Friday, April 24, 2009

Corporate, Governmental and Fatal Error?

In 1977, The Washington State Department of Ecology documented that 12 tons of mercury are buried in a landfill at Georgia Pacific's Chemfix site.

The Chemfix project was carried out without notification to the Department of Ecology, as a means of disposing approximately 1,500,000 gallons of mixed liquid and solid wastes that had accumulated in a storage pond of the Chlorine Plant. With a mercury concentration of about 0.17 percent, the 7,000 ton sludge deposit contains approximately 12 tons of mercury.

Meanwhile, local government is rushing forward to plan street grids and master plans without the slightest regard for the health hazards buried at the site. On April 13th, the Mayor informed the city that state and elected officials are partnering with the City and ready to commit funds to develop the site.

On Monday, April 20th, the Port of Bellingham and the City voted to accept a framework plan for the Bellingham Waterfront that includes the beginnings of a street grid configuration and other assumptions for the waterfront master plan.

No public comment was allowed.

The respective councils decided that they can solicit public input later.

The decision to adopt a master plan can only be reversed by a vote of both councils.

It is unthinkable that our local elected officials are rushing forward to spend millions of tax dollars to develop a site that is indisputably an agency documented landfill for deadly chemicals without so much as the benefit of a public discussion of the health hazards associated with developing the property.

Neither the Port or the City has indicated that they are willing to clean the site to residential standards. Yet, they propose locating WWU and residential buildings on the site.

More frightening, the Port's purchase and sales agreement prohibits Georgia Pacific from discussing potential or existing contamination that is on the property.

Apparently, Bellingham is comprised of residents who have been conditioned not to fear large toxic chemical dumps that present potential adverse health effects to the community.

Granted, the renovation of abandoned industrial sites can help communities reclaim property that would otherwise be unproductive. But the desire to "rush forth and develop" without the benefit of adequate studies does nothing to protect citizens from contamination.

Sadly, what follows will be a series of follies by local government that will threaten the health of thousands of students, residents and workers.

The City will have to penetrate existing caps in order to construct roads, stormwater sewers and drains, and to drill (set) deep pilings in order to protect structures from potential liquefaction during an earth quake.

In New York, the cost of the Love Canal waste dump is still being documented.

Many of the long term health effects due to exposure to the chemicals buried on the site are not yet known.

People say that there is a silver lining in every dark cloud. If any good came out of Love Canal, it is a public and governmental awareness that America has a serious toxic waste problem.

But it remains to be seen if Bellinghamsters have learned anything from the horrors that took place at chemical dumps like Love Canal.

The genetic mutations and birth defects will survive indefinitely, the legend will live on in history and public policy books, but who knows how long the lesson will be remembered?

In the end, the Hooker Chemical Company, despite its many warnings to the community about the hazards of development, paid for the bulk of the remediation.

And still, the citizens of Bellingham do not fear the adverse health effects of toxic chemicals and heavy metals.

A dark shadow is cast over this town.

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