I have to admit, I watched some of the wall-to-wall, commercial-free, all-crisis-all-the time coverage on the Toledo TV channel yesterday. Yes, I have some initial thoughts on the situation. (No time to start disappointing folks now….)
First, as to the acute matter itself. Seems like the mayor and his team are doing a decent job of organizing the tasks involved with distribution of emergency water supplies to the community. I’d like to think the same holds in the suburbs and other communities who get their water from the Toledo supply, though at least on 13 news that does not seem to be noteworthy. Of course, the $64 question is when will the Toledo supply be safe, so that is where the focus understandably remains.
Again, this is solely based on what’s served up by the Toledo media, but it’s also heartening that people in the affected areas, and well outside of it, are pitching in to help and get water to those who need it most. There is only so much any level of government can do, and the success of such an operation inevitably depends on the bulk of the populace being altruistic. Kudos to everyone who’s helping!
One can’t help noting that a few politicians found opportunities to grandstand for votes for themselves and for their party, really grating at a time when affiliation shouldn’t matter. (Yes, Teresa Fedor, I mean you.) On the other hand, while it was doubtful that Governor Kasich had much of a shot at carrying Lucas County before this weekend, his delayed appearance (still pending at this writing) makes it certain that he’ll need to rely on other areas of the state to win a second term.
So what about the origin of the problem and how to remediate the region’s water woes over the longer term? There are multiple factors at play in the worsening of the algal blooms in Lake Erie, which are generating the harmful microcystin toxins. I’m sure there are idiots out there blaming it on global warming, despite this past July having been one of the coolest in memory. The unending stream of organic material deposited into Lake Erie, whether it be runoff from farms into the Maumee and other rivers, overflow from the aging Detroit storm sewage system that can’t handle the rains that it needs to, or other sources, simply has to be addressed. Readers of this blog will not be surprised to learn that I don’t believe this is a matter for intervention by the federales. In fact, I am confident that their heavy hand will only make things worse and more expensive all around.
No, this problem was created in Ohio and Michigan, and the two states need to stop sniping at each other, ‘fess up, sit down, and come to grips with a problem that won’t solve itself. Governors Kasich and Snyder, time to address the root cause before the EPA comes in with jackbooted force. Is it going to cost a lot of money? Yes. Is it going to upset agribusiness? Yes. Will the politicians make enemies? Yes, though arguably fewer that they are managing to create with the current circus.
Finally, while the local TV stations may be reaping a ratings bonanza given the way they have latched on to the crisis, I don’t believe they have served their audience particularly well. Viewers can only take recycling of the same handful of remote reporters at distribution sites, no news to report except that people are still lugging water bladders about, so often before getting tired of it. Same for the consumer reporter breathlessly informing us of price gouging (the fact that jerks will be jerks, even in a civic crisis, should be no news flash) and the meteorologists showing us every ten minutes where the algae are (and where they will probably be next week). Surely many interested viewers gave up on hearing anything new and switched to other fare. Better, I suggest, would be to announce that aside from breaking events like the next mayoral press conference (based on this morning’s performance, perhaps even that doesn’t qualify), the news folks will come on at the top of every, say, four hours with a 30-minute wrap containing only what’s, well, news. They can keep running their crawls across the bottom of the screen screaming, DON’T DRINK THE WATER! as a public service, but as for the blanket coverage, I think every local now knows what the bottom line is—and does not need it intoned every five minutes. Just sayin’….