It is day 43 of my 365 Days of Living Deliberately blog, and the Duke Energy coal ash spill continues to be front and center here in North Carolina and  Virginia.  It certainly is central to my life.

When Ken and I left Ohio and chose to move to Warren County, North Carolina, we made this choice for several reasons.  One was that we met people who felt as if they were old friends the moment we met them, Laura Bennie and Charlie Davis, (camping at Ocracoke Island, part of the Outer Banks).  The second was because of Kerr Lake, one of the most beautiful lakes on the Eastern Seaboard.  For me, camping at and swimming in Kerr Lake is a sacred activity, and now I don’t know if I’ll ever feel safe swimming in it again.  I know that Ken won’t, that our daughter, Kyra, won’t, nor will she allow her baby, Milo, to swim in Kerr Lake now that the water has been polluted with a host of Duke Energy coal ash contaminants.  So, I have been very, very sad thinking about the awful realities that go with such pollution, the reality that whole bodies of water necessary to the lives of millions are polluted with such impunity and that Kyra and Milo will never get to experience the simple joy of swimming in this beautiful, body of water.

I thought of a PBS special on Pete Seeger that I recently watched and how his daughter said that when she was twelve years old, Pete told her that someday when she was grown up, he hoped that they would have cleaned up the PCBs in the Hudson River below their home so that she could swim in it.  Will I be saying the same thing to Milo?

Sometimes living alone here in my cabin in the woods, I can circle in on myself with the weight of what I see, but then I get ahold of myself, wipe my tears, and carry on attempting to promote environmental justice and pollution prevention however I can. It’s better than doing nothing or drowning in my tears.

But I certainly don’t get a bit of consolation from the EPA saying about recent coal ash test results, “To date, none of the finished water samples have shown any detections above Federal Maximum Contaminant Levels.”

I’ve studied how Maximum Contaminant Levels (MCL’s) are set by formulas based on economic costs (minimizing liability for polluters) and how the limits are raised as background pollution increases.  For example, “background” radiation levels have changed as radioactivity has been released into the environment. The following information from

“RADIATION DOSE: Permissible Does Not Mean Safe,” shows how the:

 Chernobyl and Japan Nuclear Disasters Led To DRASTIC INCREASES in “permissible background levels” of radioactive contamination.

 Pre-Chernobyl: 80 to 100 Millirems Per Year

 After Chernobyl: 360 Millirems Per Year

 After Japan: 620 Millirems Per Year

History of Radiation Dose Limits:

Natural Radiation Was Originally 60-80 Millirems Per Year

1964 It Was Raised to 80-100 Millirems Per Year (Secret Fallout by Ernest Sternglass – Pg. 213)

After Chernobyl It Was Raised to 360 Millirems Per Year

By 2009, Americans Were Receiving Radiation Doses Each Year That Doubled Yearly


Radiation Dose Levels

From The 1980s (Reported May 5th, 2009)

Americans (on average) receive more than twice as much radiation each year as in the 1980s, (according to

National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements).

Raising Radiation “Background” Avoids Full and Accurate Disclosure