Probe: September 25, 2001

September 25, 2001

QUESTION: With all the talk about a chemical or biological attack on the U.S., I am wondering which will be safer, bulk drinking water or city water. Do you know? — Getting Prepared, Cyber Space

If you are going to worry about this, store up some city water now or get a delivery of bulk water. We're not much concerned about it.

It would take an awful lot of pathogens, or disease-causing microbes, to infect every water system in the United States. We think if the terrorists dumped germs in our city reservoirs, the filtration systems and chlorination would get rid of the contamination.

To spread disease-producing pathogens through the water, it would be necessary to inject them directly into treated water.

In any case, we think terrorists would try to infect Los Angeles water before they contaminated the El Centro, Calexico and Brawley systems.


We listened to a few experts on television last weekend who didn't think there was much of a threat. With so much water flowing through Los Angeles pipes, it would take a lot of germs to make anybody sick.

Spreading germs by air would be even tougher. Microbes are delicate little boogers. Our hot dry air would kill the microbes in short order. They don't like hot, humid air, either. They have a better chance in cool, dry air.

The expert consensus was if you sprayed pathogens like anthrax or smallpox virus in the air, it's unlikely anybody would get sick.

Nevertheless, the government is taking all threats seriously. That's why it grounded crop dusters last week.

QUESTION: I have heard that many places near the Persian Gulf have names like Afghanistan and Pakistan that end in "stan." What does "stan" mean? — Curious, El Centro

We can guess it means "land" as in land of the Afghans but we don't know that. We tried calling people we thought would know but they didn't know, either. We even went to the encyclopedia and got lost in the 3,000-year history of that area.

We knew before we started that Iran and Afghanistan are part of the old Persian empire. Today the two countries share a language, Farsi, or Persian.

Since we want to go home, we are going to leave it up to our PROBE readers to tell us what the "stan" in Afghanistan means.

WEATHER UPDATE — People keep asking when this weather is going to break. It's not going to break until the seagulls get here. When the seagulls get here, two more weeks and the weather will be broken. — Rural Weatherman, Seeley

Next time you go to San Diego, spread some corn on your way back to see if you can coax a flock over here.

We told you last week summer is over. Monday morning as we waited for the sun to rise over the house across the street, it was cool.

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