An article by a contributing editor follows up on the idea that maybe sustainable cities are not so sustainable after all. Also, in our 2/12/2013 Sludge Report, you were introduced to the Coalition for Property Rights. Here is their latest member communication on water wars and eminent domain.
Why are septic systems always under assault? They are portrayed by the media and the environmentalists as direct pipes of “poop” flowing into our drinking water. This is of course wrong. No proper studies have ever proved this but there is no amount of logic that seems to deter the constant onslaught of attacks. Maybe it’s time for a different approach.
It does not matter whether you are a creationist or an evolutionist, the earth is old, and it has a history, from which we can and should learn. For this learning exercise, let’s separate the planet’s history into two segments. The first segment covers its beginning to a period up to about 1,000 years ago. The second segment covers the last 1,000 years. It is during this first period of our earth’s history that you need to ask the question, where did every living animal including humans place their waste? The obvious and logical answer is on or in the ground – the earth itself. We can even look back to Biblical times where in the Book of Deuteronomy (23:12-13), we find a reference of God’s instructions to the Israelites, “You shall have a place outside the camp, and you shall go out to it. And you shall have a trowel with your tools, and when you sit down outside, you shall dig a hole with it and turn back and cover up your excrement.” The first septic system! But, God adds that you should be outside of your camp, and that further instruction also has significance.
The first conclusion one must come to is that the earth must have a mechanism, a “design,” that can accommodate the animals and humans who inhabit its space. When waste is placed in the earth, it returns as humans do, to dust. For thousands of years, this design has worked well, providing both a repository for animal and human waste and serving as a cleansing agent to protect water – things required to sustain life. I am comforted also by the fact that our own Federal EPA also agrees with God. They state, “onsite systems as potentially viable, low-cost, long-term, decentralized approaches to waste water treatment if they are planned, designed, installed and operated and maintained properly.” So how then did the tables turn and in the last 1,000 years, every human become an enemy of the environment? Again, look to the Bible for a clue. We are instructed to move out of our densely populated camp and spread it out. It does not tell us to dig a central hole in the middle of the camp and concentrate all the excrement into one place, as happens in high density cities.
The last 1,000 years has been accompanied by a movement of humans from rural life to villages, then towns, then cities. To examine this time period further, the cities have become huge centers of population with extremely high densities. This migration to cities had good motives. At first, it was for agriculture and protection. Later, it helped promote standard of living based on manufacturing centers. It’s interesting that in the last 1,000 years, the movement to high density population centers, has been accompanied by adding to our vocabulary the terms “pollution” or “environmental damage”. It seems that as human or even animals are packed together, we receive a vast array of unwelcome benefits – high crime, the rapid spread of infectious diseases and our least favorite environmentalist problem, pollution. So why is it that what worked well since the beginning of our earth’s creation is suddenly the cause of a major environmental problem? Add to this thought process, the additional question – why do we find a growing agenda to move everyone away from rural living to larger cities?
You may not agree that there is an agenda out there for migration to cities but you should be aware that the State of Florida alone owns over 9 million acres. That is twenty one percent of the State and it is estimated that our Federal Government owns thirty percent of the land in the United States. Environmentalists want more, as much as they can get. Florida Forever, one of those groups has joined with 1,000 Friends of Florida, a conglomerate of environmental organizations, to petition and place a State of Florida Constitutional Amendment on our ballot, which if passed, would force the legislators of our State to allocate on a permanent annual basis, $500 million dollars a year for the continued acquisition of State land. Many might initially conclude that all of the land grabbing is good. Without it, we would not have our nature’s preserves, our park systems, our trails, and the open space for our tourists to enjoy. And for most part, that has been true up to now. However, we must not ride the pendulum to the other extreme and think that everyone who owns land and uses a septic system is somehow a polluter. Why then is it wrong to push people close together and spend our State’s precious and limited resources on more land?
Cities today are going broke. Their municipal treatment plants run at capacity. If you have a septic system, there is little hope of ever connecting to any treatment facilities. And when a problem occurs such as a municipal equipment failure, raw untreated excrement is often channeled directly to our waterways. Our biased media does not report this but it is happening with alarming regularity. Due to the strategy of “density is good,” our problems result in millions of gallons of untreated waste entering our eco-system every year. Remember the last 1,000 years? Well, our cities are constructed with aging infrastructures and many still rely on wooden, clay or iron piping. Even concrete piping has a finite life span, cracking and leaking as our earth still moves. Estimates are that as much as forty percent of all untreated waste never reaches the treatment facilities. Is this not a more serious problem than properly installed and dispersed septic systems? How can corroding city infrastructures be ignored by the same groups of environmentally conscious people?
It is not the environmental movement that is wrong here, it is their logic. It is that they are too quick to pass blame, to look for low hanging fruit and vilify the homeowners who have rural septic systems. “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?”. This is more great advice from above. The plank is those who claim to speak for the rivers, and refuse to consider that maybe it is the growing cities and their crumbling infrastructures that should become the focus of their work. The proof is no one can show any credible scientific evidence that rural or semi-rural septic systems are the real problem with our environment. To complicate our lives further, we have stripped our rivers and lakes of the very shore line vegetation that our earth’s design intended to clean our water. With our rivers and lakes moving under control of “Management Districts,” your very resources are now no longer under your control and being given away or sold for commercial gain. Whatever happed to the individual property rights that each of us have as home owners in Florida?
Isn’t it time for both common sense and science to prevail. If saving the environment is the goal, let’s make sure all parties are pursuing the correct problem. It seems far more sensible to ask our citizens and legislators to direct $500 million a year back to cities to upgrade aging infrastructures than it does to allocate funds for buying even more land.