Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Back in the glory days, when sewage ran free

The Gazette's letters page is usually good for a chuckle, but once in a while someone writes in with such a zinger that you just have to share it. That happened this morning when J T Fanning of Woodland Park wrote in to say

I kind of get a kick out of the screaming headlines that appear over and over again about sewage running into Fountain Creek (“44,400 gallons of sewage flows into creeks,” Metro, Jan. 6).

I was ready for a real anti-government diatribe using words like "nanny state" and suggesting a free market solution where if Pueblo didn't like sewage coming down the creek, it could pay to stop it. But then J T got all wistful:

When I was young, my friends and I would raft or tube in the Arkansas River (this was in the late 50s and 60s, there wasn't such a thing as a rafting business). The raft or tube of choice was usually a truck- or tractor-size inner tube. A trip through Pueblo on the Arkansas (before construction of the Pueblo Dam) was a sundrenched and very leisurely affair; no white water, but it did have a hazard that one had to keep very alert for. Every so often one would encounter a massive steel pipe jutting out of the bank, and just as often one would find oneself arching over one's tube so as not to make contact with what was actually a sea of sewage that ran for hundreds of yards, bank to bank, as Pueblo sent its residents' waste down the river to its neighbors, intentionally and regularly. That was normal and acceptable. My how times change.

True, things have changed. In 1972 the clean water act was passed, making spills and sludge pipes punishable by law, and allocating grants to smaller towns to pay for treatment plants. Both Pueblo and Colorado Springs benefited from these and now all of the Arkansas is "swimmable and fishable."
You'd think a guy who used to arch his back to not touch the water would be a champion of these laws. Instead, with a sort of Norman Rockwell "those were the good ol' days" sigh, he says it's no big deal.

Today's tubers (and kayakers) who frequent downtown Pueblo might not want to swallow that argument.


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