Monday, February 7, 2011

Short-Sightedness, Fear and Profits Fuel America's Contamination

by Duane Craig

A new numerical model by the US Geological Survey
gives near real-time distributions of the hormone
disrupting crop pesticide, atrazine,
in drinking water throughout the United States

From military bases to chemical companies to dry cleaners, the U.S. certainly has its share of contaminated soil, ground and air. In so many cases, the contamination is something left over from another time, another era, when we were either too ignorant about how easily the environment could be compromised or we just wanted jobs and better lifestyles in the short term, while we took our environmental chances in the long term.

Besides the well publicized contamination at Camp Lejeune, there was a report out recently about PCE and TCE solvents potentially contaminating water near the Army’s Fort Detrick in Frederick, MD. Apparently there was agent orange testing in the area from the 1940s to the 1960s.

There is the leftover dry cleaners contamination in Breckenridge, and no doubt at countless sites across the country. In Clinton County, Pennsylvania, residents and government officials are dealing with soils contaminated with radium. That radium was left behind by an airplane parts manufacturer “years ago.”

And now, we have the infamous Love Canal resurfacing in the news. In the Niagara Falls area, workers digging in the LaSalle neighborhood broke a clay pipe which released volatile organic compounds and is thought to be somehow connected with Occidental Chemical, originally Hooker Chemical Company. Hooker dumped 22,000 tons of toxic waste in a 16-acre area from 1942 to 1953. In the 1970s it became Love Canal, the greatest environmental disaster in the U.S. at the time.

In many cases the environmental damages show up a long time after the release of the contaminants, and often so much later that the companies responsible are no longer in business. We have seen over and over that without strong oversight, corporations will do the expedient thing for profits, and that often includes leaving behind the contaminants that were an integral part of their profit making. The military operates largely behind a veil of secrecy, ostensibly to protect the national interest, yet that same secrecy harms the national interest when its waters, soil and air is contaminated. Years later, in most cases, the taxpayer picks up the tab.


Anonymous said...

Hello: I would argue that strong regulations exist as compared to the 1970s and earlier, prior to the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Superfund, various State regulations, etc. The past 25 years have gradually seen the ideas of best management practices, permitting, regulatory compliance, the hiring of environmental representatives, etc. move into the marketplace and into the military. We have a large legacy of environmental issues we are dealing with, but we have made a large dent in minimizing new issues.

Brian said...

I found this information very useful. In fact, I am currently creating a personal blog about how my wife and I got contaminated with a parasite and would like to post a link to this article on my blog.

Would you be open to adding a back link to my blog on your site so we can futher public education on drinking water contamination?