More last words on water

To better understand Marysville's water situation, it helps to know what's happening elsewhere. Take Arapaho Falls, Colorado, for example. The small town of 9,300 is in shock following raids of local businesses by state police. Records were impounded and both management and employees were questioned. A state police spokesperson said that arrests may be expected.

Acting on complaints, investigators traced sales and disposal of toxic chemicals sold or used by businesses. They determined that whether acting singly or together, Prairie Farm Supply, D&M Supermarket, Carlson Auto Repair, Farmers' Tractor Service, Honeywagon Septic Service, Busby Dental Laboratory and others may be criminally responsible for years-long toxic pollution of local groundwater. The spokesperson added, "Though no links have yet been confirmed, at this point it looks like a conspiracy."

Investigators and townspeople alike are baffled at the apparent lack of motive. All but two of the suspects have long-standing roots in the community and many contribute time and funds to civic projects. According to a CHP spokesperson, all are cooperating with the investigation.

Helen Weidkamp, a water specialist, said, "In a town like this, everything that goes down a drain ends up in ground water or rivers." She cited fouled wells and fish kills in Camas Creek as evidence.

Time to confess: These things didn't happen because there is no such town as Arapaho Halls. But just because they didn't happen in a fictitious town doesn't erase the reality that the Arapaho Falls crime is rampant in the real world. Think about it. Where do cleaning chemicals in Marysville's homes go if not down the drain?

Being sensitive to chemical odors, I detour around cleaning products aisles where choking, sneeze-invoking, eye-watering fumes escape from packaging to attack my breathing apparatus. Read the parts of the labels that begin with caution.

It is sobering when you understand what cleaning products can do to you and how fast you should see a doctor.

"Harmful or fatal if swallowed."

"Use only in well-ventilated areas."

"Causes severe burns on contact."

Friends in the grocery biz tell me that the stock along the cleaning supplies aisle turns over every three to five days. A shorter time for those big jugs of bleach. Much longer for specialties like brass polish. The total contents of those shelves the same stuff that makes you sneeze when passing by, hits the environment twice every 10 days or less. And this assault goes on relentlessly.

One tree-hugger's marching song goes, "Think globally, act locally." For global thought we need to zoom-out to sense the big picture, hence the Arapaho Falls tale. The act-locally part applies to the woes of our Snohomish and Stillaguamish watersheds. Still more local is the impact personal life-style choices have on the health of Munson, Allen and Quilceda Creeks.

When shoppers cruise the cleaning products aisle they might envision the contents of all those shelves carted away to be dumped into the soil, drain-ways and creeks. Every three to five days. Then multiply the effect by the number of supermarkets in Marysville. Add the total volume of lawn and garden fertilizers and chemicals.

Time was when soap was made from animal fat, lye, wood ashes and flower petals. All natural. But because soap leaves a bit of a film, soap-washed hair isn't as glossy as in Breck ads. So we invent new cleaning products. One of the newest boasts that automatic sprayer that anoints the shower's walls with a potion so powerful that no elbow-grease is needed to dislodge soap scum. Then down the drain it goes.

There are only two types of products, natural and synthetic. We'd be in a lot less trouble if we thought of them as natural and unnatural. Soap, ammonia, borax, hot water and vinegar are natural and effective cleansers. Though a few sticky cleaning jobs may call for calculated chemical warfare, most household cleaning can be done just as well with non-toxic stuff. A little baking soda and vinegar in a quart of warm water is all one needs for general cleaning. White vinegar makes a dandy window cleaner. With the availability of dozens of excellent books on non-toxic cleansers there's no need to belabor this.

Fifteen of Washington's major salmon runs are endangered or threatened. Healthy fish live in good water. The way we operate rules out the possibility of good water, ergo, we can't expect healthy fish. This isn't even arguable.

Yet it is argued. It's the dams. Its Indian nets in the rivers. It's high-seas capture of juvenile salmon. It's building permits that encroach on watersheds. So long as we stay busy pointing away from ourselves we excuse the role we play. And the good we might do eludes us.

If this were a dead-fish issue it might get our attention. Dead fish decorating the high-tide line, gaspers doing the side stroke along the surface, that sort of thing. Unfortunately, it is nothing so dramatic. What we're working up to is a dead-water issue.

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