soil contam.

Milogic at aol.com Milogic at aol.com
Fri Jan 30 18:17:26 EST 1998


Jack,

Based on experience with Hawaii plantations, getting multi-faceted
contamination under control (meaning suitable to grow foods or fodder, etc,
linking into the human foodchain) can be a massive enterprise, expensive,
capital intensive and time consuming. 

Since these plantations were growing into the human food chain, sugar and
pineapple, no one wants to deal meaningfully with the issues which spring up
in trying to decontaminate now abandoned plantations for other crops.
Officially, there is little or no residual contamination until someone grows
something and tries to get agricultural inspection to pass the new crops. A
paradox of massive proportions as well as Catch 22 to some power. 

That is, for example, legally to sell hay to feed dairy or beef cattle which
comes from former plantation lands is quite complicated whereas there was no
problem selling either sugar or pineapple previous grown on the same land.

Not too many are genuinely interested in or willing to allow or to communicate
studies on these processes, unfortunately. The academics were up to their
budgets and tenure in setting up the conditions over many years of work. The
federal and state ag people who raised any questions soon sought other
employment. 

Clues can be found in the programs dealing with some of the more toxic
plantation dump sites around the islands, though. Although a few of the worst
were expensively dug up, dug out, lined, ventilated, re-buried, sealed and
ventilated then surrounded with very tall, very nasty fences and barriers to
keep out the curious; many more were simply covered over and eliminated from
history.

I gave up on trying to follow developments since the blinkers are pretty
solidly in place so I don't what has been going on in the last few years,
however. 

More specifically: micro-organisms exist which can thrive in nearly any sort
of toxic environment--even low level nuclear wastes, I am told. They will work
on the toxics and toxins present. It is a case of time. It can take many, many
years for micro-organisms to deal with some of the more toxic substances. Half
lives can be long lives.

There are many plants (New Alchemy, et al worked with these issues) which can
also help remove toxicities of certain general types such as some of the so-
called heavy metals. For example, some bamboos have been found to be able to
process more than other plants. The research, however, is very sketchy and
anecdotal.

There is little political will much less money to grapple meaningfully with
these issues although there is a relatively larger willingness to play Tobacco
Institute and other games to defuse and obscure relevant examination. After
more than a hundred years of building up to today's better understandings of
the harm involved, to admit liability for past actions when nearly all
approved and supported those actions is a bit like asking reparations for
taking slaves from Africa. Unlikely in an adversarial or litigious situation.

I fear that the idea of "nature's resilience," while very attractive and, to a
degree relatively actual, is one which the apologists and wishful thinkers are
eager to grasp without appreciation of the immense time and almost
incalculable cycles needed to be effective--given a willingness to work on the
problems in any meaninful way given the pervasiveness of toxic actualities.

And, in the urban context, there have been a number of recent cases of
contamination problems from closed facilities in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Contamination in the Silicon Valley is a great secret underlying the silicon
age.  The microchips and circuit boards which underlay this communication are
massively toxic in manufacturing processes. There is practically no where or
no way to contain the exponentially growing billions of contaminated gallons
of post-industrial wastes flowing in ever larger amounts from electronics
manufacturing.

One relatively minor example prevalent in my area deals with older gasoline
stations. With costs to dig out and replace failed or leaking tanks running
far over $100,000 per site, independent operators either go out of business
leaving the site vacant and essentially unusable (as a condition of use is
cleanup) or sell out to the major oil companies which do the work and then
open up again at higher prices. The number of independents decline and prices
move up as inexorably as choice moves down. The issues are choices among lose-
lost with little or no probability of any kind of win outcomes.

In all of these situations, relief, if any, is like the outcomes of the
recurrent financial crises whether American Thrift Institutions or Asian
Tigers: the taxpayers pay while the loot disappears along with the looters. 

Meanwhile, let us be diverted by allegations of sexual picadillos among the
high and mighty. At least someone on high may still have some cojones in play.

Do you see "The Workbook," a periodical put out from Albuquerque which is one
of the better dedicated, under-rated and struggling reporters on many of the
issues?

Milo Clark
Berkeley CA USA



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