A commenter on this site reminded me that this Animas matter is a teaching moment.
Heavy metals including arsenic and mercury are the stuff that everyone is concerned about since the EPA told us that they are very toxic in any amount—yadayada.
But now the EPA says–oh it’s being washed away. Well the oil spill from Exxon Valdez and Deepwater Horizon was being washed away too, but billions changes hands.
We are now slaves to three junk science problems in tox
1 Better instruments that detect in parts per billion for example and can find traces of Noah’s beard in the waters of Lake Michigan (well maybe that’s an exaggeration);
2 Linear no threshold (LNT)nonsense, built around a radiation biophysics concept of no threshold that was adopted by the public health enviro community, (we in medicine recognize threshold as essential to rational tox; and
3 The precautionary principle(PP) that is policy decision to use anxiety or concern or fear as the measure for mitigation or avoidance. PP means zero toleranc for risk and is born of cowardice mostly and promoted by power hunger oligarchic “experts.”
4 PP goes hand in hand with LNT and reinforce and supplement each other.
So lets ask again, will the EPA abandon PP and LNT because it was their spill and let the wash out dilute the pollutants? NNNNNNOOOOOOO, because the lawyers and complainants won’t let them and judges will apply the same rules for EPA screw ups as for BP or Duke or Freedom industries–it’ll be done under the Federal Tort Claims Act and that is handled by DOJ lawyers or special lawyers assigned the duty of lawyering the case.
And the ultimate deep pocket–the taxpayer, will be on the hook. Big time.
Even if our commenter is right, since we can detect in miniscule amounts and who knows where it came from or if it was there before the spill? And linear non threshold toxicology with a frosting of precautionary principle and it’ll be up in the billions to remediate–besides–who handles the money and makes money or makes it for their enviro friends who get the contracts for remediation–the EPA.
I taught enviro law at the local Howard Payne University for a few years in the early 90s. One of the HPU alumni was a Phillips 66 enviro compliance engineer executive. He came to talk to my class about working with the EPA–in the late 80s, early 90s, a time when many super fund sites were started up.
Super Fund is only part of the name of the Act 42 U.S.C. 9601 for this legislation to clean up toxic spills and toxic dumps or toxic leaks.
Super fund statute is titled Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability act of 1980 (CERCLA/Superfund, amended in 82, 85, 86, 87, 89, 90, and 92). The statute with amendments runs 176 pages of small type in my statute book, but that is just the Act. Code of regulations is so big and the cost of compliance and clean up on CERCLA is bigger than you can comprehend. Also the terrible standards for land owner culpability.
Bob Greene, one of our regular writers at JS, had a lot of experience with superfund sites and can tell a horror story or two about the Law and the behavior of the EPA tyrants.
Back to my class in environmental law at Howard Payne U.
First the Phillips 66 guy said in his closing remarks a very prescient thing, that the EPA is eventually going to do enough to really harm our economic well-being in America. He said it could easily have an impact of 2-3 percent of GDP. He was right on that one.
He also expressed great distress that the EPA wanted the ground water at a Super Fund site to be cleaner than it was before any spill. Right again.
His objection is just like my objections to the EPA use of the Clean Air Act–the law was intended to identify harmful air pollution and mitigate–not make the air pristine for the aesthetic satisfaction of the ninnies, nannies and fanatic pantheist enviros. There is no harmful ambient air in America–period.
With that in mind the JS commenter said the El Nino rains expected (El Nino pushes rain to the Southwest US) would cause flow to scour the tailing and mine water stuff from the streams and rivers effected. Dilution is the secret to fighting toxins–dose makes the poison (remember Paracelsus).
As they teach in the US armed forces about biochem warfare–best to stay up wind or up water and dilute when you can. Like take a shower and such.
So here is the saga of two river spills from more than a year ago, and the archive.
When lawyers and agencies get involved–the precautionary principle is dominant, ant the wheelchair brigade starts up–what about just the anxiety of thinking the water was yellow/orange? That’s worth a lot, particularly if it causes PTSD.
The we have the tourism losses, the costs of mitigation like hauling in water and such.
We covered a chemical spill in West Virginia more than a year ago, a tank car of a methanol compound spilled into an adjacent River–the lawyers were all of the place within a day or two. Lot’s of panicky politicians demanding that Freedom Industries cut off a finger or something for making the chemophobes anxious.
The stuff was not toxic, but you couldn’t keep it from being a big deal–the area’ enviros were reinforced by the usual opportunists like Southern Enviro Law Center, a firm with a few layers that makes tons of money–some of it by getting attorney fees, some by “sharing” the award after politically correct industry rolls over
Southern Enviro Law Center are the enviro form of ambulance chasers and were all over the Duke Energy coal ash pond matter a year or more ago.
You may recall the Duke deal was about coal ash leaking from a pond. Coal Ash is also non toxic. Here’s the JS archive. The buzzards and politician are thick in the air over any big company like Duke Energy.