Opinion

Viewpoint

"In his column, insightful editor Jim Larsen suggested that We can all help solve the cow problem with Cow pampers -- huge paper diapers for cows who can't be toilet trained. Now, you might think that our intrepid editor was trying to be humorous again, but he just may have hit on the solution to a little recognized problem. You see, you don't need to drink the water out of that slimy puddle on the edge of the driveway to find out everything you didn't want to know about disease-causing microorganisms that hang out in slimy old mud puddles on the edge of your driveway. It seems a bunch of streams on Whidbey Island have got a problem with a lot of the little creepy crawlies. In 1997, the county health department tested a bunch of streams on Whidbey Island for, among other pollutants, fecal coliform. If you don't know what fecal means, look it up in the dictionary, because I know that Jim Larsen won't print it if I forthrightly explain what fecal means. Anyway, Maxwelton, Ebey, and Freeland streams had the highest levels of bacterial contamination, with levels of fecal coliform over 32 times the state standard, over 11 times the background levels in South Whidbey State Park, and nearly twice that found in Seattle metropolitan area streams. Now, Freeland is an urbanized stream, but both the Ebey and Maxwelton watersheds are agricultural and rural. We don't know for sure that the fecal coliform pollution in Maxwelton Creek was caused by the fecal matter regularly deposited by cows in the extensive wetlands that are grazed in the Maxwelton Valley. After all, there are lots of other potential sources, such as the giant pipeline from Seattle's sewer plant. What? You didn't know that there was a giant sewer pipeline discharging Seattle's extra poop into the creek? It's a very well kept secret. It's such a well kept secret that every time I've looked for it, they hid it just before I found it. And if it isn't the exceedingly well camouflaged sewer pipeline, then maybe it's the huge flocks of migratory waterfowl that just happened to blanket the valley in 1997 when the health department took their samples. Or it could be all the septic tanks in the bustling greater Maxwelton metropolitan area, with its thousands of yuppie residents drinking lattes and then ... er ... contributing to the problem. You don't believe me? Well, it's simply not reasonable to believe that a hundred or more cows pooping directly into wetlands year-round could possibly cause water pollution. After all, they are very scenic and pastoral to look at. The cows, I mean, not the wetlands. The wetlands are just in the way. I mean, we're talking genuine rural character here. Each cow is probably worth one new immigrant a year looking for genuine rural character. Shoot! Get rid of the cows and the real estate market on South Whidbey would collapse and life as we know it would no longer be possible. And even if all that cow poop was to somehow cause even the tiniest little bit of water pollution, not much, 'cause after all, they are OUR cows, Jim Larsen has shown us the way to a win-win solution that can be embraced by everyone in the community. And if we're not going to keep the cows out of the wetlands and streams, cow diapers just might be the next best solution. We just need a good catchy name and slogan for marketing them. Hmmm. How about cowiapers? Or cowampers for cowhoppers? Or has McDonald's already trademarked that slogan? Steve Erickson is a member of WEAN, the Whidbey Environmental Action Network."

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