West Seattle and Mercury

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    So, I suspect you all know that most of West Seattle has significant amounts of arsenic and other nasty stuff in the soils due to the Asarco Smelter from years ago. But we have a significant new threat. And it’s likely nastier. It’s mercury from coal burning in China landing here. Here’s a report discussing how it’s pervasive and deadly.

    Can’t we just try to stop beating the crap out of this planet and every living thing on it all the damn time? If there is a god and it has an awareness of our existence, when it looks down on this mess, it surely, surely wonders why we went mad and destroyed paradise.




    It supports my new career, making hats.



    Ah yes, but where to get all the beaver pelts? Where is that Hudson’s Bay Co. when you need them?!?



    A couple of years ago I saw a warning notice on ametro bus in several languages which cautioned parents not to let their young children play in the soil here. Really caught my attention – have seen no warning before or after. Dont know what theyre telling kids in local schools.



    The soil safety program and Asarco aftermath has been going on a long time. You can read all about it here


    including seeing maps of the “soil safety program” area (southernmost West Seattle is the northernmost area involved).




    Wakeflood, thanks – I had no knowledge of this, and I work with soil. Wish I’d known. I’ll be more careful about contact from now on, and definitely will not be planting vegetables in anything but clean, raised beds. Now I’m also wondering about pets that spend time outdoors…

    Meanwhile, the miles-long coal trains are chugging their way through Seattle day and night to supply those Chinese coal plants.



    Thanks very much for the refresher posting, WSB. I had forgotten about this.



    is it time to tax carbon?

    coal is lower cost energy with a nasty environmental bite. remember during our industrial age it was our big source of energy, it is cheaper up front; but we now know the adverse effects now.

    the most feasible alternative (based on today’s knowledge) is nuclear that also has challenges but is far preferable to coal in my opinion. and with china they already have nuclear know how.

    yes solar, wind, geothermal will also have a bigger role. however for base energy nuclear (the sun sometimes does not shine or wind blow) is most viable at this time.


    HMC Rich

    I am not against this. I know how awful Mercury is. That is why I was against the US forcing us to adopt the use of CFL lighting over incandescent. Those CFL’s also contain items such as fluorine, neon, and lead powder as well as mercury. LED’s are much more safe. Plus CFL’s have another problem. People just toss them. According to http://www.lightbulbrecycling.com, each year an estimated 600 million fluorescent lamps are disposed of in U.S. landfills, amounting to 30,000 pounds of mercury waste. Astonishingly, that’s almost half the amount of mercury emitted into the atmosphere by coal-fired power plants each year. It only takes 4mg of mercury to contaminate up to 7,000 gallons of freshwater, meaning that the 30,000 pounds of mercury thrown away in compact fluorescent light bulbs each year is enough to pollute nearly every lake, pond, river and stream in North America (not to mention the oceans). (Sourced from the Organic Consumers Association)

    I see the Lobbyists for saving Loons and wildlife are busy. I have no problem with the author sourcing the report but the BRI is a non-profit. Not some hallowed research center. I like their agenda, but they are a non-profit – © 2012 Biodiversity Research Institute a 501(c)3 non-profit.

    The mission statement is to try and sway attitudes and legislation towards their point of view. I am OK with that.

    Mercury has proven to be very toxic. It has shown so many horrible effects.

    The less mercury the better. Just keep the facts straight madam writer. We do not need false information like Rachel Carson provided over 50 years ago.



    Yeah that darn Rachel Carson. Without her we wouldn’t have all these eagles pooping on our heads.



    “Is it time to tax carbon?”

    The question that arises from this question is what does taxing carbon accomplish, exactly?

    I don’t know the answer to this problem, but after years of discussion with my wife, I can tell you an answer such as taxing carbon doesn’t even begin to address the situation. My wife is a high-level environmental consultant and deals specifically with air emissions. She acts as an intermediary between business and government regulatory agencies on all levels to help them remain compliant.

    I get to hear about a great many ideas regarding this issue and none of the answers are good. It seems the closest, most realistic answer we have for controlling the explosion of carbon emissions is cap and trade. It has many pitfalls as well, but is the only answer that seems to be able to address the situation in a realistic way in the SHORT TERM. Beyond that, it’s really all about conservation and efficiency. We need to use less energy, and that is not a worldwide possibility for the foreseeable future.

    It really is a field where the vast majority of otherwise well informed people in the general public are grossly under-informed as to the reality of our current situation. Every time I proudly trumpet the environmentalist viewpoint du jour, it amazes me with how many well reasoned and thoroughly complete responses based in reality are put back into my face to refute my assertion. It’s amazingly frustrating and also a source of intense personal growth at the same time. Doesn’t make me any more popular with most environmentally minded people I meet, though.



    You’re not alone, WC. It’s hard to know what the rational options even are at this point. What’s doable? What’s the best cost/benefit?? I sometimes assume that the oil companies plan all along was to drag out real change to the point where it was just too late to do anything substantive.

    I used to think that carbon sequestration was an option, now I don’t think scientists are even pondering new/better ways? Wasn’t there a million dollar prize at one point? Did it even get awarded?

    I’m trying to stay open-minded about solutions without throwing in the towel to the deniers who are now emboldened yet again. Dig! Frack! Pump! Burn! Don’t worry, you’re screwed! Ugh.



    AS far as what the oil companies’ plans are/were, I don’t believe it’s actually as you put it:

    “the oil companies plan all along was to drag out real change to the point where it was just too late to do anything substantive.”

    I do, however, happen to know they will resist change as much as possible with absolutely no interest in the public welfare. The bottom line is all that is important to them. All you have to do is look at how they do business in the rest of the world as compared to here in the US. Where they operate in other countries with little to no restrictions, there is absolutely zero effort to adhere to reasonable standards. Their emissions are atrocious. And then when you look at the amount of money they could be making if the emissions limits would be kept to US standards around the world, it becomes infuriating.

    It’s only with regulation that progress has been made, but only in the areas where the regulation is enforced (ie. US, Europe, etc.) All a reasonable person has to do is look at their actual current practices worldwide and it’s understandable how one can become sickened by their utter disregard for the world in which we live.

    The problem is, this contempt turns into calls for regulation that either a) Isn’t do-able with current technology, b) Leads to use of equally bad (or worse) practices or c) doesn’t actually enable the facility to implement current technology which would make a MASSIVE difference in the amount of pollution emitted RIGHT NOW. It’s so frustrating to hear the stories of how places like the Sierra Club as well as many more lesser known local activist groups are fighting against their own interests with their actions. There’s just such a lack of trust between the parties involved (and for good reason) that it’s hard to find a good place to begin to make progress.

    Now, if we could just get China and India on board with these standards, it would at least slow down the damage while technology catches up enough to make a difference. Because, it isn’t there quite yet…and it may take quite a bit more waiting for it to arrive.



    Just another gut punch brought to you by the wonderful world of “free” market/short term profit motive/capitalism. Again, I wonder what it would take to shame some of these people? The whole notion of it seems foreign to them. Their whole world is built around the capacity to NOT empathize with anything but the Board of Directors and majority stockholders, and their bonus checks. Long term is for suckers.

    I’d call it sociopathic but that gives them an excuse. They’re just greedy, heartless and careless.



    i suspect China is starting to get the message, Beijing pollution has been off the charts as of late.



    Beijing pollution is our pollution. We all share the same atmosphere, one that is becoming hotter and more toxic by the day. India and China are big contributors to be sure, but so is the dude in Westwood with his truck idling out in the driveway for 15 minutes. Individual contributions add up, and make a big difference – whether for harm or for benefit.



    And then there’s the “Wonders of Natural Gas” and our new found wealth with regard to it’s plenty.



    WC, exactly right. Truly benign alternative energy sources do not seem to get any support; in fact, it appears that they’re being actively suppressed. Could it possibly be because of lower profits in those sectors?

    There have also been incredible developments in architecture, i.e., houses that are built to thermally self-regulate with no outside energy sources, regardless of climate. I really believe the technology is being squashed.



    They have and utilize the standard menu of options to reduce green competition: Lobbying for new regulation and purchasing patents and sitting on them. Buying up promising small companies and dissolving their capacity to innovate.

    Not implementing or starting and stopping tax breaks for early adopters which reduces investor security and stifles product development (see: Wind Power) Lobbying against subsidies to these nascent technologies even though we’re still subsidizing old energy to the tune of billions/yr.

    We’re working really hard to become a third world nation. And when we do, all those monied folks who CAN, will be living in some Banana Republic they’ve set up with all the luxuries they desire. Probably have their own bio domes…



    anonyme agreed pollution in China and India contributes to our pollution. we in the US are also guilty. yes our vehicles are far less polluting than in the past but there are millions and millions of them.

    as chinese citizen’s see (i mean actually see, taste and feel) the pollution hopefully this will prompt positive change.



    While I believe the issue of competition and maintaining market share is important to energy companies, I think you have to understand the inability of alternative sources to fill the void. There are promising developing technologies and fuel sources, but the reality is they can not be main stream the way our current system is set up.

    We’ve got a major problem brewing. It is not profitable to refine oil. Oil companies are getting out of that portion of the business and refineries are/will be closing because the cost of doing that portion of the business is prohibitive. No one wants to buy them up. This is in no small way due to the environmental regulations we have heaped upon them. These are regulations I happen to think are necessary to maintain a level of environmental stewardship consistant with slowing the impact on our atmosphere/water supply. The problem with this is, when someone wants to buy or re-open these facilities, they must be brought up to current standards. It makes no economic sense to invest in a venture like this when you cannot recoup your money, so these facilities will be closed for a long time until we figure how to get past this problem.

    I hate to say it, but we’ve actually legislated beyond our ability to let capitalism work to our advantage. I don’t have a good answer how to fix this. It (in my opinion) is not an option to loosen regulations. Our planet is changing faster than it’s systems can keep up with and we are the main drivers of that change. Maybe the answer lies with tying this problem in with national security. Our government MAY have to get into the refining business in some form in order to bring these facilities up to current standards. If we don’t there could be pretty significant consequences with regard to our security. But this would be a de-facto subsidy to the oil companies allowing them to profit with minimal investment in the infrastructure they so heavily depend upon to function.

    The big picture behind the scene problems that you are so concerned with (stopping tax breaks for competition, lobbying against subsidies for new tech., squashing patents, etc.) may or may not be valid. I can’t speak to that. What I can speak to is the current and real problem we’ve gotten ourselves into. The answer needs to be found soon or we’re al in for a rude awakening.



    WC interesting comment #21.

    if it is not profitable to upgrade the refining portion of the business the supply of gas production would be limited. presuming basic unfettered economics the price of gas will rise to a point where installing the environmental controls makes economic sense. essentially a back door mechanism of a carbon tax.



    Well, nothing’s mainstream until it is. The fact that we spent almost a trillion dollars in today’s money to go to the moon with the only thing at stake being national pride essentially, tells us that the WILL to do something is the starting point. When Kennedy pledged us to do it, we hadn’t figured out much of anything about how it was going to actually work. We suspected it could be done and we dove in. Because we were America and someone had thrown down the Sputnik gauntlet. And now, Mother Nature’s slapping us square in the face with the back of her hand almost daily. And we relentlessly ignore it and keep on squeezing the life out of our lifeboat.

    It’s not a priority until it is. And as long as Big Oil can make record profits (however they manage to do so), means they’re not going to drive change.

    I believe we need to forge a Environmental Industrial Complex. We need an Apollo program for clean energy. Publicly financed at the start with tax dollars funding private industry much like the War Dept. did during WWII, buying best in class technology and implementing it wherever possible. Eventually, you have a self-perpetuating green energy complex. It won’t be particularly efficient at the beginning but you may end up with the next Rockefeller or Carnegie of green energy, and frankly I don’t care if it turns the thing around.

    The only real impediment to this type of big thinking is that the idiots, and I do mean idiots, have methodically torpedoed faith in gov’t to lead us on any big endeavor if it ain’t WAR. Yes, it’s about profits and that won’t change but we’re going to have to starve THAT DOD beast sometime, might as well put the $ into a worthwhile investment.



    The tyranny of diminished expectations. In action.



    Great idea, wakeflood. Count me in. But…

    What do we do about the problems we have now?

    We can make a substantial impact on emissions NOW with current technology, yet we’ve managed to make it cost prohibitive to do it. No one seems to want to admit or face this problem.

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