Letter to the Editor: Forced use should not be part of the system
Would you knowingly expose your family to known health risks and disease? On Oct. 24, the Wellington City Council wants to amend an ordinance making it mandatory that it's citizens hook on to their secondary water system. This in spite of the fact that for the past two summers, children from Davis County have been hospitalized with serious life-threatening illness from E. Coli resulting from their secondary system.
There are a number of serious concerns that have never been addressed by the city or the state of Utah. I feel that they were deceptive in the presentation of the first ordinance and they still have no intention of giving the public any information with which to make an informed decision.
The American Society for Microbiology has stated that "Waterborne microorganisms pose increasingly greater threats to public health, due to changing patterns in water use, increased water pollution and out-moded risk assessment protocols".
Other studies have noted that "Today waterborne epidemics are rare, but of great concern is the level of endemic disease, which is the constant, low level of disease incidence in a population".
According to the Center for Disease Control, estimates indicate that up to 900,000 cases of illness and possibly 900 deaths occur yearly as a result of waterborne microbial infection alone. Studies further indicate that the numbers are probably relatively low because not all waterborne diseases outbreaks are reported to the EPA or the CDC. By comparison, West Nile Virus last year only resulted in 4,156 cases of illness with 284 deaths.
Further information provided by the CDC on emerging infectious diseases reported, "Diseases caused by waterborne organisms vary from acute effects such as diarrhea, fever, vomiting.... to chronic or ultimate effects such as liver disease, potential cancer, respiratory distress, heart disease and has been linked to many auto-immune diseases such as diabetes, chronic joint pain, thyroid disease, reactive arthritis and others".
Another even more threatening microorganism now being studied is antibiotic-resistant bacteria. It has been well documented that these bacteria thrive in water and that bacteria from antibiotic fed livestock feces can also infect or encode other bacteria in water that humans can also be infected by.
The most recent data the Utah Division of Water Quality had for our river was 1993. That report indicated that total coliform and fecal coliform numbers range from not detected to one as high as 43,000 per 100 ml (approx 6 Tbs). In some illnesses studies indicate that it takes as few as a dozen or less eggs or organisms to infect a person. In comparison, in Washington State, where use of reclaimed water is regulated, the total coliform count can not exceed 2.2/100 ml. for water which would spray garden vegetables or be used on landscape where public access is allowed. California and other states have similar laws. I know of no secondary system like ours to even be permitted in states other than Utah.
There are other serious concerns such as chemical pollution from the mines, power plant, railroad (which routinely carries chemical and bio-hazardous materials to the landfill in East Carbon), run-off from a major state highway, storm run-off from cities, and an old county landfill directly above the canal. From the watershed above Scofield and Whiteriver to Wellington Canal where all of this pollution ultimately ends up is in our secondary water system.
When questioned, the Division of Water Quality answered my concerns in this way; "No one at the State level has authority to regulate these irrigation systems. A law was passed many years ago which precludes the State Health Department or Environmental Quality from regulating such systems (UTC 194-112)."
In short, no one will ever look for the serious health risks in this water that Wellington wants to mandate. This opens up risks to the city for potentially costly legal challenges. A city is established to promote the health, safety, and welfare of the people it is suppose to protect. Clean water, sewer, streets. sidewalks and lighting all promote health and safety. This system does the opposite. It has created a health risk. Add to that, the Constitution I believe still guarantees the basic human right for an individual to protect their health and property.
When the city first presented the issue, they told the public that it would not be mandatory They also said it would have a catch pond to settle debris and sediment from the water before it was put into the pipes. That was never done. What happened to that money? Has there ever been an audit to account for it? At least with a catch pond, the water could have been partially settled and treated.
I have never opposed those who chose to have the system for purely monetary reasons. I would be interested to hear from those who feel anyone has a right for whatever reason, to force someone else to use it.