The environmental chatter this week has been shocking. Headlining the news was the water debacle in Flint, Michigan that challenged the public’s perception of tap water, for good reason. The local government in Flint rerouted the town’s water supply to save money, and in turn allowed lead to corrode pipes and pollute the tap water. Things went terribly wrong when people developed rashes, hair loss and other serious reactions to the lead while officials urged the water was safe. It wasn’t safe and it still isn’t.
The Flint water crisis reminds us of this everyday resource we take for granted, water. Of all of the water on this Earth, only one percent is available as fresh water in rivers, lakes, and aquifers for all ecosystem needs including public consumption, agriculture, wildlife and plant life. Over 70 percent of the water used by humans is used for agricultural purposes. And fresh clean water is becoming a scarce commodity, especially here in Texas. We may have water on the ground now, but that won’t always be the case. How quickly we forget when our lake levels were at record lows in 2014.
So is Dallas’ water safe to drink? Dallas’ tap water is derived from multiple above ground sources including the Trinity River and surrounding lakes. Dallas Water Utilities provides a yearly water quality report listing the average amounts of contaminants found in our water supply. Contaminants are always there at some levels, except for lead, there should never be any lead. The most recent report published in 2014, shows, “Dallas water meets or exceeds all State and Federal requirements for water quality, and is safe to drink.” But when’s the last time you tested your own water? Or tested the bottle water you drink?
The other chatter that’s resurfacing in the Dallas area this past week, the plastic bag debate. Let’s recap: January 2015, a five cent bag fee was enacted in Dallas. The minimal fee lasted a few short lived months before being overturned, giving everyone back their free plastic bags in the grocery store. But the story lives on and the punch line is… the plastic bag fight is brewing back.
This past Thursday, in the historic Texas Theatre (one of only 18 bars in the Dallas area that recycles their glass bottles), located in Oak Cliff, four panelists spoke on the Plastic Bag issue and the City of Dallas’ Zero Waste Initiative. Panelists included Corey Troiani, Texas Campaign for the Environment, Murray Myers, City of Dallas Zero Waste Manager, Dwaine Caraway, Former Dallas Councilman and Former Mayor, and Scott Griggs, Dallas City Councilman. Scott Griggs spoke on how the plastic ban evolved and dissolved but ultimately filled the room with a positive tone for the future. Griggs went beyond the plastic bags and envisioned our city as a leader in environmental stewardship by saying, “Let’s pass an outright ban on styrofoam in this city.”
Dwaine Caraway spoke impassioned about how he was the last to jump on the environmental and recycling band wagon but today he understands the importance and is putting forth maximum effort to bring the plastic bag discussion back to the table. Speaking to a small crowd inside the theatre brought together by Earth Day Texas for their EDMo series, it was obvious the crowd already understand the importance of recycling. How do we engage the people, like Caraway once was, that are against recycling? Caraway described what made him finally become empowered to fight for the environment, “When we first started talking about it I was undereducated about it. The more I listened, learned, and experienced, I got excited and was finally convinced that it was time for me as a leader to lead by example.”
The initial bag fee may not have held on, but it brought the plastic bag issue to the forefront, and set a precedence that Dallas is pushing to be a leader in sustainability. More people were educated about the environmental impacts of plastic bags and many have enacted change even without the ordinance in effect. When the plastic bag debate comes back in full force, hopefully more people will have discovered the importance small decisions like using reusable bags, can have on our city, and our environment.
As seen in the Katy Trail Weekly front page last week: