Review: The Blue Death–Disease, Disaster, and the Water We Drink

5 Star, Disease & Health, Priorities, Water, Energy, Oil, Scarcity
Blue Death
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5.0 out of 5 stars WOW!! Be Very Afraid, Your Drinking Water is NOT Safe

August 21, 2007

Robert D. Morris

I get hit on a lot by authors and publishers, and one out of a hundred “leads” is actually worthwhile. This is such a lead. The author called me (the dumb ones send their stuff to create landfill) and I was absolutely interested in this topic. I list some other books below.

There are two bottom lines to this book:

1) Chlorine cannot kill all threats and causes its own damage. It specifically cannot kill cryptosporidium, which can quickly sicken tens of thousands and kill hundreds.

2) Your drinking water is not safe to drink, there are some things you can do, but on balance, the Nation needs a *major* campaign to salvage its entire drinking water and sewage treatment system.

I really, really, like this book. The author is gifted at presenting important information in an easy to understand and almost poetic manner. He really puts life into history, and urgency into current concerns.

I have a note: 5 stars. Truly EXCITING, gripping at every point.

He taught me the value of meta-analysis, and I am going to migrate that to the EarthGame that we are building with Medard Gabel, the brilliant cohort to Buckminster Fuller, whose forthcoming book, Seven Billion Billionaires, I strongly recommend.

Although I have read and strongly recommend Pandora's Poison: Chlorine, Health, and a New Environmental Strategy, the author does an excellent “snapshot” job of alerting us to the dangers of chlorine by pointing out that Chlorine Gas killed tens of thousands, and that as late as 1974 there was no real understanding of its pathologies, and as recently as 1996, there was no real program to address the many deficiencies of our drinking water supplyl.

I draw from this book early on the importance of NOT privatizing water services. Corporations seeking profit cut corners and are most definitely not interested in reducing the risk of death if it impacts on their bottom line. Throughout the book, one finds that BOTH the corporate sector AND the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) are in a sympiotic relationship intended to increase profits, lower costs, and kill Americans lightly.

The book provides a number of eye-opening facts, a few of which I list here:

1) Cholera is unique to humans and so tests on animals yield nothing.
2) Safe water is not an end but a constant process.
3) Chicago “yards” are the ultimate poisoneer–manure into water is our death bell.
4) As of 1992, USA water distribution is a disaster waiting to happen.
5) Usefully documents how denial and incompetence increased the death tolls time and again, around the world. Hamburg took 33 years to finally realize that it MUST filter its water.
6) I now understand the value of Environemtnal Epidemiology and will try to factor that into the EarthGame. This author does a superb job of making statistics exciting and meaningful.
7) He tars the EPA and other US Government elements for consistently lying to the public for reasons of money and politics. He makes the case for HONEST SCIENCE. See The Republican War on Science
8) He documents the need for real-time data. I am a proponent of 114 and 119 numbers, and believe that all citizens should be able to call in medical symptoms to a central database, e.g. dial 114-D for diahrea, 114-V for vomit.
9) The author is utterly compelling in describing how very hard it is to track down waterborne diseases, this is literally the needle in the haystack problem, where one might find 10 oocysts in a litter of water–ten *transparent* oocysts.
10) Katrina shut down 1200 water treatment plants and 269 sewage treatment plants.
11) Drinking water distribution is every city's weak link; Al Qaeda has studied US water distribution systems (remember, Bin Laden was an engineer), and they KNOW that enough bags of manure into the system post-filtration will do a great deal of damage.
12) Home filtration systems are ESSENTIAL to guarding against contamination, and boiling water is ESSENTIAL at the first sign of a bio-chemical attack through the water distribution system.
13) The author provides a heart-rending account of how cholera killed 60,000 in Zaire in one week, with corpses piled up 2-3 deep along the road, and the feces from the weak survivors running down the hill into the lake to contaminate that water so that many more might die.
14) The USA has up to TEN MILLION cases of waterborne disease each year.
15) The inter-state and inter-agency process related to water (and I surmise, to every other topic) is completely broken.
16) Washington “action” is “a glacier on steroids.”
17) 861 BILLIOIN gallons of SEWAGE go into US rivers in any given year.
18) Bottled water is not only NOT safer or cleaner than tap water, but it costs one thousand times as much, and the water needed to create the throw-away plastic bottle is GREATER than the water contained in the bottle.

The author ends rather quietly, suggesting that dialog, no secrets, and research are needed, and he provides several meritorious recommendations at the end, but I put the book down feeling that my best defense is localized resilience. Neither the federal nor the state not the local governments can be trusted. They have all been corrupted. Until the public realizes that it is drinking poisoned water, one is best off not drinking the water at all.

SUPERB BOOK!!!!! Bravo. See also:
The Health of Nations: Infectious Disease, Environmental Change, and Their Effects on National Security and Development
Betrayal of Trust: The Collapse of Global Public Health
Diet for a Small Planet

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