In a very interesting NY Times magazine article about wastewater treatment (no, really, it is worth reading), I came across this passage:
And then there are those whose first, and final, reaction is “yuck.”
“Why the hell do we have to drink our own sewage?” asks Muriel Watson, a retired schoolteacher who sat on a California water-reuse task force and founded the Revolting Grandmas to fight potable reuse. She toured the Orange County plant but came away unsatisfied. “It’s not the sun and the sky and a roaring river crashing into rocks” — nature’s way of purifying water. “It’s just equipment.”
Yes, gut-based, instead of reality-based science. Unfortunately for the Revolting One, there is this thing called data (italics mine):
It’s one of the many pardoxes of indirect potable reuse that the water leaving the plant in Fountain Valley is far cleaner than the water that it mingles with. Yes, the water entering the sewage-treatment plant in Fountain Valley is 100 percent wastewater and has a T.D.S. — a measure of water purity, T.D.S. stands for total dissolved solids and refers to the amount of trace elements in the water — of 1,000 parts per million. But after microfiltration and reverse osmosis, the T.D.S. is down to 30. (Poland Spring water has a T.D.S. of between 35 and 46.) By contrast, the “raw” water in the Anaheim basins has a T.D.S. of 600.
If everything in the Fountain Valley plant is in perfect working order, its finished water will contain no detectable levels of bacteria, pharmaceuticals or agricultural and industrial chemicals. The same can be said of very few water sources in this country. But once the Fountain Valley water mingles with the county’s other sources, its purity goes downhill. Filtering it through sand and gravel removes some contaminants, but it also adds bacteria (not necessarily harmful, and local utilities will eventually knock them out them with chlorine) and possibly pharmaceuticals.
In other words, nature messes up the expensively reclaimed water.
So why is this very clean water ‘recontaminated’? Because of ninnies like Watson. I’ve always despised naturalist arguments: untreatable sepsis infections, tooth decay, and death during child birth are also ‘natural.’ What’s worse is that many times the ‘naturalist’ viewpoint is anything but natural. Water that comes out of the tap isn’t ‘natural’; in most municipalities, it’s treated and filtered.
Or we could just completely drain all the groundwater aquifers….