Water not fit to drink

My home town of Albuquerque, New Mexico is facing a crisis of epic proportions.  I do not exaggerate.

A decades-old jet fuel spill from Kirtland Air Force Base, originally thought to be about 8 million gallons, has recently been estimated to be three times larger (24 million gallons).    By comparison, the Exxon Valdez spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil in Alaska’s Prince William Sound.

The Kirtland fuel spill is in the groundwater under the city, spreading like an invisible monster beneath homes, businesses and people above it, towards a number of city wells which provide drinking water to city residents.    The fuel includes Ethylene Dibromide (EDB) which the US EPA considers a human carcinogen and recommends zero exposure to EDB in drinking water.    The experts estimate that the fuel will reach the wells in possibly five years.

The city, the state, the Air Force, and federal government are all putting their heads together to figure out how to monitor the contamination, clean the fuel spill, and protect the water wells.  It will doubtless cost millions, if not billions, assuming they can act in time.

A more dire situation is playing out right now in Gaza, where the UN and others say the only fresh source of drinking water is too dangerous to drink because of contamination from fertilizer and human waste.   Gaza’s sewer system is completely broken.

While Albuquerque’s crisis might charitably be attributed to benign neglect, the deplorable situation in Gaza is a direct consequence of Israel’s 5-year blockade, and Israel’s deliberate destruction of much of Gaza’s infrastructure during Operation Cast Lead in Dec ’08 – Jan ’09.

Barbara Lubin, Co-Founder and Director of Middle East Children’s Alliance, which has built dozens of water treatment units at schools in Gaza, adds that “43% of the population in the West Bank and Gaza are under 15 and the water that children drink every day is poisoned.  This is collective punishment at its worst.”

Even in the midst of this humanitarian crisis, a young engineer who recently graduated from the Islamic University of Gaza has devised a new solar purification system to clean the waste water to potable levels, if only Israel would allow the materials to build these solar units to enter Gaza.

If only the U.S. Congress would make some demands of Israel in exchange for the $3 Billion it provides every year.   By the way, did you happen to catch that new billboard that just went up in Los Angeles?


Filed under Environment, Occupation

2 responses to “Water not fit to drink

  1. Samir MAtar

    I do like you essay

    Actually, Groundwater the only and sole source for drinking in Gaza suffers from three pollution sources that threat it:
    1- The Broken Sewer System, and the waste water treatment plants which infiltrate pollutants to the aquifer.
    2- Sea Water Intrusion, It is due to the excess pumping water from groundwater, this phenomena leads the seawater to interference with the aquifer.
    3- The leachate from landfills in Gaza, it threats the Aquifer strongly.

    The first solution is to start the desalination from the sea, it is to leave the Aquifer for some time to go back as it was in the past.
    The second step should be maintaining the sewer systems, and updating the WWTP. and Finally to choose a suitable place and built a sanitary landfill for wastes “Or closed incinerator”

  2. Marianne Dickinson

    I’ve always been of the opinion that the struggle in israel-Palestine has at its basic level been an intertribal fight over land and water resources—not really about religion. It’s a pretty tiny place to be home to all the original Palestinians and all the Jews who wish to move there.

    To the issue of the Kirtland leak (not a spill, strictly speaking), it was disclosed about 12 years ago, when I was very active in airport neighborhood issues. I was stunned to learn recently that almost nothing has been done in the meantime to clean up the contamination–originally thought to be in the hundreds of thousands of gallons. This is gross negligence rather than benign neglect!

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