Monday, June 25, 2007

Today's winner of the Goddamn Idiot Award: Gavin Newsom

The mayor of San Francisco has ordered that the city will no longer provide its employees with bottled water. We'll put aside the economics of the issue, namely that it's a form of compensation for employees like health insurance or paid parking in parking garages, and that when a public official estimates savings, never believe it'll be anywhere near that much.

Just what did Newsom say for me to give him this award? He wrote in his order, "All of this waste and pollution is generated by a product that by objective standards is often inferior to the quality of San Francisco's pristine tap water."

Pristine?!

Who is he kidding? San Francisco consistently ranks with a few other cities at the very bottom of nationwide water quality surveys, always garnering a "poor" rating. The SF Public Utilities Commission tries to pass off this bullshit of "the SFPUC's water met or exceeded federal and state standards for drinking water." But just after bragging about the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir that "the source is so clean and protected that the SFPUC is not required to filter water from [it]," that page glosses over the fact that "Fluoridation, chloramination and corrosion control treatment are provided for the combined Hetch Hetchy and SVWTP water at the Sunol Chloramination and Fluoridation Facilities." If the water from Hetch Hetchy is so good, why bother? Because filtration is only for removing the large stuff, and the water still needs to be disinfected and treated for corrosion. Water might be free of larger particles and in need of no filtration, but I'd hardly call it "pristine" if it needs further treatment.

When my family lived in San Francisco, the water had to be so heavily chlorinated to be "safe" that my father found it undrinkable. My sister and I were young and didn't yet have developed taste buds, so we had no problem. These days, San Francisco uses chloramine instead of chlorine, which doesn't have the taste but is just as bad. I'm hardly a health freak that I worry about pesticides and antibiotics lingering in my food, but goddamn. If people knew what chloramine is and what it can do, they'd never drink tap water again once they found out they ingest it every day.

Then there's the problem of pipes. San Francisco is a city with a lot of old buildings, and a lot of pipes are very corroded. But I guess the rust and minerals add some "texture" to the water, right?

John Stossel and other naysayers think people buy bottled water because it's healthier, but we do it largely because of taste. The house I rent is 20 years old, and between the pipes' corrosion and the local water's high mineral content, the tap water here definitely tastes strange. I'll take Dasani over it, even though Dasani is basically just processed tap water, because Dasani at least tastes normal. Also, I have no idea what water fountain Stossel's cited study chose, but $2 means little to me when it means avoiding the potential health hazard of a public water fountain. Beyond the concerns of pipes and filtration systems, I have no wish to come near the facial and mouth germs of the last person -- or animal, because some people lift up their dogs to drink from fountains.

So Newsom, why don't you give yourself an enema with your "pristine" water, and I'll stick to non-chloraminated bottled water without a putrid green tinge?

2 Comments:

Blogger Steven said...

Funny. Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson is on the same moronic crusade.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007 5:39:00 PM  
Blogger Perry Eidelbus said...

The water in the Salt Lake valley isn't that bad, I thought. It depends on the condition of the pipes in your house and neighborhood, but unless you're in Magna, you might not even need a filter.

But San Francisco water...forget it. Before, it was chlorine to make it safe but unpalatable. Now it's a matter of using enough chloramine to make it safe, palatable and a near-biohazard.

Sunday, July 01, 2007 3:47:00 PM  

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