Monthly Archives: March 2016

Why Is My Water Brown?

Glass of water 2-19-16

Since my blog post on February 24, concerning my murky brown water, I am no closer to an answer as to why it continues to be the color that it is. See that post  here: We Are All Flint Michigan

Before I continue with this blog post, though, I feel compelled, as I did in my last  undrinkable water post, to once again protect myself:

All data and information provided in this blog post are for informational purposes only. I make no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, currentness, suitability, or validity of any information in this blog post and will not be liable for any errors, omissions, or delays in this information or any losses, injuries, or damages arising from its display or use. All information is provided on an as-is basis.  

Now I am ready to blast off.

To state it nicely, my water is unacceptable.

Here is my question.

Who is to blame and why hasn’t sufficient money been spent to improve a fundamental need—and a human right—which is clean and drinkable water?

And sorry, but I don’t feel the government’s pain when they say they are out of money. And I blame both the Democrats and the Republicans for my brown and undrinkable water situation.

Since my last blog post, I have purchased a 10-cup Zero Water filtration system which seems to work well. I have been using the filtered water for coffee and boiling but will stick to Poland Spring for drinking.

I have also diligently continued my research as to why certain contaminants deemed unsafe in our drinking water remain unregulated by the EPA.

And more importantly, I have been researching so see if those contaminants are lurking in my dark brown and undrinkable water. And make no mistake about it, my research results have been fairly frightening.

To add insult to injury, my water company insists that:

There are State and Federal water quality standards that allow certain levels of “contaminants” to be present in the water.  I must stress that Nassau County Department of Health has strict regulatory oversight of the public water systems and that the water delivered to the county residents meets all drinking water standards.”

Huh? Thank you for your assurances, water company, but if all of the above is true, please explain why my water is brown?

I would like to share a recent example of people thinking their water is safe to drink based on testing and state assurances and then found out otherwise.

The New York Times had an article on Tuesday, March 15, regarding tainted water in Vermont and New York.

Here are the cliff notes:

In recent weeks, several private wells in North Bennington Vermont have tested positive for the industrial chemical perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA. This contaminant has been linked to cancer, thyroid and heart disease, serious pregnancy complications, and birth defects, making North Bennington the latest in a growing list of American communities unsettled by a contaminated water scare.

PFOA was also discovered in the public drinking water in the village of Hoosick Falls, N.Y., prompting residents to rely on bottled water amid charges that the state took far too long to respond to the problem. It was also found in public wells in Petersburgh, N.Y., the site of a plastics factory south of Hoosick Falls.

Not surprising to me, the state of New York has repeatedly assured citizens of Hoosick Falls that their water was safe.

And last week, as environmental officials in New York and Vermont searched for other potentially contaminated areas, officials in Merrimack, N.H., announced that PFOA had been discovered there as well.

And the number of people found to be drinking water tainted by PFOA is almost certain to grow.

PFOA was once used to manufacture non-stick pans, microwaveable popcorn wrappers, and Gore-Tex boots— and practically anything that is non-stick, stain-resistant or water-repellent. But the health effects PFOA causes and the way it spreads and contaminates are not well understood.

In August of 2015, the nonprofit organization, Environmental Working Group, found that the EPA’s “safe” level of PFOA is possibly thousands of times too weak, and has been detected in 94 public water systems in 27 states, serving nearly seven million people. http://www.ewg.org/research/teflon-chemical-harmful-smallest-doses/pfoa-found-94-public-water-systems-27-states

And even more alarming was that when I checked out which 27 states had PFOA in their water, New York was one of them.

And guess what? It turns out that my county—Nassau—via the Town of Hempstead Water District, serving 110,000 people, has PFOA in its water.

Does that mean my water contains PFOA?    

And get a load of this:

Even though New York State was advised that there were concerning levels of PFOA present in the water going back as far as 2005, they claim that no one did anything about it because PFOA was and remains an unregulated EPA contaminant.

Sounds to me like someone is trying to pass the buck.

And according to scientists, even as the chemical PFOA continues to contaminate water across the country, government agencies, from local health departments to the federal EPA, have yet to grapple with the full extent of the problem, or what it will take to clean it up.

It doesn’t take a scientist to tell me that the EPA needs to lower the level at which it says water containing PFOA is safe to drink. ASAP.

I mean come on already. Can the EPA assure me that my water, which may or may not contain PFOA, is safe to drink? And can my water company give me the same assurance?

Is anyone accountable here?

And now that I’m on a roll, here is something else I want to share:

When I had my hot water heater and pipes flushed out a couple of weeks ago, the company I used—Hot Water Plus—told me that they usually offer a 60-day clear water guarantee. Oh, but not in my neighborhood.

Maybe my water company can give me some insight as to why not?

And speaking of my water company, I recently noticed a water main flushing advertisement in my local paper, letting customers know that New York American Water is preparing to flush the water mains in its distribution system to help them provide us with high-quality water service.

Oh, and by the way, customers may experience discolored water. The flushing will take place Monday through Friday between 4/11 and 4/21—a whopping nine days.

I can only imagine what color my water will look like after they flush.

The advertisement also suggested we go to their website and view our water quality report. Except that, one needs to be a rocket scientist to read and understand it.

Here is what I have to say to my water company: Based on your claims, that the water delivered to my county residents may meet all drinking water standards, but that doesn’t mean it is safe and/or drinkable.

Many state officials, including New York, have suggested that the absence of strong guidelines from the EPA is at fault for the tainted water problems residents all over the country have recently uncovered.

And yet many of those residents had to aggressively push their local governments to look into the situation—instead of the other way around.

Our local government is responsible for managing and delivering a range of quality services to their communities, including drinkable water, correct?

The American water crisis is an example of government failure, unpreparedness, intransigence, inaction, delay, denial and environmental injustice.

But never underestimate the power of citizen engagement and our ability to speak out and protest against government inaction.

Thankfully there are concerned Americans out there who are willing to question and challenge government leadership.

And thanks also to a free press, the watchdogs who uncover the injustices and shout it out to the masses.

As is the case with all other economic and social injustices, Shakespeare said it best: “The fault, dear Brutus is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.”

Goodbye—Not Sorry, Seems to Be the Hardest Word

Goodbye A

I have always been overly obsessed with listening to my favorite melancholy tunes over and over again, never tiring of the songs, the words or my morose reaction. I once asked my college music theory professor about why certain songs hit me so hard, and he said it involved some level of hypothetical observation—a musical conversation, and in all probability caused by a chemical reaction in my brain.

Chemical or not, I have always loved the Elton John song, Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word. Each and every time I listen to the lyrics, they just break my heart. And each and every time I cried to the words, I always imagined that the questions asked in the song must have been formulated with an incredibly precious someone in mind.

What have I got to do to make you love me?
What have I got to do to make you care?
What do I do when lightning strikes me?
And I wake to find that you’re not there?
What have I got to do to make you want me?
What have I got to do to be heard?
What do I say when it’s all over?
Sorry seems to be the hardest word.
It’s sad, so sad.
It’s a sad, sad situation.
And it’s getting more and more absurd.
It’s sad, so sad
Why can’t we talk it over?
Oh it seems to me
That sorry seems to be the hardest word.

Elton John’s heartbreaking lyrics could have been written for anyone—a friend, a lover, a parent, a child.

In my mind, the years of crying and analyzing those lyrics over and over again reinforced for me the realization that I can love someone, but it doesn’t mean that person has to love me back. And I might want to talk it over, but that only works if there is someone on the other side who cares enough to listen.

Yesterday when I turned my car radio on, those sorrowful words and song I had long ago emotionally analyzed and conquered, served as an instant and profound epiphany.

Sorry may seem to be the hardest word, but in actuality goodbye is even harder.

Because sometimes sorry just isn’t enough. You can beg someone for their forgiveness, but they can refuse to forgive. Or forget. Sorry in their mind doesn’t cut it.

So what then?

Do you hang in there? Try to make them love you? Try to make them listen? Try to talk it over?

Bend over backward and kiss up to them even though you feel unfairly judged? Keep silent when you have words rattling around in your head ready to be spilled and spelled out?

Do you jump through hoops to find that loving place you once shared when deep down inside, you know it’s lost forever?

And are there any last words left to say to save forever?

No, because sometimes there is only one word left to say—and that’s goodbye.

And that is indeed a sad, sad situation.

My Chavah

Esther

Rummaging through some boxes buried in the corner of a closet yesterday, I found a dossier of my earlier writings. It was a treasure trove of poems, plays, and short stories I had long ago forgotten about. It seems that everywhere I organize these days, files and files of writings of yore keep popping up. I wrote the short story below back in 1996.

My Chavah’s favorite holiday was Purim and she was obsessed with Esther. As I helped to dress her for the Purim celebration, she excitedly told me the story of how Esther became Queen of Persia.

For several years, she had insisted on dressing up as Queen Esther. This year would be no different—except that we were celebrating Purim in Tel Aviv, where a grand celebration and best costume contest was being held. Chavah was determined to look her Esther best and win.

And she certainly looked beautiful that day. Dressed in royal blue satin, she looked every bit the Jewish heroine she portrayed. Her crown of gold glitter sat regally and securely on her long, cascading black hair, despite her vigorously waving the matching scepter in the surrounding air.

While I braided her thick, silky hair, Chavah chattered on in triumphant animation. “Twenty-five years ago in ancient Persia, the King was not happy with his disobedient wife Vashti, so he held a beauty pageant in search of his true love. Esther was chosen, became Queen and then saved all the Jews of Persia from death. And they called the festival to celebrate the courage of Esther and the safety of the Jewish people Purim!”

Her lovely face was full of excitement as we put the final touches on her hair and makeup. Gazing into her dark eyes, I was filled with an overwhelming feeling of love and warmth.

“We’ll call her Chavah,” I told my husband Ari the day she was born. Meaning “breath of life,” Chavah was the wife of Adam—the first woman on earth. The mother of all living. And I suppose like any other new mother, I fervently prayed to God for a blessed life for my newborn child.

It was obvious from the beginning that Chavah was uniquely full of vitality and soul, an irrefutable gift from God. She was nurturing, kind, sensitive, motherly, otherworldly and wise beyond her years. And it wasn’t just my opinion. Our entire family reveled in the blessing that was Chavah.

As she twirled around in her full-skirted gown, my mind wandered to the day when Itzhak, our handyman, was working in our house, repairing a bookshelf. It toppled over and the shelf and books came crashing down on him. “Chavah came running into the room to help me up,” Itzhak reminisced. “That’s when she noticed my arm.”

Itzhak had spent many years in a Jewish ghetto and three years in a concentration camp as a young boy. His identifying numbers had been burned into his arm—a lifelong reminder that he was both a victim and a survivor, and that he was a Jew. “She touched my forearm with such tenderness, tracing the numbers with her little fingers. When I looked up at her, tears welled in her eyes as she softly said: “Blessed is the match.” “I looked at her shocked, for her words were the first few of a poem that I could never forget.”

Itzhak explained to me that the poem was written during the Nazi occupation of Europe by the Jewish freedom fighter Hanna Senesch. Hanna was a 23-year old woman, who was tortured then murdered by the Nazis for rescuing Hungarian Jews. According to Itzhak Hanna’s poetry was revered and loved throughout Israel, a reminder of the struggle to liberate the Jewish people and to build a Jewish state. I had no idea that Chavah knew of Hana Senesch let alone her poem.

“She recited it word for word,” Itzhak told me incredulously and repeated it to me as he had heard it from her.

Blessed is the match consumed in the kindling flame.
Blessed is the flame that burns in the heart’s secret places.
Blessed is the heart with strength to stop its beating for honor’s sake.
Blessed is the match consumed in the kindling flame.

Ari’s love for Israel and his desire to emigrate increased with Chavah’s birth. We spent every summer there, each trip richer in experience than the one before. A magnificent country of lush green, built on dunes of desert and sand. The dream of a homeland, concentrated in a space the size of New Jersey, its national anthem sadly titled “Hatikvah,” The Hope.

While I cherished our summers in Israel, I felt ambivalent about moving there. My friends and family were all in New York, and making new acquaintances was never my forte. I also worried about Chavah—and what would be best for her. In usual Chavah fashion, she wanted what I wanted, even though her choice would have been to move to Israel.

Israel was in her heart and in her blood. She appreciated everything about it. The stone mosaic promenade stretching along the Mediterranean Sea in Tel Aviv, the Judean Desert, and the Tower of David in the Old City of Jerusalem were but a few of her revered places.

I will never forget the summer we climbed Masada, the mountaintop fortress made of desert rock more than 1,600 feet high where Jews became martyrs. The three of us climbed it with intense determination. I recalled thinking back then that, as a child of only nine years, Chavah had incredible endurance and stamina. In the brutal heat of August, we watched the sun seemingly rise directly out of the Dead Sea. The fiery orange ball lit the dark sky over an eerie sea of nothing. The Dead Sea was the brightest green I had ever seen—so majestically beautiful yet so devoid of life.

I found Chavah high among the clouds, in the ancient ruins of the Masada Temple, on her knees, eyes closed, her face tilted up toward the sun’s scorching rays. A hazy light enveloped her, creating an ethereal halo all around her. She prayed so diligently, so wholeheartedly. Never one for prayer, I knew at that moment that she was exceptional. The thought actually crossed my mind that Chavah and God had formed a remarkable bond between them that might possibly be stronger than any bond we as her family would ever have with her.

In the end, Ari’s desire to emigrate was stronger than my fear of leaving friends and family. So we left Flatbush for Israel, making a permanent home in Tel Aviv. Our apartment overlooked the Mediterranean Sea that my Chavah loved so dearly, and we quickly assimilated into life in the ancient and glorious land.

It was a perfect day for the Purim festival. The sun was shining brightly, the weather warm and pleasant. The square was brimming with young children dressed in brightly colored costumes. The crowd was singing and dancing in celebration of the festival. The stores were bustling with people, and the streets were filled with joy and laughter.

“Ima, Ima, look here,” Chavah gleefully shouted to me from across the square. I gazed at her lovingly and smiled as I waved, full of immense pride and pleasure.

And then my eyes moved a mere foot away from her to a young man in his early twenties. My eyes locked on his. In that split second, I knew why he was there. As if looking down at the scene from above, and in excruciatingly slow motion, I howled Chavah’s name. My voice sounded dull and guttural, like a phonograph record being played at the wrong speed.

As I began to sprint toward Chavah, he pressed something in his hand and I knew life would never be the same for us again. “NOOOOOO,” I roared helplessly, the same sluggish, growling tone spewing from my mouth.

Then he imploded, bits and pieces of flesh and metal hurtling everywhere. Something solid and sharp blew into my chest and blood spurted from me.  I felt nothing—until I saw my beloved Chavah, one leg missing, her crown and matching scepter next to where her head should have been. Ravaged by pain—piercing, excruciating, unbearable pain, I heard a woman screaming. The wailing was horrific, heartbreaking. In my disordered state, the thought kept crashing through my tortured mind that it was impossible someone could feel more pain than me.

It was then, as I cradled the shattered dismembered body of my beloved Chavah, that I realized the screaming was mine.

NOTE: The above short story written back in 1996 was prompted by an actual event. On March 4, 1996, on the eve of Purim, Hamas murdered 14 Israelis, children, and adults, and wounded 130 in a terrorist attack in Tel Aviv. In watching an interview with a mother who lost her young daughter, I was haunted by her words, her loss, and her unrecoverable heartbreak. The attack was the fourth suicide bombing in Israel in nine days, bringing the death toll during that span to over 60. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KwkNTvxs9Lw