The Washington Canard
Where C-SPAN is the local TV news

Sunday, July 22, 2007
 
WATER, WATER, EVERY WHERE, NOR ANY DROP THAT WON'T KILL YOU

I'm a fan of Penn & Teller's Showtime series "Bullshit!" (which I would rather was the nation's preeminent showcase for libertarian ideas, certainly compared to the gold standard-obsessings of Tim's candidate).

One of their best non-ideological shows from the first season -- perhaps based on this venerable Anil Dash post -- focused on the fact that there's no reason to believe bottled water is any better than tap water. As the show demonstrated, most people can't tell the difference. The only problem was they shot their taste test in New York City, which is known for its great water quality, especially among big cities. I, however, live in Washington, DC, where they say the tap water kills houseplants.

And even if I didn't come from the Pacific Northwest (can I get a shout-out for the Bull Run Watershed?) I would still testify that the water here is absolutely heinous.

This is one area of the country where I wouldn't look down (too much) on someone for buying flats of bottled water at Costco. I have actually seen this, and while I prefer the less-expensive Brita solution, at least I get it. (In my building, some people get office-style water cooler jugs delivered.)

So I am actually inclined to respond positively to an e-mail solicitation to blog about an Environmental Working Group study about high levels of chlorine in the District water supply:
These results illustrate the tremendous difficulties that water utilities face when trying to provide tap water that is free of potentially deadly bacteria and pathogens, yet not contaminated with toxic by-products of the chemicals used to kill these same microbes. This problem is particularly acute when utilities draw water from poorly protected water sources like the Potomac River. As recently reported in the Washington Post, the Potomac may not even be suitable for swimming; turning this water into safe drinking water is a serious public health challenge.
Now that I think about it, there was that GWU student who died after jumping into the Tidal Basin...

Interests of balance, if not careful reading, compel me to include this from the Washington Post's coverage of the EWG report:
Washington Aqueduct General Manager Thomas P. Jacobus said the latest study results are what he would have expected and were probably temporary. He stressed that D.C. water meets EPA safety standards because test results for the concentration of chlorination compounds are averaged over the year.
This may be true, but the water here is still bad. As a former lifeguard, I can tell you that chlorine is pretty heinous stuff (though useful if little children will be taking lessons at your facility) but I have no clue if DC's (allegedly) deadly agua has to do with the chlorination of the water. And though I expect that I would disagree with the policy solutions favored by this EWG, again, the water here is seriously awful.

Blog P.I. that I am, I couldn't help summoning the oracle to see if I could find out a little more about who was doing the solicitation, someone named Amanda Hanley. One of the first Google hits revealed that she donated more than $11,000 during the 2006 campaign cycle.

And for a self-employed writer, wow, she's been handing over a lot of scratch to political committees and candidates. She's listed on the staff page, accompanied by a small but promising photograph, as their web communications director.

Well-off, attractive and into web outreach? I think I might like to meet this girl.

UPDATE: From the comments... the blogger Hanley is not the loaded Amanda Hanley! The political contributions sounded right, but that wasn't exactly proof. Mea culpa.

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