This is Brian Thornburg.

I don’t know about you, but I REALLY take water for granted. OWASA does such a good job keeping our water clean and flowing, I rarely think about how that water gets to my family’s tap when I turn the faucet.

The truth is, most of our water comes to us in the form of rain running to creeks and lakes. Cane Creek and the University Lake watersheds collect rainwater, OWASA cleans and filters it, and then distributes it out to us. I also know that run-off rainwater from our streets is collected too, because there’s a notice on the sewage grate on my curb, along with a cute picture of a fish. The notice says that we shouldn’t put anything bad in that sewage grate, because the water flowing through this grate flows DIRECTLY to the lake.

This picture of natural rain, flowing in rivers and lakes, then making it to our household taps, is mighty comforting . . . until we start talking about the coal ash spill on the Dan River, just north of us in Rockingham County. Tons of burnt ashes from an old Duke Energy coal-fired power plant have flowed out of a mishandled holding dump, and now 70 miles of the Dan River has been coated in a toxic sludge.

Duke Energy seems to be trying really hard to avoid having to clean up the mess, because it’s going to be really expensive and it may keep them from making good stock returns for its investors. Our elected officials should be looking out for US, but that doesn’t seem to be happening in a state where the Governor worked for Duke Energy for 28 years, and Duke Energy put up a lot of money to help get him and some of our current legislature elected.

Now, I know that the Dan River doesn’t supply water to OUR homes, but Duke Energy works in our backyard, too. They have a monopoly on providing electricity to us – and so many others, now that Duke Energy and Progress Energy were allowed to merge into one huge utility. The monopoly should be granted with the understanding that the company works in OUR collective best interests, and not just for investors in the company.

Just a couple of phone calls or emails to your representatives (including the Governor) saying you prefer Duke Energy gets this mess cleaned up now, will help move this bad situation toward a more sensible end. And do it before you pour that next clean glass of water from your tap. I’ll drink to that.