One of the core ideas here at the Daily Impact is that industry, while pursuing profits (economies of scale), simultaneously concentrates risk. What industry has to do, then, is keep us focused on its quick payoffs (We’re job creators! We help the economy!) and distracted from the long term dangers posed by, for example, pollution. As our waters have increasingly been poisoned, our air relentlessly made more noxious, our very climate changed and our land made barren, getting the crap out of sight has become more and more difficult. But necessity is a mother, and it has borne a new invention.
In more than 1,500 places across the U.S., according to a Pro Publica investigation, industries are injecting toxic materials into underground aquifers — underground reservoirs of drinkable water. They are doing this, even in the areas hardest hit by drought, with the specific approval of the oddly named Environmental Protection Agency.
The EPA is approving this suicidal practice for what it calls “waters that do not currently serve as a source of drinking water and will not serve as a source of drinking water in the future and, thus, do not need to be protected.” Apparently the EPA bases its dismissal of the value of vast deposits of pristine water located thousands of feet underground on the cost of getting to it. One analysis done in Wyoming estimated the cost of a well drilled to a deep aquifer at half a million dollars. Prohibitive, if you have lots of cheap water available. Chicken feed, if you have no water at all.
But no one will have the option when the frackers and the uranium miners and the coal burners have made undrinkable forever the last, best hope of a desertified country.
That the EPA is dead wrong to write off deep water has just been demonstrated in Mexico City, one of the most water-starved cities on the continent, where the draining of overtaxed, shallow aquifers is causing the entire city to sink as much as a foot a year. Last month the city announced the successful tapping of an aquifer more than a mile under the city. Officials hope that when fully developed — five wells for a mere $40 million — it will be a 100 year supply.
Good thing they don’t have a law, and a law enforcement agency, like we do — one that prohibits the deliberate poisoning of underground drinking water unless an industry wants to.