Saturday, December 29, 2012

Open Letter to the Oil and Gas Industry

I couldn't help it...

Dear Oil and Gas Industry,

After centuries of living with and around the technology and chemicals that your industry has helped develop, we have decided that we have had enough. The word “chemical” and anything related to it is no longer something we feel comfortable about. Since your industry utilizes and produces chemicals in large quantities, you are no longer welcome.  Don’t get us wrong, we completely understand the role that chemicals have in our lives. However, by dividing them into good and bad chemicals, we can get rid of what we feel are the bad chemicals.  We will utilize our innate sense of toxicology, our feelings and our opinions to determine which are good and which are bad. Then, we will redefine the word “chemical” to only mean the “bad” chemicals.
If we feel or if it is our opinion that a substance is safe and is useful; we will call it by its name. For example, milk, water, iPads, caffeine, aspirins, IV  tubing, hand soaps, shampoo (actually most personal care products), and gasoline (at the gas station, only) are all useful and from now on they will no longer be associated with the word chemical.
Chemicals by our definition are substances that people in white lab coats deal with; they are produced in large menacing factories that have smoke billowing from smoke stacks. They are extracted from the deep bowels of the earth or are harvested in large quantities on the surface; both processes scar and damage Mother Earth. Mother Earth needs to be honored and protected. Therefore, chemicals are substances that have to be avoided.  They are dangerous and toxic.  Form what I read in the newspaper and see on TV, they are associated with cancer; and NOBODY likes cancer.
The word technology is still acceptable, unless it has anything to do with chemicals. Then the process can no longer be associated with the word technology. It has to be known by whatever name we feel we should call it. For example, “fracking” is more fitting and we like that word better than the words “hydraulic fracturing” which sound too mundane.
So, please, you are not welcome here. We can do without you and your chemicals.
John and Jane Q Public

A Reality Check: Hazardous Wastewater Treatment

Forget about rationality, subjectivity, objectivity, apologist studies, and the rest of the words used to describe various points of view, opinions and rhetoric. How about one simple word – Reality! Chemicals are everywhere. In our homes, in industry, in agriculture, in our cars, virtually everywhere; look around you. This offers numerous pollution opportunities.
According to the USEPA the average U.S household generates more than 20 pounds of household hazardous waste annually. While all industrial facilities are regulated on how and where they should dispose of waste, households are not. EPA developed a household waste EXEMPTION. The exemption allows us to perform our routine maintenance tasks around the house without applying for a disposal permit. It allows us to have solvents, paints, pesticides, fertilizer, rodent poisons, grease, oven cleaners, drain openers, used oil, antifreeze, batteries, lighter fluids, cosmetics, nail polish, insecticides, household cleaners…. all defined as hazardous in our homes. Based on 20 pounds of hazardous waste per household and there are 7,482 households in Schuyler County (Census 2006-2010) then approximately 150,000 lbs. of hazardous waste produced is produced annually. This doesn’t even include the sanitary waste which may contains metabolized and un-metabolized highly stable and hazardous pharmaceuticals that end up in septic systems and wastewater treatment plants. This is a definite, this is reality; not a potential, not a probable, this is happening. Our homes may as well be mini-industrial facilities.
Cuyahoga River Burning (image NOAA)
Somehow, we have taken care of all this exempted household waste and our waterways are not degrading. 
Environmental history shows us that the Clean Water Act (CWA) arose out of need to end the degradation of our national waterways back in the early 1970s (remember the Cuyahoga River burning?). 

Monday, December 10, 2012

"Devastation" "Toxic" and other buzz words

Toxic has to do with poisons/toxins... Toxic has to do with concentrations, exposure length, exposure route, and related health effects. 
I didn't make this up; Paracelsus said it...

"All things are poison, and nothing is without poison; only the dose permits something not to be poisonous."

So, your coffee… hopefully at the concentration you are drinking it at... isn’t a poison or isn’t toxic (apparently that is an arguable point).  So, is flowback toxic? Produced water toxic? Are the chemicals used to stimulate shale toxic?  Toxic to who or to what? What are the concentrations used?  Will anyone be exposed? How will they be exposed? At what concentrations will they be exposed at? Will is cause a health effect? Many questions, many different answers…  Is it simply easier to say toxic when information is complex then to spend the time & effort looking/learning? Believe it or not, there are people that have been working on these questions for a long time; they do it with every industry that has waste water.

 "Devastated" PA Countryside (Taken 08/10/2012)

My thirty minutes on “Up with Chris Hayes” went as expected. I am not really one for interviews/panels etc. I prefer talking to people one on one; to that end I met some great people had some great conversations off the air. Chris was cordial.