Clean Drinking Water: Misplaced Trust

By , February 4, 2016

For the first 10 years of our marriage, Michelle and I lived in apartments. If we add our college years, that would be 14 years. I never felt comfortable living this way. The idea that we depended on the integrity, common sense, and sanity of other people for our very lives concerned me.

One person making a bad decision in an apartment building is all it would take for disaster to strike. The myriad household accidents that could lead to building fires or worse is magnified by the number of people living in the building.

In several homes, we had neighbors who attempted suicide. I remember helping one landlord rip up and remove a horribly blood stained carpet from an apartment on our floor. As we did so, I realized that each apartment had a propane stove. What if the person had tried a gas suicide, and decided at the last, groggy moment to smoke one last cigarette? It’s happened so many times before.

For this reason, I felt much safer once we bought our first home. I’m anxious all over again for Aly, and will be until she finds a house and leaves apartment dwelling behind.

I suppose I generally mistrust other people’s common sense, and even good will. While I hope for the best in people, I fear the worst. I feel one cannot safely assume that others will make the right decisions when it comes to the community’s welfare.

Therefore, I was appalled, though not particularly surprised, to learn of the heinous crimes against humanity committed by the government of Michigan against the people—particularly the children—of Flint. If you haven’t heard, Michigan’s governor, Rick Snyder, appointed people who approved switching the city’s water from the Great Lakes to a nearby polluted river. The corrosive water leached lead out of the pipes and poisoned everyone who drank it! Learn more here.

I’ve long held that no one should make the assumption that those in power will safeguard the essentials of life: food, water, and shelter. Particularly when it comes to water, this can lead to catastrophe. Catastrophes such as permanently, irrevocably poisoning thousands of people with lead for the sake of saving money.

Ironically, sacrificing our citizens does not require conscious decisions by those in charge. Algae blooms in the Great Lakes region already present problems with drinking water (see “Don’t Touch the Water!” ). As I’ve said before, clean drinking water grows more scarce continually, even to the point of becoming a privately owned and traded commodity (see Let It Rain).

I am a big proponent of pure drinking water (see Municipal Water: To (Con)serve and Protect). We pursue pure water on our homestead, and in the wider world. Our own water system, while safe from government decision making (short of ruling that rainwater is a state resource, as several states have done) has its own inherent uncertainties (see Fresh Water: Collecting and Conserving a Precious Resource). Still, better to live at the mercy of capricious weather systems than capricious governments.

Ask the people of Flint which they would prefer right now!

To be clear, I’m not suggesting that we all stand in danger from careless or corrupt government. Despite the egregious example of Michigan, I sincerely believe that most government bodies in the U.S. are still in essence of, for, and by the people. Communities that care for the wellbeing of their members remain the rule rather than the exception. I hope that the situation in Michigan is a rare, though frightening example of what could go wrong.

7 Responses to “Clean Drinking Water: Misplaced Trust”

  1. Jane DeHoog says:

    I’m so glad you’ve written about the Flint, MI water situation. I hope the message regarding this crime causes outrage across the nation. The governor and his team of budget cutters who made this decision, or staff who turned a blind eye to it, need to be charged with a crime and sent to prison. It’s only in this way that the reality will sink in to those who are elected or hired to beware of the choices they make and carefully assess budget cutting against public health.

  2. Jessie says:

    I have a feeling that my FIL’s cancer is tied to the drinking water at Camp Lejuene.

  3. Mark Zeiger says:

    Sorry to hear of this Jessie. I often wonder about stuff like this.

  4. Mark Zeiger says:

    I agree, Jane. I am very curious to see what level of responsibility these people will be held to, and what their punishment might be. I’m not optimistic about it.

  5. Eva Hensley says:

    I agree with Jane. An example needs to be made of these people and the American people are sick to death of these corporations and politicians putting profits over health and safety of the people. Unfortunately Mark, I too, am not very optimistic regarding the accountability standards.

  6. Jon Marshall says:


    That is one of the reasons my wife and I are planning on being as much off the grid as possible and relying on ourselves for food. The Gov’t is full of people who are out for their own agenda and rewards. I do not have any faith in a Gov’t that is constantly trying to tighten the reigns on our constitutional rights. I can’t believe that some states say rain water is their property. Really??

  7. Mark Zeiger says:

    Yes, Jon, apparently several states have made it illegal to collect rain water for personal use.

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