoric to gain votes.
Stuff are reporting Mike Joy, again, on water contamination, and comment was made about nitrate levels and risk to babies,
Dr Joy said the rise of farming on lands that were unsuitable for intense dairying was also a cause of poor quality water.
Citing the Canterbury Plains Dr Joy said: “These are sort of gravelly outwash lands from the mountains, there is very, very porous soils. You put cows on there and what comes out goes straight down into groundwater, into our rivers, into our aquifers.”
He also discussed a recent warning in Ashburton where mothers were told to use bottled water to feed their babies, after it was found that tap water was causing the babies’ lips to go blue.
Mr Joy said this was the “first of many signs that we’ve gone way way too far”.
From the Canterbury District Health Board’s pamphlet on nitrates in water and Blue Baby Syndrome (PDF) (yes, we now have DHB’s issuing public health pamphlets because of ongoing water pollution from our primary industries),
Methaemoglobinaemia can affect babies less than six months of age or in the womb.
Exposure to high nitrate levels in drinking water may prevent the blood from delivering oxygen effectively in the body.
As a result an infant may develop blueness around the mouth, hands and feet. If severe, the condition can affect breathing and may be life-threatening.
Nitrate is diffcult to remove from water. Household cartridge/carbon filters, chemical treatment and boiling will not remove nitrate. Reverse osmosis and ion exchange can remove nitrate however these are expensive options.
If your water is high in nitrate, contamination is occurring. This means bacteria could also be in the water. Bacteria can increase the likelihood of methaemoglobinaemia and cause other diseases, so don’t forget to test for the bacteria E.coli at the same time.
One of the things about contaminants in groundwater is they don’t go there immediately. It takes times for them to filter down through the earth into the aquifer. Likewise, when you finally decide its time to clean it up, it takes time for the remaining pollutants in the ground to keep working it’s way down and then for the water to clear. This is part of why National talk about cleaning up water for the next generation, although most likely it’s also because they just want to keep pillaging NZ while they can. If we spread our pollution out far enough, we can defer the crisis and keep pretending everything is alright.
As far as I can tell industrial dairying, Fed Farmers, and Ecan are all saying that pollution is ok so long as we limit it to around the level that we can get away with. Probably not good to poison babies, but if we fence off some water ways then the number of times people have to buy bottled water in a year will be below what makes people complain too much and we can put in an alert system so that babies don’t actually get die.
That’s time and low population density on the polluters’ side.
So it’s not a big public health crisis, just a few babies that if their mothers just did the right thing and bought some bottled water they’d be fine. But reread what Mike Joy just said, and then get educated about ecology and hydrology. Because these are long term problems being created and not ones with easy fixes especially with climate change bearing down hard and fast.
Industrial farming leader William Rolleston gave a speech recently that was reported in the Rural News,
Another example was the claim that babies would die of blue baby syndrome because of increasing nitrates in groundwater in the Ashburton region.
“If you extrapolate the data from the US, we could expect to see one baby die from blue-baby syndrome in the Ashburton region every 5000 years,” Rolleston added.
He said fear and simplicity were powerful weapons in driving public perception.
Nothing we do is without risk, yet the demand was often that any new technology should be risk-free.
That speech is in part about science being used for activism purposes (apparently that’s ok if you are a farmer, but not ok if you are a water protector). I’m less interested in the cherry picking going on there, although the hypocrisy in the speech around that is worth noting (he accuses activists and then uses the same techniques). I am interested in the acknowledgement that we should be taking risks with the environment so that some people can make more money. Useful to have that honesty I guess, and it’s how it looks to me too.
Neoliberalism, industrial farming, big irrigation, National’s wadable rivers standard, ground water contamination, the sacking of Environment Canterbury, bottled water for profit, excess chlorination of water supplies because our catchments can no longer be trusted, risks to foetuses and babies, people being expected to pay extra for uncontaminated water to protect their young children irrespective of their ability to finance that. Not hard to make the connections.
Once you legitimise the contamination of groundwater you are basically a death cult. Water is life, and there’s only so much of it available despite the views of some that it’s all been wasted by allowing it to flow into the sea. In NZ we think we are immune to catastrophe because we have an abundance of natural resources and not too many people. But there are tipping points and there is cumulative effect. We know from water scientists that we’re already well past the point of fresh water ecologies being ok. Let’s move onto human health and see how far we can push it.
I also think when you run an economy that sees harm to babies as acceptable risks that can be mitigated, then you are approaching society’s end game. But we already knew that about NZ.