Summertime is game time. And so, as a summer brain-teaser, I’ve put together a Whatcom County Water Quality Quiz.
That’s one wacky font, right? It means that this is going to be fun!
What, you say that a test is not your idea of fun? Aw, c’mon. No need to worry about test anxiety! Whenever the answer isn’t entirely clear, I’ll build in some subliminal clues.
So let's play!
c. Lake Whatcom
d. Water comes from plastic bottles.
Admit it. When you saw the term “drinking water,” most of you went straight to “Lake Whatcom.”
Tsk, tsk, tsk. Not everybody in Whatcom County is so fortunate as to have a protected watershed that provides for clean and delicious water without filtering. Oh, wait, I’m thinking of New York City, which has decided that “filtration and disinfection are insufficient without preemptive watershed protections.”
Namby-pambies. No wonder nobody wants to live in New York City, with its high rise housing, public transportation, and delicious drinking water. Our major drinking water source, Lake Whatcom, has been on the state’s list of polluted waters for 14 years. We have 6,839 houses in our watershed and the potential for almost 2,000 more.
Don’t know about you, but I’m still alive! The lake still looks good to me! And as we all know, the best way to gauge threats is by whether or not you can see them.
But I digress. The Sumas-Blaine aquifer is the sole readily available source of drinking water (other than plastic bottles) for around 27,000 people. Some have wells, some get their water from community water systems.
Lake Whatcom provides the drinking water for more than 95,000 people, so the aquifer isn’t as big a source. But it’s pretty big – it provides water for between 10 and 15% of Whatcom County’s 200,000-or-so people.
Here’s the aquifer:
2. What percentage of tested wells that rely on the Sumas-Blaine aquifer for drinking water have nitrate levels that don’t meet state drinking water standards?
(a) Drinking water standards are for sissies.
(b) Agenda 21 created drinking water standards because the United Nations wants to control American wells.
(c) Almost a third.
(d) None, because we knew that this was a big problem in the late 1990s, so of course it’s been addressed over the past fifteen years.
The correct answer, of course, is (b). You want proof? Here are just two of the goals of the sinister, socialist Agenda 21:
· “Development of agricultural practices that do not degrade groundwaters;” and
· “Sanitary disposal of excreta and sewage, using appropriate systems to treat waste waters in urban and rural areas”.
Are you outraged? No, I mean: how outraged are you? The very essence of freedom is the right to drink excrement. The United Nations wants to take away our liberty!
Now, some of you may be thinking “who wants to drink poo?” Skeptics, just ask yourselves this:
Did the Founding Fathers have drinking water treatment? Don’t think so!
Oh, and (c) is right, too. Twenty-nine percent of tested wells did not meet state standards for nitrate. One private domestic well had seven times the nitrate concentration allowed by state standards.
As for (d) – Scroll down to “Government Response to Declining Water Quality is Too Little, Too Late” by Dr. Frank James. It was published in Whatcom Watch in 1998.
3. Is Whatcom County using this information in its rural planning, in order to divert residential development away from areas where well water is likely to violate health standards?
b. Of course not.
c. Drinking water standards are for sissies.
d. Property rights.
These are all good answers. But anyone who has played the game in Whatcom County knows that “Property Rights” isn’t just the right answer. It’s the only answer.
4. What county in Washington has the most polluted shellfish growing area?
(a) Wasn’t Whatcom County the winner last year?
(b) Drayton Harbor might have something to do with this.
(c) I think that it’s some county that isn’t Whatcom County.
(d) All of the above.
(Here’s your subliminal clue: The first three answers don’t contradict each other. . ..)
You guessed (d)? You get an A++++!
Drayton Harbor was the most polluted shellfish growing area in Washington in 2010, but it only came in second in 2011. We’re Number Two!
Speaking of Number Two (how’s that for a subliminal clue?):
5. What do the Sumas-Blaine Aquifer and Drayton Harbor have in common?
(a) It’s all the Canadians’ fault.
(c) They both look OK, so there’s no problem.
(d) They’d both be good names for a rock band.
There’s only one right answer to this one.
“Sumas-Blaine Aquifer” would be the worst name ever for a rock band, so (d) goes away immediately.
And we know that (c) can’t be right, because you can’t see the aquifer. That’s part of the problem – out of sight, out of mind.
How about (a)? Well, that’s a bit of a trick answer. The key is the word “all.”
Canada is the source of some of the pollution in the Sumas-Blaine aquifer, which is known as the Abbotsford-Sumas aquifer when we take away the dividing line at the 49th parallel. The aquifer flows in our direction from Canada. On the Canadian side, there are big poultry and raspberry operations that contribute to the nitrate problem.
There used to be an “International Task Force” to bring government officials together to work on solutions, but in times of shrinking budgets, that’s not a high priority. Folks from both sides of the border still get together to talk about issues from time to time.
As for Drayton Harbor –well, if your views on science are based on the comments section in the Bellingham Herald, you would “know” that untreated sewage from Victoria causes the pollution problems in Drayton Harbor.
Canada sends us many things – cross-border shoppers, oil from the tar sands, comedians – but the truth is that we manufacture plenty of our own fecal matter right here on this side of the border. And there are plenty of Made in the U.S.A. delivery systems that deposit our home-grown fecal matter into the Harbor. Check out the Drayton Harbor Fecal Coliform Total Maximum Daily Load report, below, if you have any doubts.
So the answer is (b). Poop.
Sumas-Blaine Aquifer Nitrate Contamination Summary, Washington State Dept. of Ecology, June 2012 (see pages 9 and 19-20).
Status and Trends in Fecal Coliform Pollution in Shellfish Growing Areas of Puget Sound: Year 2011, Washington State Department of Health, June 2012,
Drayton Harbor Watershed Fecal Coliform Total Maximum Daily Load: Phase 1, Washington State Dept. of Ecology, March 2008, p.22
6. Only two state legislative districts in Washington can boast that their elected officials – all three of them (two State Representatives and one State Senator) – received scores of ZERO on Washington Conservation Voters’ 2011-2012 legislative scorecard. One of these districts is the 39th – mostly eastern Skagit and Snohomish counties. What county was in the other legislative district with a ZERO score?
a. Whatcom County (42nd District)
b. Ferry County (7th District)
c. Skamania County (15th District)
d. Garfield County (9th District)
Congratulations to Whatcom County! 42nd District Representatives Vincent Buys and Jason Overstreet joined Senator Doug Ericksen to vote against the environment every time, achieving a score of zero! Take that, Ferry, Skamania, Garfield, and all you other counties in conservative areas of the state! The 42nd has taken over the basement!
That’s a lot of exclamation points. For an achievement of this magnitude, though, I’m not sure that it’s enough exclamation points.
7. Wait, what does Question 6 have to do with water quality?
(a) Nitrates have been proven to cause people to vote for anti-environmental legislators.
(b) Absolutely nothing. Government needs to stay away from our drinking water. There’s a market solution for everything. Anyone who wants fresh, clean, delicious water that doesn’t come out of a bottle can always vote with their feet. If you’re the kind of person who likes that sort of thing, go ahead! Go live in New York City! We don’t need your type around here.
(c) The point is that, if we want to get Whatcom County back to its place as the most-polluted shellfish growing area, and keep its position as the County with the worst nitrate pollution problem, we have to keep electing the guys who are on the job.
(d) As the old saying goes, “Voters get the water quality that they deserve.” There’s a real choice in this November’s 42nd District election for the two state representative positions.
The theory set forth in (a) hasn’t been proven, although it’s an interesting hypothesis.
The problem with (b) is that, if everybody fouls their own nest and moves to New York City, the continent will tip over.
So I guess it comes down to (c) or (d). If the voters of the 42nd choose (c), maybe we’d better start looking seriously into (a).
Now that you've finished the quiz, reward yourself with a refreshing summer drink. Cheers!