The West Virginia chemical spill is just one example of a much bigger problem


#1

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#2

Honestly ?? The lack of breakdown and dosage, much less LD50 data on the stuff is likely considered to be a feature, not a bug. With no dosage or LD50 documented, one must ESTABLISH such measures before trying to sue the chemical manufacturer for anything more than unlicensed dumping and simple negligence.

And the latter assumes that it was due to actual negligence: I've seen no reporting on how that tank rupture actually occured. I'm sure the company would love to find a tree or something that hit the tank, causing the rupture. . .


#3

Even if the tank rupture were some sort of highly-unlikely-accident, reports are that the spill happened when the fluid overran the secondary containment wall that was supposed to catch spills from the tank.

In 'we actually give a fuck' land, you build spill containment with volume greater than the potential spill, so that that doesn't happen. Those crazy 'sensors' and 'sending the intern out to look for giant chemical puddles that shouldn't be there' techniques can also be used.


#4

Well, that's kind of the point, West Virginia is pretty much "WeDontGiveAFuckistan". I just hadn't seen any details on HOW the spill occured in any report I've read. . .


#5

I was just in the area of beautiful Asheville, NC, visiting my mom, and as we drove to the airport we passed the local power company's generation station (not sure if it's natural gas/coal) which is sitting right on the edge of the French Broad River. From the Western North Carolina Alliance:

The plant has two old coal ash ponds, built in 1964 and 1982, that sprawl over 90 acres adjacent to the French Broad River. The City of Asheville is about seven miles downstream from the plant. Ash pond seepage has been documented for at least three decades, according to public records obtained by the groups. The utility recently estimated leakage from the older impoundment may be as high as 1 million gallons per day.

So there's that. Dog forbid we should ever take an adult approach towards the environmental damage we're doing regularly and around the world.


#6

What are you talking about? I see that it's held well enough for thirty years, ain't nothing wrong with that old ash pond.


#8

FWIW... my father lives in the impacted area, and is retired after 30+ years at a nearby chemical plant. While I haven't read it personally, he said early reports were that the containment area had standing water from recent rains, so when the tank leaked it topped the berm (and recall that this material floats).

My father considers not having someone checking the containment areas periodically to be a sign of a real problem with that organization. Accidents happen, but when you find out about a major leak only because it was traced back upriver to you over a day or two....

Also, FWIW I recall my father's employer being the object of periodic EPA audits. I recall him saying that while the EPA liked to announce the large fines being levied against his employer, the vast majority of the offenses were for misfiled paperwork. At least in his experience it all seemed to be much more about EPA showing its power against the company than any serious investigation into standards and practices affecting safety.


#9

So what you're saying is that the company SHOULD have called up woot.com and ordered a shitload of LeakFrogs?


#10

Extra points for the Dog forbid.


#11

I met a man whose son died from cancer caused by the contamination in Toms River. It's incredibly sad. Basically, as far as chemicals are concerned, it's innocent until proven guilty. And then the problem is not being able to connect long term effects after the fact. To add to that, you can't, with any good conscience, do testing on humans as you would for drug trials.
One big spill can hurt such a large number of people and for many many years. But, like everything else, the answer will be more deregulation, just because.


#12

In some domains, like aerospace and medicine, It's supposed to be, "Prove it's safe before you deploy". Everyplace else it seems, the burden of proof is on those who think it might be dangerous. But nothing should get in the way of making a dollar.


#13

Look mister, that fertilizer plant has been here forever, who are we to stop people from wanting to shorten their commute? And since it's been here forever, it's obviously safe as houses.


#14

Sheldon Krimsky of Tufts University was on Al Jazeera America this afternoon and mentioned that there are something like 80,000 to 100,000 industrial chemicals in use that haven't been tested for human or ecological damage. And few or none of the chemicals in use that have been tested have been tested in combination even with previously tested chemicals. We continue to run a totally uncontrolled experiment on our bodies and our world. What could go wrong?


#15

Horribly enough, that plan would have represented an improvement over what they actually had in place...


#16

Given the definition of the LD50, I think that the proposal "Let's calculate these values for hundreds of industrial chemicals" may run into a few objections.


#17

I'm getting a kick out of listening to the good ol' boys that were nodding heads that there is too much government and guvmint regulation screaming that the government needed to watch these guys closer and do a better job of regulation.


#18

Well, the OSHA requirements for a MSDS includes Toxicity information. Can't say how toxic it is without an LD50 (I was an OSHA IT geek for a while, got to know MSDS's rather intimately. . .)


#19

I love boingboing. It's fantastic how Maggie's posts make me feel smarter, Cory's get me riled up, Mark's make me feel cooler, Xeni's make me more compassionate, and Rob's make me feel dirty inside. Basically, it's amazingly balanced and awesome and thank you guys. smile


#20

It's the Libertarian ideal: Instead of burdening companies with regulations, let them do whatever they want in the name of the almighty dollar, and when they turn out to be killing people and the environment, we can just... boycott them? Erm.


#21

I'm not sure if I understand why the company responsible for the spill isn't driving door to door delivering water. That seems like a reasonable response to me.