Something stinks in West Virginia

Toxic spills which destroy creation mar the face of God.

By Bruce Day

It was after my walk on a hiking trail, as I was parking to attend a conference, that I saw a most stunning sight. Berry College, in Rome Ga., has the great fortune of being home to a pair of bald eagles. Rather than nest in thousands of undeveloped acreage, these creatures have established their home on the main campus.

A few yards from my parking place, in the tree above me, was one of the eagles. The sight took my breath. What an amazing and unmistakable creature. The conference could wait. This was an opportunity to meditate on the goodness of God.

This experience placed on my heart, again, the thought that it is good and right to care for God’s creation. Christians should be leading the charge to preserve nature and conserve natural resources. Too often, however, Christians are unconcerned about the care of God’s creation or openly hostile to “environmentalism.” Instead, the church has become complicit in the greed and over-consumption that is destroying God’s good earth.

Recently 7,500 gallons of the toxic chemical Crude MCHM leaked into the Elk River near Charleston, W.Va. The chemical contaminated the drinking water of a nine-county area affecting 300,000 persons. Residents were not able to drink, launder or bath in the affected water, bringing to a halt any normal semblance of daily living.

After five days the ban was lifted for residents in most of the affected areas. However, 24 hours later, pregnant women were warned to not consume the water because of the unknown affects it might have on the health of their babies.

A week after the spill, Freedom Industries, which owns the leaking storage tank, filed for bankruptcy as lawsuits against the company began to stack up. Something stinks in West Virginia.

Unfortunately a similar stench exists across our country and around the world. As with Crude MCHM, which is used in cleaning coal, little is known of the risk most chemicals pose to our health and the health of the planet. When the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) was passed in 1976 there were 62,000 known chemicals. Of those, only about 2 percent have been tested by the EPA for health risks to humans. Since the passage of TSCA about 22,000 chemicals have come onto the market about which little information has been provided regarding their potential risks to human health and the environment.

As a child I was warned “not to play with fire.” As an adult I want to scream, “Let’s stop playing with chemicals.” However, to fully investigate chemicals before allowing them on the market would hinder our access to the great volumes of cheap goods we demand.

Despite reassurances from the energy sector, I am still very concerned about the toxic chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. In fracking, highly pressurized water, laced with nontoxic and toxic chemicals, some of which are known to be cancer causing, force oil or natural gas out of shale and into a well for retrieval. About half of the toxic water is also retrieved. There are still no methods for hauling and disposing of this tainted water which everyone agrees is safe.

Often this polluted water is placed deep beneath the surface of the earth in injection wells. It is said that the water that remains in the earth from fracking and the water disposed of in injections wells will not pose a risk to humans or the environment. Yet, how can we know that for sure? I am not convinced that future generations will not be harmed by our blind trust in fracking today.

I remember the threat to the bald eagle in the 1960s and ’70s by the now banned chemical DDT. Had the bald eagle been allowed to become extinct then we and our children and our children’s children would not have the opportunity to connect with God through this magnificent creature. We would have lost sight of the vision of “mounting up with wings as eagles.”
To the degree that we destroy God’s creation we mar the face of God. Christians must embrace the care of God’s creation.

OPINION: Views expressed in Baptist News Global columns and commentaries are solely those of the authors.