poisoned waters


What are your thoughts on this report? Do you think America will act in time to save its waterways? What will it take?

Join the Discussion

Dear FRONTLINE,

As someone who has lived here for 70 years, I have watched our forests being cut down without regard to any environmental questions. After watching Hedrick Smith interview the people in the Issaquah area, my first reaction was, why didn't he ask all those men how many of them were developers? Especially in the Issaquah area, high end homes have been built further and further into the forests. I applaud Ron Simms and all that he stands for and wish there were more like him.

Seattle, Washington

Dear FRONTLINE,

Wow Frontline! I guess I'd like to start by wishing tonight's show could somehow be made a mandatory viewing by everyone. While deeply depressing, It was also uplifting to see so many governing agencies taking action to resolve. I've been a vegetarian for over 14 years and when asked why, I simply reply it's one of the ways I've chosen to help the environment--in addition to, sparing myself the ingestion of all the chemicals being "jacked" into the livestock, and not excluding the guilt of the undeniably inhumane approach of how livestock is both raised and slaughtered.

I get headaches over 14 room homes occupied by a family of 4, seeing a single silhouette in Escalades, Hummers, and other "tanks" dominating our roads, obesity standing in line waiting for a super-sized heart attack...etc, etc...It's hard to smile when all you see is problems evolving from a society that doesn't seem to care enough to see outside of their own box. I think our nation has redefined consumer into more of a gluttony. Thank you so much for a fine reality check which I can only hope helped awakened our "dead". On a final note, To say my heart bleeds for those poor folks denied the right to expand on their land parcels would be a big LIE!

Scotty White
Des Plaines, Illinois

Dear FRONTLINE,

In Florida all commercial properties, sub-divisions, Federal and State properties and some Highways use holding ponds to store watershed. This saves billions of gallons per month of water going into storm drains. Usually a couple days after the rainfall the water in holding ponds soaks right back into the earth. The larger the property the larger the holding pond. Its a great idea. Every property controls its own watershed. This controls flooding, watershed and in most cases these ponds look really nice as they are adapted into the landscape.

Tom Klaas
Pensacola, florida

Dear FRONTLINE,

Between 1990 and 1998 I worked on Chesapeake Bay issues for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation. It is very troubling, more than ten years later and in spite of the dedicated work of my former colleagues, to see that the issues are the same and that the Bay's condition has worsened. Thanks to Hedrick Smith for brilliantly telling this story. He nailed it.

Mike Kensler
Auburn, Alabama

Dear FRONTLINE,

I grew up in Nebraska, our country's heart land. Each spring and fall I became ill from the pesticides and herbcides that swept into our water supply from the farming community. As an adult I have had three cancers, three times in 25 years...all related to these toxins ingested as a child.

Be mindful of what you are putting in your body. Where did it come from? What was it sprayed with? Where was it harvested? And cleanse your body continually! We cannot escape toxins from entering our body.

Our environment effects each and every one of us. We must each do our part to respect the natural resources we have...or WE will be floating, dead, belly up.

Patricia Thompson
Centennial, CO

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thank you for this program - depressing though it was. Each year as Earth Day arrives, I am reminded that we no longer have a genuine "movement" to preserve our Earth and its inhabitants. Instead, there are booths hosted by companies that wish to sell products to Earth Day participants. So, reinforcing our pledge to the environment has been replaced with t-shirt sales, hand cream samples and food booths. It has become another venue for making money. People have to connect with these important issues and feel empowered. They have to see, hear and read about what is happening. They have to feel the sadness viewers felt after this Frontline. The EPA will never be able to act alone. We appear to be asleep.

St. Louis, Missouri

Dear FRONTLINE,

This program definitely points out the web of interconnected problems that need to be addressed. Unfortunately, it also never addressed the real cause of all environmental problems, overpopulation. Remove the human and you remove the problem. Not mentioned at all during the discussion of the environmental movement of the 1960's, was the concept of overpopulation, which was widely discussed at the time. It seems that we want to place blame everywhere except at the obvious problem. Wasn't the environmental cancer of urban sprawl obvious in those aerial photographs? Still our leaders tout "growth" as if it is something good and our tax code rewards those who overpopulate while punishing those who behave responsibly by limiting their reproduction to such an extent that those living in so called poverty encourage their children to become pregnant as a means of increasing family income through government support. Fortunately, for the planet at least, nature will win in the end, but our descendants will suffer greatly for our childish selfishness as nature fixes the problem - us

Franklin Morgan
Greenville, SC

Dear FRONTLINE,

Thanks so much for this program. I think it's critical to call attention to water pollution issues. The information about agricultural pollution being unregulated was of particular interest.

One thing I would have liked to hear more about is the potential benefit of more recent regulations regarding stormwater runoff. "Best management practices" to mitigate runoff pollution are now required in many locations for new development. It's parallel to the story about sewage treatment plants moving from being a large part of the problem to being part of the solution.

Failing to acknowledge recent stormwater management regulations may encourage concerned citizens to "just say no" to new development even if it produces less pollution on a per-acre basis as compared to their own homes, thereby focusing important resources on lesser problems, as compared to agriculture, etc.

Bob Hupp
Warrenville, IL

Dear FRONTLINE,

Saving the waterways not only of the United States, but of our world will require just what Governor Gregoire of Washington summarized at the end of the program- every one of us needs to take action and together we can address the complex problems this program addressed.

I am seeing a changing consciousness of thoughts and actions that is exciting and crucial to our future.

Burnsville, Minnesota

Dear FRONTLINE,

Purposefully or not, a question that was not directly asked or examined by the episode appears to be: which is more important, the preservation of individual property rights or the preservation of the collective ecosystem? Do the self-interests of the few outweigh the health of the majority?

Unfortunately, unlike the individual land owner, the collective ecosystem does not have a rifle to defend itself nor can it threaten others in the name of self preservation. As the ecosystem is incapable of such malice and has no defense, the answer speaks for itself.

Fort Pierce, FL

Dear FRONTLINE,

I'm overwhelmed with grief after watching FRONTLINE tonight.

Our water pollution problems are yet another example of our inability to assess long term risk on a macro scale. With so many obstacles in the way and the seemingly irreparable harm we've already done and continue to do each moment we wait, I do not think we will act in time.

The roots of our current environmental crises go much deeper than what can be measured and tabulated; we must rethink how we live our lives, how we build societies, how we spend and make money, how the government works, and so on. Until we are ready to accept radical changes in our institutions and culture, all of the byproducts of our lifestyles will continue to plague us and our planet.

Chelsey Perkins
Minneapolis, MN

Dear FRONTLINE,

My daughter died from brain cancer. She had Hospice care at home and had a lot of prescription drugs. Upon her death a Hospice caretaker had to account for and dispose of all unused drugs. We were the witness to his flushing those drugs down the toilet aand eventually into the waterways. Just imagine how many times this happens every day. There must be a way to stop this polution.

Clifford Sweeten
Tavares, Fl

Dear FRONTLINE,

Although the information about our water supply is shocking, I am very glad to know that a large group of people are finally accepting responsibility. As a race, we are the main contributors to the destruction of our planet, and we can no longer play the blame game. It is time to come together to save our earth. Together is the only way we are going to achieve anything. The trick now is getting even more people to care. I loved this program. Thank you for teaching me so much.

Bay Village, OH

Dear FRONTLINE,

Hedrick: Thank you for taking the time and effort to tell this story so well. We are all grateful to you for articulating the problem, the challenges, and the need for public engagement. I look forward to the debate to follow.

Christopher Miller
Arlington, VA

Dear FRONTLINE,

I remember digging for claims in the Chesapeake some 40 years ago...you could literally scoop them up by the hands full (my sister and I must have scooped up over 800 clams one afternoon. They were used for huge pots of a spaghetti dinner that evening in the campground. I doubt we could find a dozen clams that were edible today.

As a child, I remember visiting my father at Dupont's Carney's Point plant in southwestern New Jersey. I still have a vision in my mind of a long exhaust pipe blowing orange fumes over a pool of water. The fumes were from sulfuric acid. Even then, as a 7-year-old child, I knew this was a serious problem. The plant made gun powder and nitro-celulose (used to "fluff up" puddings and "Whip and Chill"). Today, the plant is no more and ragweed is planted everywhere to draw lead out of the ground. They had a sister plant called Chambers Works (they made latex paints, CFC refrigerants, and yes, they developed Teflon at this facility).

Sometimes I wonder if we take two steps forward and five steps backward.

50 years later, I better understand the impact these two plants had on the environment and the Delaware River. Further up the river, oil companies cracked oil into gas and other fuels.

Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

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posted april 21, 2009

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