Tuesday, August 5, 2014

We're lucky that Lake Michigan water isn’t all “Erie” like that in Toledo

I experienced a sense of relief Monday morning when I learned that local officials once again proclaimed their water supply safe for drinking.

Let’s face it. The home of the Mudhens baseball team (who this season may well be better than either of our allegedly “Major League” franchises) experienced a problem this weekend that could just as easily occur in Chicago.

BOTH CITIES RELY on the Great Lakes for their fresh water drinking supply. We may make jokes about Lake Erie. But it really isn’t all that different from Lake Michigan from which we take.

The algae bloom that developed near a structure used by Toledo to draw water from Lake Erie to plants where it is treated before being put into the system where it eventually comes out of the faucets in peoples’ residences is something that could happen here.

It could easily be us someday experiencing a stretch of time when we’re alerted to NOT drink the water or cook with it, or even try to bathe in it if it turns out we’re particularly sensitive physically.

If Mayor Rahm Emanuel has any sense, he’ll do whatever it takes to reduce the odds that any such incident were ever to occur on the southwestern shores of Lake Michigan.

WE CLAIM MICHAEL Bilandic got dumped as mayor because his city let a heavy winter storm get out of control. Just envision how we’d demonize a mayor who let the lake get tainted – even for a few days.

That might well be the only circumstances under which Robert Shaw could actually win the mayoral election cycle coming up next year.

The fact is that the algae bloom that caused the problem in Toledo is a part of nature – or at least nature interacting with the human species.

A notice issued by Toledo city officials during the weekend said such bloom is caused by runoff from over-fertilized farm fields, livestock pens or malfunctioning septic systems.

WE COULD EASILY have similar circumstances occur in Chicago if we’re not careful.

In fact, there are times I think it is miraculous that the water from the Chicago River – which at one time was toxic but is now merely polluted – doesn’t routinely cause problems for the Lake Michigan water supply that the city relies on both in terms of a drinking supply and a source of revenue for the hundreds of suburbs it sells water access to.

It often is called one of the engineering marvels of modern-day society that the flow of the Chicago River was reversed so that the pollution flows downstate across Illinois and ultimately to the Mississippi River.

It is a good part of the reason why I am skeptical of those people who fear the concept of Asian Carp getting into Lake Michigan, who try to blame the river’s reversal as some sort of unnatural act that caused the potential problem, and want it reversed back to the way Mother Nature had it before there was a “Chicago” on the shores of Lake Michigan.

THEY’D HAVE A heck of a lot of contaminates wind up in our city’s drinking water supply. To such a degree that we’d be an even bigger news story than what occurred in Toledo this weekend – and which seems to have come to an end Monday morning.

The people of Toledo will soon be back to turning on their faucet if they want a drink of water. While we ought to hope we never experience such a state of affairs.

Because the levels needed to contaminate water aren’t that large – CNN reported Monday morning that one drop would be sufficient to taint a swimming pool. The part of Lake Michigan that Chicago draws water from may be much larger, but could still be tainted.

Just think how unpleasant a place Chicago would become if we had to go for a stretch of time without showering? Particularly in the midst of summer? Peee-yoooo!


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