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Please begin with an informative title:

My life got very complicated this year right after the holidays. I've spent a lot of time in Orlando dealing with my family and that means being in the same room with Republicans. If I'm not in Orlando, I'm communicating through text messages, Facebook messages or Skype.

My rules are simple, if you don't want to talk about politics or religion, then don't bring it up; because if you bring it up, I will speak my mind. I've been able to head off most blow ups for the most part, but there are regular digs. Sometimes the conservative mind set mystifyies me.

Yesterday, I remarked that I was concerned about the drinking water in the areas affected by Duke Energy's Coal Ash pollution. Duke Energy operates in the Orlando and other Florida regions, so talk about Duke Energy is going to catch some interest.

After working in health care and seeing the results of things like effects of second hand smoke, and mesothelioma in retired A/C technicians and Viet Nam vets dealing with Agent Orange aftereffects; I'm concerned about what coal ash with chromium, arsenic, lead and mercury in the drinking water can do to people 5-20 years from now.

Predictably, I was called out for fear mongering.

The first attack was over my mentioning of second hand smoke. No one thought second hand smoke or third hand smoke was a problem in the 60s & 70s. We know better now that it is a health problem. I see a correlation with Duke Energy's coal ash pollution. We won't have the facts on coal ash polluted NC water for years, but what about the other unlined coal ash ponds? Duke's position that cleaning up the mess is too costly is reprehensible. Threatening higher electric bills is a cheap shot. It's a lousy, false choice to choose between higher electric bills in the near future or die an early death if you are the winner in the pollution killer sweepstakes. My attacker (a long haul truck driver) scoffed that the water was dangerous - just like many scoffed at the dangers of tobacco early on in the 60s.

He called me a hypocrite because I support legalizing marijuana.

I drink it [the water] with no problem. That is funny. You bring up second hand smoke. You want to legalize dope and that is worse than cigarettes.
Well, a lot of the conservatives I've been dealing with lately aren't the best and brightest conservatives; but they do know how to create a scene. I could've said pot is less dangerous than tobacco or alcohol and backed it up, but that's not why I favor legalizing pot. What I did say was something like:
We're getting off topic here. Your distracting comment over my support for legalizing and taxing marijuana has nothing to do with water pollution. That said, we have proof that prohibition did not work for alcohol and we have no reason to believe prohibition will work for marijuana. I'm stating that a known water pollution spill is highly likely to lead to arsenic, lead, mercury and chromium in the ground water and that those are known health hazards. I'm also asserting that the coal ash sludge will kill any wild life that gets coated with the stuff if it can't get it off.

It was difficult for him to let go of a good distraction and we batted back and forth a few rounds. I could almost see the ideas coursing through his head. He thought he had a winner on the pot thing, but I wanted to stay on North Carolina's coal ash pollution. I was looking for a polite exit, then, Ah Ha! The light bulb illuminated over his head.

California! I read that pot farming in California is screwing up the water there! Dope is as bad a water polluter as coal ash! And, I still stand by drinking the water. It was fine the last time I drove through there!
Oh! SNAP! ....except it's not much of a snap. So much for the polite exit. I'm done with being nice, this guy is as bad as a thread hijacker, and yeah, my tone wasn't nice either.
You're closer to the topic of water pollution, but you are still distracting away from a conversation about coal ash in the Dan River. You're confusing illegal water diversion during California's drought with water pollution from a burst, unlined coal ash pond right next to the Dan River in North Carolina. California's illegal pot growing operations are taking water away from the rivers where Salmon spawn, which I admit, isn't good. The illegal farmers don't care about the water, they care about getting busted for drugs, so they want to get their grow done as fast as possible and make a quick exit. The water isn't polluted so much as stolen. However, if pot was legal, regulated, and grown with normal farming efficiencies, the water theft problem would diminish. So, now what does water theft in California have to do with coal ash heavy metals leaching into North Carolina's ground water?

When faced with a pointed request to return to water pollution in North Carolina, this right winger opted for the punt. He clung to and spouted out his "winning" argument. So he spoke twice as loud and more slowly and said.

Pot brings on serious health problems that far worse for you than any polluted river.
Sigh. One of the hazards (benefits?) of teaching public health specifically the Determinates of Public Health course to college students is that I stay on top of a lot of statistics. One one of my students presented a comparison of pot, alcohol and tobacco and I have the stats down.
You know, it seems the only way we're going to get back to the unlined coal ash ponds in North Carolina potentially killing people down the road is to talk about pot. In the U.S. tobacco is linked to 400,000 deaths per year and alcohol kills more than 80,000 people per year. The direct death rate of pot overdoses is zero, but there are cases of people getting high then falling off a balcony. How many deaths of this type is nearly impossible to quantify, but the CDC did admit to 26 associated deaths between 1999 and 2007 before they removed that stat from their web site for political reasons. How can you think a death ratio of 26 out of 2.6 billion is worse than 400 thousand out of 317 million? And, more to my point, unsafe drinking water is associated with 3.4 million deaths world wide every year. That's a ratio of 3.4 million out of 7 billion. I don't see pot as deadly as water pollution. Anyway, I need to get some water, I'll be back.

And, I got up and went to the kitchen. I know I did not change this troll's mind, but I got a good vent on and started thinking about where I was going to go. My sister mentioned she was running out of milk and that looked like a winner to me, but my escape was interrupted.

The second line of bunk came in the form of a concern troll. She followed me to the kitchen and when we got there she said/asked:

I don't understand this. I was always under the assumption that the water we drink goes through a filtration system before it becomes our drinking water. We do not get it straight from the source. Oh, by the way, my kid lives in NC and they are just fine.
Her friend who was listening said,
I have a friend who lost a baby because of the drinking water on Camp Le Juene. Now she is fighting for her life as she has cancer and also has no thyroid. Sometimes the shoe doesn't drop for many years after the event. I hope and pray that my children do not come down with any health issues due to the fact that I fed my children that same tainted water.
This woman is by no means a liberal, but I do see common ground with Republican mothers when it comes to things like food and safety. Once you cut through the noise.
Camp Lejeune (I had to pause and remember). That pollution occurred from the 1950s to the 1980s and we're still paying for that pollution. Your child is just fine now, but how will she/he be in 5 or 10 years? Water pollution doesn't always make you sick right away. If you look at the energy companies involved in pollution cases, the cause and effect is hard to detect because of the 2, 5 or 10 year or longer time frame.

She was ready for this one.

I don't believe that. In 5 or 10 years any health problem could come from anywhere. You can't blame water from 5-10 years ago on some sickness today. Any of a hundred things could be the cause. How can anyone pin point someone's drinking water from 10 years ago to be the cause of someone's cancer today?
You know, of the reasons it's so hard to get through to people is that they choose what they want to believe. I've spent 4 months immersed with this group and I've heard all manner of BS. So, I wasn't really surprised to hear this one.
We just mentioned Camp Lejeune. The incidence rates for specific inllnesses and specific types of cancer clue health surveillance experts when something is off. There are current claims from the Camp Lejeune pollution supposedly solved over 25 years ago. Remember Hinkley, California? You know, Erin Brockovich? The settlement of over $300 million? That happened 20 years ago,and it took years to "prove". Worse, Pacific Electric & Gas didn't clean up the toxins and it's spread. Now people who moved 4 miles away from the toxic wells have to move again. Look at the Parr's of Texas. They were just awarded $2.9 million from the energy company that polluted the air and water around their private property.

It was hard, but I didn't roll my eyes when she said,

But it wasn't the energy company's well. The water coming out of their well should have been fine and if it wasn't, it's their [the Parrs] fault for not testing their private well water.
I was done being nice to this one too.
Come on! You live in Florida. You know how aquifers work. The ground water aquifers are shared by hundreds of square miles. The Parrs got the pollution, but no gain from the horizontal drilling and failing containment wells less than 1,000 feet from their property. The Texas agency in charge headed by a Republican, daughter of an oil family, didn't see a problem. It was a problem. A big problem and that's the people you vote for. People who don't see problems.

She repeated herself and said,

Not every Republican is like that. We have families too and want to be safe too. Sometimes you have to trust the government to do what's right for us. I always believed the water was safe to drink. It's crazy to believe the government won't take care of water, they drink it too!
These last 4 months of almost daily interactions with conservatives I've come to realize when you hear a "progressive" idea come out of their mouths, you are about to embark upon a trip through really convoluted thinking. At any rate, don't believe them. I stopped and thought about what she said and what she had said over the last few months.
That's an interesting idea. I agree, I expect my government to keep our water supply safe, but I have to ask how you can expect that? I've listened to you clearly say you only vote for people who want to starve our government of money and resources. You resent regulations calling them intrusive unless they limit abortion, but that type of intrusiveness is fine with you. You've said you vote for people who deny climate change, deny dangers of fracking, and anyone who hates the state and federal EPA. These people put like minded people in charge who will fail in their core duty because they don't believe the climate is changing, fracking poisons water or the EPA has the right to keep pollution from happening. So ,why...how can you have any expectation the water is safe? State and federal EPAs are "government" programs?

Then I had had enough. I looked up and saw my sister with her purse, my purse and keys in hand pointing to the door.

You know, don't answer that. I can guess what you're about to say. I have a milk run.

As we got in the car, my sister mentioned in passing that she liked having me around because I say the things she won't. I gave her the best imitation of my mother's disapproving "look".

Predictably, she laughed.

"Hey! I have to live here. You're only visiting this town. At least I got you out of there this time."

I took a deep breath.

Will they take it out on you? Will they stop taking you to the doctor when I'm not here? Will they let your house fall apart if we're not here to fix it?

She chuckled, "No, they're too Christian for that."

I groaned and kept driving.
And, life goes on, for now.


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