Before the Surgeon General’s Warning advised people about the dangers of tobacco, a handful of scientists were hired by the tobacco industry to deny impacts on health. They went against scientific consensus and lobbied to have an opposing point of view with equal airtime. They insisted that facts be presented as opinion, to which they could counter with willful misinformation to instill doubt in the public.
The same scenario unfolded when the harmful effects of DDT were discovered, and again in the arena of climate change. A few scientists hired by those with special interests have positioned themselves against the consensus that global warming is caused by human activity.
On a smaller and local scale, it plays out again with the issue of Capitol Lake. One scientist, David Milne, has challenged the Department of Ecology’s well-qualified scientists who have determined that the Fifth Avenue dam causes Clean Water Act violations. He claims that Capitol Lake is one of the healthiest lakes in Thurston County, yet it is the only one that has been closed to swimming since 1985.
Jonathon Frodge, who holds a Ph.D. in fisheries, water quality and aquatic ecology and is a past-president of the Washington Lakes Protection Association, reviewed Milne’s work and found many flaws and unsubstantiated claims. Milne has been unreceptive to feedback or criticism and continues to misinform the public.
The state has an obligation to comply with the Clean Water Act. It is time to separate opinion from scientific fact and act responsibly.