Jayson Jacoby
The Baker City Herald

Drinking tap water not the norm in the world

First of all, most of the world never drinks water directly from the tap. This is because it proves more economical to drink bottled water rather than treat, filter and chlorinate water that is going to be used for the garden, flushing toilets, washing clothes, etc. and of which only a small percentage will be consumed. If one doesn't have sufficient cash for bottled water, one can boil water either to set aside or make tea or other beverages.

Let's look at some other options:

1. The easiest option is to add chlorine to the all-purpose water supply. The problem here is that the resulting water is not fit to drink and probably carcinogenic. Like spraying pesticide on crops, it turns out that what is bad for bugs is bad for mammals like humans who share the same underlying biochemistry.

2. Filter the water and/or expose it to ultraviolet radiation. These are not bad ideas. A 0.5-micron block filter will effectively reduce spores like cryptosporidium and giardia and make UV unnecessary. Again, it is vastly more economical to put a filter under the sink that to filter the whole system. Furthermore, the carbon block filter will remove the chlorine from the water, as will a cheaper granulated carbon filter.

3. To really think outside the box, discourage lawns that look like something out of a magazine. The city and university could get active promoting native weeds and other advanced forms of xeriscaping. The savings in consumption could help finance better treatment for drinking water in the high desert.

Something else to keep in mind is that a little of something is probably not the same as a lot when it comes to pathogens. I very much doubt that anyone has gotten sick from laundry or dry dishes washed in Baker water. On the other hand, knocking down a glass of tap water like it was IPA from one of Oregon's famous breweries is probably never a good idea, anywhere in the world - unless fecal elimination in wild and domestic animals can be better controlled. This option, however, may prove less cost-effective than some options already in place.

R. Mack Augenfeld

Baker City

Despite inequality, I'm confident in America's future

"United we stand, divided we fall" is a motto sounded for centuries. It was repeated by our founding fathers; it echoes our own "E Pluribus Unum - Out of Many, One;" and it is mirrored in perhaps our most-repeated phrase "...one nation under God, indivisible..."

Is it serving us well today? I say, "Yes," even though, on the surface, our nation has rarely been more divided and adrift. I say this, because I've seen us work together, producing phenomenal benefits. I've seen our recovery from the Great Depression, our victory over the Axis powers, and the surge in middle-class economic strength during the '50's and '60's.

The American Dream was truly alive. We built the interstate highway system, and a system of great public universities asking very low tuition. Almost everyone prospered, including the wealthy, despite the top marginal income tax rate being over 90 percent.

But then things went downhill. Good-paying jobs were automated or sent off-shore, unions lost their power, and wage rates stagnated, setting up a major redistribution of wealth.

The wealthy had their taxes cut more than in half.Today, the bottom 80 percent of us control a mere 5 percent of our nation's financial wealth. Seventy-two percent of our households are struggling just to get by. Incredible!

Some wealthy folks also invested in ways to turn us against our own government. Today, right-wing think tanks, talk radio, Fox News, email networks, and conspiracy-theory books and videos have taken a severe toll. Repeated messages of fear, hatred, and mis-information are hampering our ability to work together. Some have apparently even chosen to become willfully ignorant of our problems. Denial can seem safer, when any potential government intervention is dreaded (illogically) as a step on the "slippery slope to communism."

So, why am I optimistic? Our magnificent history and the fundamental truth of our unity still shine bright and clear. I'm confident we will somehow come to face our problems together and recognize the vital necessity of our government's central role to "promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity."

Marshall McComb

Baker City

Let's work together to solve the crypto problem

I was a little disappointed by the general mood of the audience at the water meeting Thursday at the high school. It seems there is a lot of anger directed at the city for the cryptosporidium outbreak. Basically, people were stating that water quality is such an important issue and wondering why more precautions were not taken. I think it is important to remind everyone that these decisions were made during city council meetings that were open to the public. Everyone had the opportunity to participate in those meetings or to talk to the council members as the decisions were being made.

We all receive periodic water quality reports. This is another opportunity for people to ask questions and participate in discussions with the city. If this issue is so important, why didn't anyone participate in the decision-making process? Is it right to come along later with accusations if one didn't participate when they had a chance?

I believe that the city made appropriate decisions regarding water quality given the information that they had at the time. We have enjoyed a long history of clean water. They opted for the lower cost UV treatment plan. They opted to keep costs lower by saving the money in advance rather than borrowing the money, a responsible financial decision.

We need to remember, this outbreak affects every member of this community, the city employees and their families are just as affected as the rest of us. If they had known that a crypto outbreak was scheduled for July 2013, they would have made an appropriate decision to protect us from the disease.

Now the facts have changed. We know we have crypto and it is something we will have to monitor closely until the water treatment facility comes online. At this point, it is best if we all work together to determine the best solution to the problem. It is a waste of time and energy to continue with the accusations and finger-pointing. One thing the crowd repeatedly said is, "This is important!" I could not agree more. This is important! Let's work together in a positive way to solve this problem.

Lori Rowland

Baker City