Letters from the Issue of March 14, 2002

University of Miami administrators called for downfield interference

The Sierra Club hopes that county commissioners, whom we elected to protect our public health and environment against the ravages of profiteering corporations, will request a report on the cost of building a filtration plant to replace a ruined aquifer, along with the yearly operating expenses so ratepayers can learn just how much their bills may increase.

Rock-mining permits should not be issued until after the ongoing three-year study (in which Mr. Shiver places such confidence) and any necessary ordinances to safeguard the county's water supply are put in place. The rock miners already have permits for ten years of mining. Mr. Shiver and Mayor Alex Penelas should be far more concerned about "unfairness" to the county's citizens than to the limestone corporations.

Barbara J. Lange, Everglades co-chair

Sierra Club

Coconut Grove

Grandpa, What Was Water Like?

Well, kiddo, you won't believe this but people actually used to drink it: A measure of a society is what it chooses to protect. By this standard, jeopardizing the natural quality of our drinking water to coddle the rock-mining industry speaks volumes about us, volumes that will tell our story to future generations. Our children, grandchildren, and their progeny will pay a steep price for all we have taken for granted and abused. One way or another, nature in all its unpredictability will have the last word.

Although South Florida and Miami-Dade County in particular are not the only places to risk the safety of drinking water, we are unique in that all of us stand, literally, a few feet above the aquifer that holds our water, gradually moving south from Lake Okeechobee through prehistoric limestone formations, filled with voids, holes, and caverns. While the seepage of toxins into deep aquifers is a long and slow process in most other industrialized parts of the nation, what we put on the ground today can be in our drinking water tomorrow.

The bigger picture, of course, is that our faith in engineering and technology to protect our health is nearly absolute. Our hubris puts us right at the top of doomed. Never mind the cast of characters Jim DeFede chooses to put in today's spotlight. Tomorrow no one will remember them.

There is more than a little that is sad and familiar about the plans to expand excavation of rock pits at the edge of the Everglades. Just recall that the freshest water in America once flowed ceaselessly down the Miami River, nourishing thousands of years of native civilization.

Unless our elected officials take action, we taxpayers are going to foot the bill for an industry, rock mining, that supports turning a cheap commodity, drinking water, into an expensive one. Count all the costs of rock mining if you can: destruction of the Everglades, loss of drinking-water quality, threats to our health and impacts to our quality of life because this industry is right in the middle of the worst sprawl in the nation.

Jim DeFede is no tree hugger, and you don't have to be a bird lover to be sick at heart. It's your drinking water, stupid. So here is a positive thing you can do: Call your county commissioner and Mayor Alex Penelas today. Ask if they agree that the measure of a society is what it chooses to protect. Ask them about protecting our drinking water. Ask them about using our aquifers to dispose of municipal waste. Ask them about using our aquifers to store polluted water. Tell them you are going to call ten friends and that each of them is going to call ten friends, all of whom will call and ask you the same questions. Then ask our elected officials if they think they can get away with the slow-motion murder of our quality of life and still be re-elected.

My guess is you won't get anywhere with them. Why? Because as far as they're concerned, no one who counts is paying attention.

Alan Farago

Sierra Club Miami Group

Coral Gables

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