I live in the cozy village of Ridgewood—a nice, suburban town in Bergen County, New Jersey, just a short ride from the George Washington Bridge. I recently received the 2011 water quality report, something I would most typically file in the recycling bin without a glance or a thought, but my interest in what precisely it is that we are putting in our bodies left me compelled to read the report.
To start with a verbatim quote from the report: “Drinking water, including bottled water, may reasonably be expected to contain at least small amounts of some contaminants. The presence of contaminants does not necessarily indicate that the water poses a health risk. In order to ensure that tap water is safe to drink, EPA and NJDEP prescribe regulations which limit the amount of certain contaminants in water provided by public water systems. FDA regulations establish limits for contaminants in bottled water, which must provide similar protection for public health. EPA regulations are more stringent than FDA regulations.”
Ridgewood’s water source is primarily groundwater from wells. As water travels over the surface of the land or through the ground, it dissolves minerals and radioactive materials and can pick up substances from the presence of “animals or human activity.” Contaminants may include the following:
- Bacteria and viruses from sewage, septic systems, agricultural livestock operations and wildlife
- Salts and metals from natural sources or from storm runoff, industrial or domestic wastewater discharges, oil and gas projection, mining or farming
- Pesticides and herbicides
- Organic chemical contaminants from industry, petroleum production, gas stations, storm water runoff and septic systems
- Radioactive contaminants from natural sources or oil, gas, mining activities
Ridgewood Water Department issues susceptibility ratings for seven contaminant categories—the possible ratings are high, medium, or low. “If a system is rated highly susceptible for a contaminant category, it does not mean a customer is or will be consuming contaminated drinking water. The rating reflects the potential for contamination of source water, not the existence of contamination.” I consider myself to be a reasonably intelligent person, but I have trouble understanding the aforementioned concept, which is present in boldface in the report. Here is the actual report of the 58 wells:
Source High Medium Low
Pathogens 1 53 4
Nutrients* 33 25
Pesticides 27 31
Volatile organic compounds 55 3
Inorganics 37 21
Radionuclides 32 26
Disinfection Byproduct Precursors 4 54
* Nutrients are defined as compounds, minerals and elements that aid growth, both naturally-occurring and man-made, e.g., nitrogen and phosphorous. In my humble opinion, this is quite the euphemism!
Is it just me, or is the aforementioned report frightening, alarming and terrifying? I think that I summed up the situation pretty well in my book Promiscuous Eating: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship With Food:
“Is water contamination any great surprise to us? Collectively, human imprudence and greed have been rather unkind to Mother Earth. What goes around, comes around, i.e., cosmic karma—for years we have polluted the air, water and soil of the earth and are now paying dearly for it—we have been wanton in our actions and our folly is coming back to haunt us. Our power plants, vehicles, refineries and industrial facilities have spewed horrific volumes of exhaust gases, smoke and by-products of coal combustion into our air. We have dumped billions of tons of industrial effluents, mining and agricultural wastes and raw sewage into our rivers and oceans. We have polluted our soils with chemicals from herbicides and pesticides and have overfilled landfills with garbage and toxic materials. There are well over 1000 Superfund toxic waste cleanup sites in the USA! Our civilization has stripped the earth, mined it, burned it, consumed its natural resources, deforested it, emitted into it . . . basically, we have raped and pillaged and destroyed much of it. We have paved over large swathes of the earth in an effort to urbanize and industrialize the land…and are now at the point where there is much less of anything clean and natural left.
This life of ours is not a board game: Just by virtue of our being able to transport, shift, and compartmentalize our waste into discrete dumpsites, basically a lose-lose strategy of taking hazardous matter from point A to point B, does not liberate us from their ill—likely deadly—effects. In essence, our now “Going Green” may be too late since we “Went Red” a long, unfortunate time ago. What happens to the inhabitants of the planet is a microcosm of what happens to Mother Earth, since we—and almost all that we eat—breathe the air, drink the water, and eat the food grown in the soil.”
Andrew Siegel, M.D.
This is just a taste of what you will find in Promiscuous Eating: Understanding and Ending Our Self-Destructive Relationship with Food. The website for the book is: www.promiscuouseating.com.
It provides information on the book, a trailer, excerpts, ordering instructions, as well as links to a wealth of excellent resources on healthy living. It is also available on Amazon Kindle.