Protecting our water. Preserving our future.

Behind the Rhetoric of the Toledo Water Crisis

Behind the Rhetoric of the Toledo Water Crisis

After over 400,000 people were without safe drinking water for over two days in one of Ohio’s largest cities, did anyone feel any better after Governor Kasich’s statement during his obligatory visit to Toledo: “What’s more important than water? Water’s about life.”

Plain, simple, true, and grossly misleading. Because those who know the facts of what is happening in Ohio can clearly see that Governor Kasich does not care about the water. What Kasich cares about is Kasich, getting re-elected, and pleasing his corporate sponsors to fulfill his political aspirations.

One doesn’t have to look too deeply to find the truth about how little the Governor cares about Ohio’s water. Instead of slowing the onslaught of the destructive, temporary and toxic industry of horizontal hydraulic fracturing (fracking) that is destroying millions of gallons a day of Ohio’s freshwater, Governor Kasich has allowed Ohio to become the dumping ground of choice for the fracking industry operating in Ohio and other states, which can pollute and radioactively poison even larger amounts of Ohio’s surface and ground water.

In a startling regressive move, Kasich allowed SB310 to pass into law to “freeze” renewable energy standards. This put Ohio on the skids for necessary measures to promote the state’s renewable energy industry, showing potential investors that Ohio is not the place to invest for the growing renewable energy market. Such industries create permanent jobs rather than the touted temporary, toxic frack jobs that have yet to substantially materialize.

By discouraging renewables and encouraging fracking, Kasich has put Ohio on the fast track to economic and environmental stagnation if not degradation. With the encouragement of the fracking frenzy and the complete dismantling of regulations to encourage frack waste to come to Ohio from other states for cheap disposal, it is evident Kasich does not care about protecting water at all. Combine this with the growth of the factory farm industry and increasing agricultural runoff that continues to proliferate throughout the state despite the fact that it’s the leading contributor to phosphorus loads, algae’s favorite food. Even though token legislation was passed earlier this year, supposedly to address this issue, it was glaringly short of regulatory authority or meaningful oversight and even ignored other major contributors to the problem, such as spreading of manure, especially on frozen ground. With extreme weather conditions predicted to increase due to global climate change, torrential downpours cause toxic run-offs from farms and storm water and sewage overflows. Deforestation and clear-cutting for farming and fracking have removed trees that cool the soil for better rain absorption and lessen flooding.

When Kasich went fishing on Lake Erie last month to showcase the lake and take credit for token agreements to deal with invasive species, he avoided the toxic algae problem that is perhaps even more detrimental to the lucrative fishing and recreational industries in the area. Add to that the potential for decrease in property values on Lake Erie, Ohio’s crown jewel of commerce, recreation and specialty agriculture. What becomes apparent is that safe water is necessary to increase property values, attract future investment and grow the state’s net worth. Instead, Governor Kasich is gambling with Ohio’s future, serving short-term corporate interests over Ohio’s long-term economic health.

After looking at just some of the facts, now let’s look at the rhetoric that downplays and deflects the truth of this defining moment for Ohio. Unlike years ago when the Cuyahoga River caught fire, Ohioans cannot expect that any meaningful regulation or significant legislation will actually be enacted to deal directly with this issue. Instead, now we have a new meme – the “algal bloom season,” priming people with some expectation that this will happen again. In fact, Toledo’s Mayor Collins said, “Let’s be realistic; we know it’s going to intensify.” Despite the fact that it costs local water rate payers and Ohio taxpayers millions of dollars in additional cost to test, treat and remove the algae from drinking water, we are being told that we may just have to accept it and adapt. This is a way to “normalize” an unacceptable situation and even leads people to expect it to happen again. This rhetoric takes the heat off the corporations and allows politicians to escape accountability. What becomes apparent is that if the water is to be protected, the people will have to do it for themselves. If we do not hold corporations and elected officials accountable by exercising our vote, then our water will continue to be exploited for private profit at our personal cost.

Take a look at the water privatizing profiteers and how they put their spin on the water situation, deflecting corporate criticism while blaming individuals for adding fertilizer to their lawns rather than their cronies who create the much larger problem. Let’s look at the big picture ourselves since the corporate media is not doing a good job of getting to the root of the matter. Note the self-serving profit-driven initiatives brought by ALEC to write legislation, using the influence of money invested by wealthy people like the Koch Brothers (who have investments in bottled water among many others). Add to that the Supreme Court’s decisions to allow corporations even more political influence by legalizing huge corporate campaign donations to influence politicians and purchase elections. Add to that a trusting, gullible public believing in the democratic process, thinking their best interests are actually represented in Columbus, Ohio and Washington DC. As a result, we have the untenable situation of private corporations reaping huge profits by externalizing their true costs onto the public, kicking the can down the road, knowing taxpayers will have to pay to clean up their mess, just as we are now doing in Toledo.

Right now, there are more than 20 new factory farms that will probably be allowed to be built in Paulding County. As long as the root cause is covered up and the voting populace can be lulled into thinking that they have it all handled for us in Columbus, the growing influence of money in politics will only result in a worsening environmental and economic situation in Ohio.

If large corporations decided to fool voters with rhetoric to place blame upon Ohio residents themselves to create guilt for the very problems corporations create, increase revenue and earnings by externalizing their true costs to operate upon the public, create fears of shortages to increase prices, promote privatization by bankrupting municipalities, and entice desperate job seekers with false employment promises in a depressed economic situation, all basically to pressure the public to bow to the private corporate agenda, they couldn’t do a better job. And they couldn’t have a more willing advocate than Governor Kasich with his political appointees. Most people do not realize that Craig Butler has inadequate credentials to head the Ohio EPA unless being a yes-man to the Governor is a credential. And how did the head of the Ohio Turnpike Commission, Richard Hodges, ever become qualified to lead the Ohio Department of Health, especially during this time of public health threat, unless being a member of the GOP and the Governor’s favored son is a credential?

We started the FreshWater Accountability Project in Ohio because we saw the alarming effects of the lack of legislation and actual de-regulation taking place in Ohio and how it would directly impact our water supplies and water safety in the future. We see the root cause in the compromised legislature due to corporate campaign contributions and commensurate compromise of the politically-appointed heads of the regulatory agencies. Unless Ohioans themselves act to protect their water, it will not happen by our taxpayer-supported legislators and regulators in Columbus. Don’t take the blame for all of it, our fellow Ohioans. Yes, there is a little bit all of us can do to make a difference. But to make the biggest difference, it is time to hold the corporations and self-serving profiteers accountable for their short-sighted greed at the long-term expense of all of us. We can do so by voting in November to show Governor Kasich has put his eggs in the wrong basket. He should be caring more about Ohio’s long-term economic and environmental viability and less about his corporate campaign contributors and future political career.

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