So I live about 50 or so miles from the Mississippi River in Illinois (Galesburg to be specific -- home of Knox College, Carl Sandburg, and a swell Super Wal-Mart). The "River" has never really been a big part of my life -- that I knew of. I've never had to deal with the fear of floods because the closest body of water near me is a man-made lake on the outskirts of town (a lovely man-made lake, don't get me wrong, with several miles of gorgeous bike path perfect for walking or biking or whatever). All of that blissful ignorance changed this week. You see, while I've never really thought much about the Mississippi outside of how pretty it is when I drive over it on the occasions I've gone over to Iowa, the River has played a big part of my life for years, decades.
It's where my freakin' water comes from!
I heard stories over the course of the past few days about flooding in Iowa and thought, "Wow. Sucks to be them. I'm gonna go make some pink lemonade!" None of the reports said anything about Lake Storey, so it wasn't my problem.
Yesterday morning, I was chatting online with a friend of mine who said, "Did you hear Galesburg is under an order to conserve water?" I did a little online investigation (seriously, how did we function without the internet?) and found out that, yes, due to the flooding 50 miles away, we were being asked to conserve water because the plant where our water comes from was in danger of losing power due to the flooding. I honestly sort of shrugged my shoulders as I read the artible, though, because the order was "voluntary" and involved a request not to do stuff like water your lawn, wash your car, or fill your pool. I've never been a big lawn waterer (especially since we had a ton of rain last week which left our grass really green -- and kicked off this flooding!), I can live without washing my car, and I don't have a pool. No problemo!
Until last night.
That's when the boil order was issued. Because the power DID go out at our plant, Galesburg was having to dip into it's supply of well water which, while not contaminated per se, does not meet EPA standards. A boil order means boiling any water (and by "boiling," they mean a rolling boil for five minutes) you will be consuming from the tap or using bottled water. It means you have to use bottled water to brush your teeth. It means not rinsing your vegetables with tap water. I think the one that really got me was the part where it said you COULD shower, but not to open your mouth when showering and to wash your hands in bottled or boiled water when you were done. Do you know how hard it is to NOT open your mouth when you shower? I'm one of those people who, as soon as I step in the shower, the first thing I do is open my mouth. (Which will now always remind me of Charlotte's Mexican shower in the Sex and the City movie -- shudder!)
Unfortunately, it gets worse. Today, I went out to run some errands. I got thirsty. I decided to drive thru Taco Bell to try a reportedly delicious Fruitista Freeze (http://www.tacobell.com/frutistafreeze/) -- the perfect thing for a warm, sunny Wednesday afternoon. I could hardly wait! I pull up to the speaker and there's a sign that says, "Due to the boil order, we are not serving any beverages." The same sign greeted me at my second choice, Dairy Queen. DQ was serving sodas but NOT Mr. Misty's or Moolattes, which is what I was looking for in lieu of the Fruitista Freeze.
WTF? Well, it seems that tap water is used to help power fountain beverages (which I "knew" but forgot). You can't buy a fountain beverage or coffee in town because everyplace uses tap water. Some places are selling cans of soda or pouring from 2-liter bottles, some are using bottled water to make their coffee, but some, like Taco Bell, have just given up the fight and aren't serving ANY beverages. (How can you go to Taco Bell and NOT have a drink??)
This is a nightmare, people! We're a disaster area -- literally! And we're an hour from any flooding!
The moral to this story is not that I'm a whiny brat who can't get a Fruitista Freeze and has to complain about it to the world (although, okay, that's sort of true . . . partially true . . . . totally true). The moral to the story really is just a reminder to all of us that things we DON'T think affect us totally can -- even if they're happening an hour away or a world away. This flooding may affect you down the road, too. Maybe not your water supply but how about the fact that acres and acres of corn and soybeans are destroyed? How about the fact that thousands of pigs and cows have lost their lives in this flooding? As if we're not dealing with soaring grocery prices now . . . get ready, folks. It's going to get worse. And for all of you who are doing the E-85 route to combat the $4-plus price of gas, guess what? E-85 is corn, people!