The Federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Tennessee Department of the Environment and Conservation were formed to safeguard our state and nation against wanton desecration of our natural resources and to reverse the legacy of decades of uncontrolled industrial pollution. Our society recognized that we could not continue to destroy this beautiful and blessed country so we endowed these agencies with great power to reverse the situation and prevent it's continuation.
The success by which they accomplished their mission is undeniable when we compare the US to it's former contaminated self or to the present pollution in some other developed countries. The widespread dumping of untreated and often toxic waste into the ground and water systems have long been eliminated. These agencies and their counterparts have been constantly vigilant to ensure that the environment doesn't revert to it's former state.
Unfortunately, as with many good and noble plans, once the task has been accomplished and bought under control, the original goal is perverted to include aspects of everyday life that were never intended when the authority was formed. These agencies are looking to narrower, less defined forms of environmental damage and treating those responsible with the same harshness by meting out punishment intended for the serious toxic polluters.
A case in point, and one effecting communities across the nation is the enforcement of storm water runoff controls and the cost of compliance. These agencies have grown fat and powerful over the years and have begun to consider everyone as a potential polluter and every activity as in need of regulation. If each citizen of the US is graded on their personal level of pollution by the products they consume and dispose of, then every individual is guilty. But no matter how much we recycle or scrub the environment there will always be destruction of nature where large numbers of people live. Where there's lots of people, the environment gets damaged - or at least changed.
The agencies responsible for protecting our natural resources from criminal destruction are now beginning to micro-manage urban communities in the same way they do a national forest or an industrial plant but because the point of pollution is much less easy to identify they now consider each dwelling as a likely source.
A year or so ago a local business, Simpson Construction was fined over $800,000 for igniting fires using used paint thinner. They were told that if they had used gasoline or diesel fuel or almost any other combustible liquid for that matter, they would have been OK, but used paint thinner was considered a pollutant even though after extensive tests no actual pollutants were found. This is a case of environmental protection gone crazy but unfortunately it has become the rule rather than the exception.
Cleveland and Bradley County have now been targeted as a community that are, or have potential to pollute the environment and have been ordered to implement water run-off controls or face stiff penalties. Pollutants now include common soil disturbed by human activity that may be washed into a water system by rain. The residue from motor vehicles washed off roads is now considered a pollutant. Residue washed from roofs, patio slabs and lawns is now being considered a pollutant, in fact, almost everything added to rain during it's fall to earth and it's journey into the water system is considered a pollutant even if it is caused by domesticated animals. Every community in the nation is being targeted not just industrial and commercial producers - every individual will be punished for the pollution they cause in a misguided effort to protect drinking water and the ecosystem.
The problem with the plan is that it is virtually impossible to comply unless we exterminate half the population and return the rest to feudalism. We are a capitalist society, we make stuff, we use it, then we throw it away - like it or not, that's how our system works.
Take the residue washed from the roadway as an example of the hopelessness of the task. As a tire wears, the minute particles of rubber scatter alongside the road and are eventually washed away by rain and end up in the ground or water system. How are we going to stop that happening without having to sell the car to pay for it? What about the oil that we add to the car between oil changes - where does it go and how are we going to collect it before it reaches the environment? Americans are infinitely imaginative so it is possible to overcome any source of pollution if we expend enough effort but are we as a society willing to make the monetary and social sacrifices to achieve the goal.
The new storm water run-off regulations being forced on us are unworkable and potentially economically devastating and should be forcibly rejected by our community leaders before we start down the path of no return. We need some strong leadership to voice our concern to our state and federal representatives and we should instruct our mayor and county executive to lobby their peers in other communities to band together to put a stop to this folly.
This is one mandate we must say no to and we should say that "no" so loud that it shakes the EPA and the DEC to their foundation.