Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Nukes, Dow Chemical, Rockwell International, Teflon, DuPont, Regulations, and the Trump Crew

As a reminder, one of my few areas of expertise is environmental regulatory compliance (expertise both academic & "in the field") and HazMat & HazWaste inspections of relevant facilities.  Years ago, I worked for both public and private institutions in these areas.  The essay below will illustrate why the Trump Administration's gutting of environmental and health & safety agencies and their regulations ultimately will prove to be disastrous.
For almost two decades just prior to 1975, Dow Chemical---a private contractor---operated the Atomic Energy Commission's Rocky Flats bomb factory in Colorado.  Because of Dow's improper storage of thousands of drums of oil contaminated with plutonium, those drums corroded and leaked plutonium into the soil, water, and air.  Dow also "disposed" of contaminated water by spraying it on fields surrounding the facility...claiming that was "irrigation".  A Whistleblower by the name of James Stone brought this all to light, and of course, he was fired or forced to resign.  In 1975, a new Gov't Department took over and a different contractor was hired.

Throughout the 1980's and culminating (in 1989) in an FBI raid on the Department of Energy (DOE) Rocky Flats nuclear bomb manufacturing facility, Rockwell International (the other private contractor) was illegally disposing of hazardous waste contaminated with plutonium.  Plutonium has a half-life of 24,000 years and is considered by many to be the most toxic substance on Earth.

The illegal disposal resulted in plutonium contaminating not only soil, but the air, the groundwater, and surface streams as well.  Over 60 pounds of the toxic substance were found to have accumulated in the ductworks of just one building of the plant.  The US EPA and the Colorado Dept. of Health both were prohibited by DOE from inspecting the key areas of the entire facility.  "National Security".  Meanwhile, plutonium was contaminating the air, soil, and streams that wound up in drinking water reservoirs.  Eventually, DOE succumbed to pressure and submitted a huge Report detailing the hazardous waste and what was done with it.  The FBI studied all 27 volumes of the Report, and even took water samples just offsite of Rocky Flats.  That all led to the raid on the facility...one Agency raiding another.

There's more to the story, going into the 1990's, but I have to move on to the next topic.  If interested, go to YouTube and do a Search for "Rocky Flats"; you'll find several documentaries or clips.  In particular, look for Frontline's--- Rocky Flats Secrets of a Bomb Factory.
Decades and decades ago, DuPont Chemical introduced teflon, the non-stick coating for cookware.  The chemicals in teflon also became incorporated into many other consumer items, such as water resistant fabric, stain resistant carpet, dental floss, microwave popcorn bags, fast food wrappers, and others.  DuPont kept a crucial secret from consumers regarding those chemical ingredients:  they are highly toxic, and eventually became linked to six different diseases, including kidney cancer.  For years, DuPont discharged wastes containing those chemicals into the waterways adjacent to their manufacturing facilities in Parkersburg, West Virginia.

People began to notice health problems in the area such as cancer and liver disease.  There was a question, too, of birth defects.  Plus, over 150 cattle died of some strange, blood hemorrhaging condition.  Suspicions were high that DuPont manufacturing activities might be linked to those health problems.  Some residents of Parkersburg, former DuPont employees, a cattle farmer, and lawyers launched what turned out to be a 17-year effort to find out the truth of the matter.  The attorney, Rob Bilott, was especially instrumental in bringing a class action lawsuit against DuPont.

In addition to discharging waste into waterways, DuPont buried seven thousand tons of contaminated waste in a nearby landfill.  Later, it was discovered that the teflon chemicals were in the drinking water of the region.

It's estimated that 99% of Americans have these chemicals in our bodies, and most of the population of the rest of the world as well.  That's because the waste also was discharged to the air until 2013; DuPont finally stopped manufacturing the substances during that year.

For the full story, see the Democracy Now news broadcast for January 23, 2018, democracynow.org
The point of all the above is that EHS (environmental/health/safety) matters are considered "externalities" by most mega corporations.  In other words, those matters don't count; generally, big companies don't give a damn about them.  Yes, they TALK a great game, and a very few may even actually be sincere, but generally the reality is much different.  The Big Boys mostly have to be forced to care...or at least act as if they do.  That's done by regulations, and enforcement of those regs.  Without that, we'll have even more pollution, disease, birth defects, poisoning, and negative impact on 99% of our population.  That's precisely what Trump & Crew are promulgating with their gutting of EHS agencies and regulations.
Not only my opinion.  Be Well