To the Editor:
I was born in a steel town in 1948. When I was 2, we moved to a textile town. I remember my mother telling me that in the steel town, she checked the wind direction before she washed clothes since if the wind was blowing toward our house, the clothes would just get dirty when she hung them out to dry. Growing up in a textile mill town, I remember the creeks running the color of whatever dye was used that day.
The air was unhealthy to breathe in the steel town, and the water was unsafe to contact in the textile town. There were no fish, or pretty much anything else, living in those creeks. A pond downstream from those mills was later declared unsafe for fishing or swimming because of high concentrations of toxic metals.
I lived on the Hudson River for a few years. Indiscriminant dumping of waste to that river had eliminated several profitable fisheries and killed those jobs. PCB releases from a General Electric plant subsequently shut down a profitable striped bass fishery. Acid rain did the same thing to recreational fisheries in Upstate New York lakes.
The creation of the Environmental Protection Agency under a Republican president and subsequent authorization of the Clean Air and Clean Water acts eliminated the worst of those abuses.
Adapting to these and subsequent regulations added costs to these industries and municipalities. What seems to be lost in the conversations are the jobs that were created to develop technologies to prevent the pollution, build the equipment to meet the requirements and monitor the results. Those are real jobs that contribute to the economy.
What is also lost in the current conversation is the improved human health associated with the reduction in air and water pollution. This includes both the reduction in premature deaths and health care costs to treat the diseases caused by bad air and water.
Clean air and water have its own associated industries. What would rural Western North Carolina be without tourism, outdoor recreation and clean-environment related retirees? A recent analysis by WCU showed that tourism alone generated $154 million in spending and produced $27 million in worker income in 2015.
Thank the EPA for our economy while we still have it.