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"Is Dow Looking for a Payback from the Trump Administration?" That story and more in the latest edition of "This Week in Water"[ Show/Hide Transcript ]

The Same Company Building DAPL Just Spilled 2 Million Gallons of Drilling Fluid into Wetlands

The same company that won the approval of the Trump administration to build the Dakota Access Pipeline has spilled more than 2 million gallons of drilling fluids into wetlands in Ohio. Energy Transfer Partners is building a new 700-mile natural gas pipeline, the Rover, that will run across many states. The company spilled fluid containing bentonite, a chemical that is used in kitty litter. It does not break down in water and is used as a drilling lubricant.

Contrary to a company statement that it was not harmful, a spokesperson for the Ohio EPA told the Columbus Dispatch that the discharges affect water chemistry and potentially suffocate fish and other wildlife. The director of the Ohio Chapter of the Sierra Club told the Dispatch that the company has already had two spills in less than a month and they are concerned about what might happen next.

Is Dow Looking for a Payback from the Trump Administration?

Dow Chemical Company contributed $1 million to help underwrite Trump’s inauguration in January, and it’s chairman is a Trump advisor, and now according to the Associated Press the company is asking the administration to set aside studies that show a family of widely used pesticides are harmful to around 1,800 threatened or endangered species.

Dow and two other companies sent requests to Trump cabinet appointees whose agencies are responsible for enforcing the Endangered Species Act based upon biological evaluations by the EPA. It is expected that those agencies will soon make findings on where the highly toxic pesticides can be used.

Dow argues that the EPA did not follow appropriate scientific standards to conclude the pesticides were dangerous to threatened or endangered species. Scott Pruitt the administrator of the EPA has already said he would reverse the Obama administration’s barring of one of the pesticides in question.

Google Does a Search for More Water in South Carolina

Google has had a data farm in Goose Creek, South Carolina, not far from Charleston for five years and it wants to expand, but it needs more water to cool its servers. The company now takes about 4 million gallons a day from a local utility, but that’s not enough.

Google filed an application with the state to draw 1.5 million gallons a day from the aquifer. If approved, it would become the third largest user of groundwater in 3 counties around Charleston. Google’s application is being opposed by not only residents and conservationists but also by water utility officials according to the Charleston Post and Courier. One item of contention: there currently is no charge for the water from the aquifer.

Google’s request has raised the issue of who owns the water under the ground in the Palm Tree State. And as the state’s population is booming, South Carolina is being challenged to plan groundwater rules to determine who can pump, how much and when.

When Google built its plant in South Carolina, it said one of the reasons was cheap water, but the price there has risen faster than gold or real estate in the last 30 years according to a study.

Should States Charge for Groundwater?

The use of ground water by companies is also attracting attention in Michigan. The Detroit Free Press reports that, while Nestle has been the focus of criticism for its request to expand what it takes and sells in plastic bottles, it is not among the largest extractors of groundwater.

That designation goes to drug giant Pfizer Pharmaceutical. In 2015 the drug company’s manufacturing facility near Kalamazoo took nearly 7 billion gallons from the ground essentially for free.

As in South Carolina, companies’ use of groundwater in Michigan has raised the issue of price. A senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told the Free Press that the UN has recognized water is a human right. But it costs money to deliver water--and people expect it at a low price – much lower than what they pay for cell phones in comparison. However, acute water shortages in the future may lead to public acceptance of tiered pricing with the lowest price based first upon what a family needs and increasing for other users like those who make a profit from the resource.

“I'm Not a Mad Scientist, I'm Absolutely Furious!”

And finally, tens of thousands took to the streets in over 600 cities around the globe to speak up for science. The March for Science, which was planned to coincide with Earth Day, included events “pole to pole” with groups marching from Greenland to Antarctica and covering all 7 continents.

The main event was in Washington DC, but where we are in Denver, a huge crowd turned out to combat what many said was an assault on science by the Trump administration. That’s what brought Josh from Fort Collins to the march who said, "We’re just here showing support for government funded science given all the cuts that are proposed in Washington D.C. right now."

Josh is a physician who works for a government funded lab at Colorado State University which would be directly affected by Trump’s proposed budget that would slash around $7 billion in science funding to the National Institutes of Health. Many came to the march to speak out against an administration that seems anti-science and that denies climate change such as when EPA administrator Scott Pruitt disputed that CO2 is a primary driver of global warming. To Jane Good of Denver, that’s unacceptable and dangerous. She said she was "outraged that choices are being made that will change my life forever and my kid’s life forever because of a lack of education or possibly a lack of caring of what’s right for all of us."

Trump has yet to nominate administrators for NASA and NOAA and doesn’t have his own science adviser, according to the Guardian.

The marchers were a serious group, but they haven’t lost their sense of humor. They carried posters and placards to sometimes slyly—and sometimes directly get their message across, like:

“Less invasions, more equations.”

“I’m not a mad scientist… I’m absolutely furious!”

“Got Polio? Yeah me neither. Thank a scientist.”

“It’s so bad, even introverts are here.”

But the sign we’ll take to heart for the days and weeks ahead read: “Think like a proton—stay positive.” So we’ll do our best to remain optimistic and inspired and see you next week.

Music Credits: The Fixer, Funkygroove  | Qin, Dr.Guonake  | Jah Moon, Sun Ska Riddim Originale  |  Scott Holmes, Cat and Mouse  |  Grégoire Lourme, Rain  |  Creative Commons

Want to hear past episodes? Here are shows from this year and archives from 2016

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