Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Toxic Dump

This blog is mostly about personal things, about living life as a modern married professional woman, about the craziness that is the world, and only about the political insofar as politics are personal - when people politically object to my hair, for example. There are many other excellent commentators on local politics - many linked off my sidebar to the left there - who are more informed than I and who do an excellent job. While I consider myself involved and active, I don't feel that my voice on politics typically adds a great deal to the debate.

However, I have strong opinions on the proposed PDC toxic waste dump expansion, and since the proponents (who seem, from what I observe, to be a fairly small group) have taken to ridiculing the opponents (who seem to be an overwhelming majority), I feel compelled to respond and detail my objections, which fall into 4 major areas.

1) Peoria already has problems with heavy-metal contaminants, primarily lead. This is not a paritcularly safe place to raise children, chemical-wise. Most of us are carrying an astonishing load of persistent chemicals in our bodies, many of which are toxins, endocrine disrupters, or carcinogens. I spend a great deal of time trying to REDUCE the amount of toxins I'm exposed to. Landfill liners leak. They just do. It's just life. The liner is already leaking trace amounts of toxins into our water supply; I'm sure that other chemicals are being released into the air. We simply don't need to add MORE toxins to our environment, particularly when we're working so hard already to protect children from lead in Peoria County. Frankly, when we have children, we'll probably move somewhere cleaner and less-toxic for our children. I read the EPA maps. I know what I'm breathing. I'm not real pleased about it.

2) The location is spectacularly insane. It's within the New Madrid seismic zone, and it's on top of the Sankoty aquifier. I don't know if I believe the worst-case scenario buffs about New Madrid's impending Katrina-like disaster, but we do know that Peoria shakes when New Madrid shifts - heck, Philadelphia's church bells rang the last time New Madrid let loose its fury. Even a medium-sized earthquake has the potential to half-destroy the toxic dump. Seriously - what kind of moron puts a toxic waste dump on a major faultline? The dangers of the New Madrid perhaps weren't well understood during the original siting of the dump, but we get it now.

The Sankoty aquifier provides 60% of Peoria's drinking water. I firmly believe that the wars of the 21st century will be fought over water -- fresh water is increasingly scarce, and aquifiers like the Ogallala have been already astonishingly depleted by overuse in the Great Plains and mountain west; by people living a rainy lifestyle in drought areas. The American Southwest is adjusting, with xeriscaping and water-saving appliances, but they're still water-hungry. Austrailia, the Middle East - water shortages are becoming politically and economically problematic. The Great Lakes states and Canadian provinces are taking measures to protect the Great Lakes watershed - and prevent export of our freshwater to other regions. It boggles my mind that when water is becoming an increasingly precious and protected resource, we would knowingly and deliberately put our water at risk. What's the old saying about shitting upstream? SAME THING.

3) The taxpayers are going to pay for this. And pay and pay and pay. 30 years after closing, the county has to start monitoring the site. The PDC is supposed to pay for perpetual care, but frankly - it's a private company. They go bankrupt. They fail to follow through. They don't have to live with the toxic waste dump for hundreds of years. We do. I simply don't believe that when the dump ceases to be a money-making assets and becomes merely something PDC has to pay the cost of maintaining, they'll continue to be interested. I understand PDC is meant to set up a trust to pay for the perpetual care. What if it's inadequate? What then? I also really don't feel that "I live six miles from a toxic waste dump!" does great things for my property values. (God knows my realtor didn't include that in the house info packet.)

4) And here's the "emotional" one that's not a reason, per se - I don't want to live in America's Toxic Waste Dump. I don't think Peoria should be known as the Armpit of America, or the Shithole of America, or the Toxic Waste Dump of America. Yeah, dude: "Not in my backyard." Particularly when there are so many places out AWAY from urban areas, NOT sitting on major freshwater aquifiers, and NOT sitting on top of active seismic zones. My backyard is a dumb place to put your dump.

I actually think PDC is a great company, which is unusual for me. I'm all about sticking it to the evil businesses and whatnot. I think they're sincere. I think they do a good job managing the dump. I just don't think the dump makes sense. I think it's spectacularly poorly sited, I think it's dangerous, I think it's going to cost us a lot of tax money in the long term, and I don't think Peoria should be known for having a toxic waste dump.

If you're interested in knowing more, you can check out Peoria Families Against Toxic Waste and the PDC corporate website.


PeoriaDad said...

Well done.

Tony said...

So, where do you suppose we should put the waste? I mean, where is a GOOD spot for a toxic waste dump?

Also, be careful not to assume that Peoria's lead problems from from the San Koty aquifer. Other than the fact that it is ginormous, running from Wisconsin to Havana, IL, the lead problems are only in the areas with the older houses. Nothing to do with water. (I know you didnt make this connection, I am just afraid other people might)

Eyebrows McGee said...

Ideally, toxic waste should be located away from population centers and out of seismic zones. It's impossible to put a toxic dump where there's NO ground water, but the least impact and most containability possible ought to be sought w/r/t groundwater.

It's not like we don't have vast tracts of sparsely-settled land in the United States - many of which are on seismically-stable ground. And yes, part of this has to do with whose backyard it's in - or rather, with HOW MANY backyards it's in. When dealing with toxic or dangerous substances, one wants them to potentially impact as few people as possible.

And yes, Peoria's lead problem is due primarily to older housing stock. It just strikes me as ridiculous to deliberately introduce MORE toxins and MORE heavy metals to the Peoria environment when we're already working so hard and spending so much money on lead eradication and amelioration.

Bill Dennis said...

" Ideally, toxic waste should be located away from population centers and out of seismic zones."

So you fasvor toxic waste dumps in the desert or in the Antarctic.

Have you run this past the Sierra Club?

Tony said...

My biggest problem with the opposition to this expansion is that, no matter when the PDC closes this landfill, there is already a toxic waste dump there.

Since digging it all up and getting rid of it would be bad, we may as well expand it. Besides, they are going to put a new liner on top before the expansion starts, so really the expansion will have negligable effects on the waste that is 100 feet down.