Protect our soil and water

To the editor:
What we don’t know might hurt us. Consider the plight of successful dairy farmer, Art Schaap, from New Mexico. For years he watered his crops and livestock from deep wells on his property. He never realized that the fire retardant chemicals used by the neighboring air force base were leaching into the Ogallala Aquifer below. Recently, his water was tested for chemicals in the PFAS family. One well tested 171 times above the established limit. Suddenly, he is unable to sell his milk or his livestock due to the contamination. Even his soil is affected, seriously depressing the value of his land. (See “Till the Cows Come Home”
There are thousands of man-made chemicals in our world today. Many were approved long before we had any knowledge of their harm to living things. Yet they find their way into our soil and water resources undetected because we assume them to be safe and thus aren’t testing for their presence. We need to do more than cross our fingers and hope our ground and surface water in southwest Michigan isn’t causing us harm.
There are many actions we can take to address this risk. One that is easy to miss in Michigan is septic system upkeep. We are the only state in the country that lacks a requirement for mandatory septic cleaning. And regardless of how your waste is treated; (private septic or municipal system), we all need to avoid dumping unwanted chemicals and medications down the drain. Some chemicals get past even our best filtering systems. And a septic system that fails is very expensive to replace.
I encourage you to learn more and do more. If it’s been more than three years, get your septic cleaned out. Attend the program Wednesday evening March 20th sponsored by the St. Joseph County Conservation District about maintaining septic systems. (269-467-6336 x5) Collect unwanted chemicals and plan to deliver them to the St. Joseph County Fairgrounds on April 13th during the Household Hazardous Waste Collection and Recycling event sponsored by the County Solid Waste Committee. (If you are not from St. Joseph County, find out what your county offers.) Take great care when using chemicals to treat your lawn or garden or find non-toxic alternatives. Let’s all take part in solutions to protect our soil and water.
Carol Higgins
Mendon Township

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