Orange you glad I didn’t say arsenic?: It’s common practice among Michigan’s fruit and vegetable processors to spray their untreated wastewater, heavy with sugars and salts, onto nearby fields. After years of putting up with the spraying, nearby residents are complaining that large processors like Birds Eye, Welch Juice, and Minute Maid (owned by Coke) are destroying groundwater with their fruity funk. Scientists say that too much fruit and vegetable waste strips the oxygen from soil, concentrating metals and arsenic that leaches into groundwater.
What does that mean for nearby residents? Tap water that glows a strange shade of orange, dyes their bathtubs, and turns eggs black when they’re boiled. Mmm.
State officials tell residents that there’s no health danger, even though the levels of arsenic, lead and other metals in the drinking water exceed federal standards. [And the water's dark orange. Hello?] Residents who discover that their wells are contaminated find that the state and the companies have known about the problem for a decade or more. When pushed to investigate, the state may take years – one government spokesperson argued that while they have to enforce the law, they don’t want to put the processors out of business – and even when they’re cited, companies fail to change their practices. Meanwhile, local governments consider spending millions to upgrade water systems and extend municipal water lines to residents with unusable wells. That’s generous and all, but if it’s Birds Eye’s problem, why isn’t the company footing the bill? (Detroit Free Press)