The Oil Spill and Our Future

By Jim vonMeier
Right now, the spotlight is on the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  Obviously, no one wanted this to happen in the first place, and no one wants it to continue, but people will give different reasons why it needs to be stopped.  Some are worried that it will drive up the cost of gas (which it will); others see the pictures of oil-soaked birds and say innocent animals are dying.  Still others say their summer vacations at the Louisiana beach will be ruined. 
Regardless of the reasons people give, most do not realize how far into the future and widespread this damage is going to reach.  Even if it were stopped today and BP provided the 20+ billion dollars to help restore the region, the reality is that no amount of money is going to fix it, at least in our lifetime.
The damage is already hitting me in Minnesota.  I like shrimp, but the cost of these tasty little morsels has already gone up $2 a pound.  In Louisiana, people are canceling their vacations to the beaches. But the damage won’t be limited to the Gulf Coast, because the current will push that oil all the way around Florida and up the East Coast.  That will not only hurt the Atlantic fishing industry, but their tourism industry as well.     
The sad part is that we already had a solution to this problem more than thirty years ago: solar panels and tax credits for alternative forms of energy, proposed during President Carter’s administration. Unfortunately, the solution was short-lived, and many quickly abandoned these alternatives.
We ignored the oil/energy crisis; instead of building smaller, more energy-efficient homes and business buildings, we put up huge glass and steel monstrosities because they were attractive and all those windows allowed a better view.  We bought bigger and more powerful SUVs and glossy pick-up trucks.  At the same time, we put solar, wind, fuel cell and battery technology on the back shelf.          
The President at the time (Regan), reassured America that this was a good thing, because it was what we needed; but maybe, just maybe, if he had kept those tax breaks in place, there would have been enough incentive for us “little guys,” to come up with efficient alternative energy sources, and we wouldn’t have more than 50,000 barrels of crude oil pumping into our ocean today.   
Unfortunately, that is one of the negative effects of big business…the corporations sell what they have available and not necessarily what is the best solution—and because they have a lot of money, they can use that cash to influence the politicians who make the choices. The politicians, in turn, push big business’ products while stifling the competition. 
But the oil disaster isn’t the only crisis we are facing; our water quality and supplies are in serious jeopardy, the public just hasn’t heard that much about it.  Just as there were alternatives available then, there are currently alternatives that can help our situation now.
Large-scale treatment facilities are big business, and, like any big company, the goal is to get as many customers/sales as possible Just like the energy industry, however, these companies don’t always look beyond their year-end earnings report.  The massive discharges from our sewage treatment facilities are contaminating our lakes, rivers, and oceans.  And, because most facilities operate on the “take it from local sources and flush it downriver to the ocean” process, our aquifers are suffering. 
But you already hold the solution—a septic system.  When properly designed, installed, and maintained it will not only treat wastewater better, it will also return water to the aquifer where it originated.  
Every week, I get emails from homeowners around the country asking how to fight the big-pipe projects; two weeks ago, when I got a technical question from a woman who lives on one of the many barrier islands off the East Coast, I assumed this was the case.  So I answered her question, but I continued to tell her what would happen if the projects didn’t stop: over-development, environmental damage, depleting her local water supplies, etc.  
She responded to me and said, “You don’t understand, this project is already underway.  It was started a few years ago and is now about two-thirds done, but you are wrong on your timetable.  You said we would start seeing the problems in five to seven years.  Guess what? Everything you said would happen already has begun; the development, the tax increases, our wells…and it isn’t even completed yet!”     
This is a worldwide problem, but it is those of you in the industry who can fix it.  These homeowners who are calling me should be contacting you…or you should be contacting them before these projects get started.  I can help you fight them, but to be honest, often by the time I get the call, it is too late and they have already spent a huge amount of money on their environmental impact and engineering studies. 
The Gulf oil spill is the main focus in the media right now, but we (you) can use this environmental tragedy to show the world that big business is not always the answer…the small family-owned businesses can often fix things better, faster, and cheaper.   
Jim vonMeier performs educational programs directed at homeowners, teaching them the health and environmental need for proper septic systems and how to find a certified septic professional to inspect/design/install/maintain their systems.  He has also represented homeowners in their fights against public sewer projects and speaks at contractor programs around the country on the subject of customer service. He can be contacted at 763-856-3800 or      

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