Another depressing, necessary story on the interconnectedness of everything from our faith in the Invisible Hand to our all-Ammurcan “right” to cheap food. From the NYTimes:
SEVILLE, Calif. — Like most children, the students at Stone Corral Elementary School here rejoice when the bell rings for recess and delight in christening a classroom pet. But while growing up in this impoverished agricultural community of numbered roads and lush citrus orchards, young people have learned a harsh life lesson: “No tomes el agua!” — “Don’t drink the water!”
Seville, with a population of about 300, is one of dozens of predominantly Latino unincorporated communities in the Central Valley plagued for decades by contaminated drinking water. It is the grim result of more than half a century in which chemical fertilizers, animal wastes, pesticides and other substances have infiltrated aquifers, seeping into the groundwater and eventually into the tap. An estimated 20 percent of small public water systems in Tulare County are unable to meet safe nitrate levels, according to a United Nations representative…
Chris Kemper, the school’s principal, budgets $100 to $500 a month for bottled water. He recalled his astonishment, upon his arrival four years ago, at encountering the “ghost” drinking fountains, shut off to protect students from “weird foggyish water,” as one sixth grader, Jacob Cabrera, put it. Mr. Kemper said he associated such conditions with third world countries. “I always picture it as a laptop a month for the school,” he said of the added cost of water.
Here in Tulare County, one of the country’s leading dairy producers, where animal waste lagoons penetrate the air and soil, most residents rely on groundwater as the source for drinking water. A study by the University of California, Davis, this year estimated that 254,000 people in the Tulare Basin and Salinas Valley, prime agricultural regions with about 2.6 million residents, were at risk for nitrate contamination of their drinking water. Nitrates have been linked to thyroid disease and make infants susceptible to “blue baby syndrome,” a potentially fatal condition that interferes with the blood’s capacity to carry oxygen.
Communities like Seville, where corroded piping runs through a murky irrigation ditch and into a solitary well, are particularly vulnerable to nitrate contamination, lacking financial resources for backup systems. Fertilizer and other chemicals applied to cropland decades ago will continue to affect groundwater for years, according to the Davis study….
No doubt Nick Gillespie can find a Larry Summers lecture to explain that, you know, third-world immigrants don’t care about their kids getting sick from poisoned tap water because otherwise they wouldn’t have taps at all, and besides, have you seen what clean produce costs at Whole Food these days?