Last night at her concert in Washington, D.C., Lorde might as well have announced that she is patient zero in a yet-to-be-named viral plague that will surely soon sweep the planet. What she really said was that she took a dip in the city’s Potomac River.
“I was lying in the Potomac River…I love to swim in the water where I’m playing, it makes me feel like I know you a bit better, somehow,” the singer announced to an audibly and visibly horrified crowd.
What worries me more than Lorde’s body’s current pH levels, which is now a legitimate concern, are the mental states of the D.C. audience members that received the news of her District dip. One Twitter user at the concert described the crowd as “in shambles,” while another said the crowd cried out in “horror and disgust.” (A friend who was at the show described the crowd reaction as ‘more of a guffaw’, or like an ‘oh no why did u do that,’ than a full booing.) The above video shows the crowd at first cheering at the mention of the river—but when Lorde clarifies that she swam in it, a tsunami of confused murmurs and jeers fills the arena.
Perhaps in New Zealand, where Lorde grew up, swimming in local bodies of water is an idyllic summer activity—one that gives peace and joy. But as someone who grew up in the nation’s capital and neighboring Maryland, both places through which the Potomac River runs, I can assure you that the only things that particular river can give you is dysentery and cholera. In fact, the river’s official conservancy group has a “report card” for the river and gives it a solid B-. And while I doubt Lorde checked that out before her plunge, someone might understandably think that B- isn’t all that bad. But a spokesperson for Potomac Conservancy told Jezebel that while the river, like Lorde, “is in the middle of a comeback…it remains too polluted for safe swimming.” The spox added that she hoped Lorde can help “spread the word about how we can make the Potomac a swimmable and fishable river—perhaps, in time for her next tour!”
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I would recommend to Lorde that while on her Solar Power tour in the U.S. she should avoid swimming in local bodies of water. According to a report published earlier this year by the Environmental Integrity Project, 51 percent of rivers, streams, and creeks in the country are too polluted to swim in, and the same goes for 55 percent of our lakes, ponds, and reservoirs. In some places in the U.S., oftentimes cities and counties with majority Black populations, even the water systems are unsafe to even drink from. That is currently the case in Jackson, Mississippi, where the mayor just signed an emergency declaration warning that “the city cannot produce enough water to fight fires, to reliably flush toilets, and to meet other critical needs.”
It seems like Lorde has a little time off before her next show in mid-September, so it might be in her best interest to go for a routine medical checkup. Though, like our rivers, our healthcare system isn’t something I’d recommend foreigners cavalierly dip into.