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December 09, 1979 - Image 4

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Publication:
The Michigan Daily, 1979-12-09

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Page 4-Sunday, December9,;1979-The Michigan Daily
Industrial toxic wastes spread through state

By John Leone

It is truly a sick situation. Industrial
toxic wastes permeate every stage of
our ecosystem. These highly damaging
man-made substances threaten to
destroy life in our lakes, rivers and
oceans. As each day passes, they in-
filtrate further into the land where they
have been indiscriminately dumped for
over 30 years. According to the Federal
Council on Environmental Quality,
toxic wates have so saturated the
biological cycle that acid rains
(chemically contaminated rain water),
may soon cause decreases in fresh
water fish production, farm and forest
yield, and the depletion of nutrients
from soils and aquatic systems.
Although some effects may not
manifest themselves until years in the
future, many of these problems plague
our environment now. It has been
verified that half of the lakes in New
York's Adirondacka Mountains, which
contained fish and other aquatic life a
generation ago, no longer do. Think

about this. If there were enough
chemicals in the rain to kill lakefulls of
fish, then a need for quick corrective
action should appear quite serious. Fir-
st we will examine how the biosphere is
gradually being contaminated and how
such contamination is affecting human
life. From there we will look at the toxic
waste situation in Michigan.,
THE TERM "toxic waste" refers to
the estimated 56 million gallons of
chemical waste produced annually by
our indsutries. Not included are the
amounts of toxics picked up by the
average American by opening
chemically treated celephane junk food
wrappers, consuming chemical preser-
vatives, using products that emit
chemicals (i.e. hair sprays), or, in-
jesting and applying chemical drugs,
lotions, ointments, etc. Chemicals have
indeed, as one chemical ad declares,
become a major force in our lives.
Though it seems likely that these
piecemeal accumulations of chemicals

in our bodies may have some rather
unpleasant future effects, the fact is
that the problems are alrady
manifesting themselves.
Bob Eckhardt, Chairperson of a
House Subcommittee investigating the
toxics problem, has proclaimed the
3,383 toxicdumpsites to be "ticking
time bombs." 765 million tons of
chemical waste have been dumped in
these sites. These dump sites are only
those that have been discovered due to
their excessive size. The Comptroller
General's Report to the President and
Congress (6/16/78), states that "vir-
tually nothing is known about the over
100,000 industrial waste land disposal
sites." Many of these "time bombs"
have yet to be discovered-others
already have been.
For the people living in the vicinity of
Love Canal, N.Y, there was a drastic
increase in miscarriages, birth defects,
cancer and nervous system disorders
such as epilepsy and acute depression.
In no time at all, these developments
were linked to the massive doses of
liquid toxic waste that the Hooker
Chemical Co. had been dumping in the
waterway for the past 20 years. s
IN ALSEA, OREGON, the dangers of
spraying forests with 245-T (which
inexplicably, even unknown to the
producers, forms Dioxyn, the most
toxic substance known to man) was un-
covered by would-be mothers in thea
area. There was an epidemic of
miscarriages, that thanks to two of the
women involved, has been dealt with.
Though the Dept. of Agriculture's
Forest Service was doing the spraying,
they refused to act on the claims and
allegations of the public. They did stop
spraying once the complaints and
figures were turned into a federal
government study.
In Toone, Tenn., congresstional in-
vestigators discovered 300,000 buried
drums of pesticides, that were polluting
underground drinking water and
resulting in a wave of sickness and bir-
th defects in the area. These three
examples are just a small example of
this country's "chemical madness."
The situation is almost absurd. In
Elizabeth, N.J., there are 70,000 drums,
many of them corroded and leaking ex-
plosives, combustibles and chemicals
of all sorts. Officials fear the entire
mess may explode, and they cannot
clean it up until they.figure out what is
even in each of these drums!
The point here is, besides the
multipling extent of chemical con-
tamination, all too often such con-
tamination is discovered by the
physiological or biological toll on
human beings. When this is the case the
irreversible damage has already been
done and the chemicals have
irretrievably saturated the local
ecocycle.
WHY WRE THESE extremely
dangerous substances dealt with in
such an irresponsible manner that one
doubts whether there was any regard
for human life whatsoever? There are
many contributing factors but basically
it is due to our industries calculating

DNR Photo
This photo given to us by the Department of Natural Resources shows the scene at the Ankersen company in Pontiac shortly
before the DNR, acting under emergency powers, moved in to clean up the mess left by the bankrupt firm. The drums and
barrels shown here all contained a variety of hazardous wastes.

and implementing their actions on ex-
clusively profit-oriented criteria.
If this is their attitude, then the
choice for the industries is clear: Pay
large sums to transport millions of
gallons of toxics halfway across the
country for safe disposal, pay for costly
treatment to detoxify the wastes, or
take the easy way out and pay a local
midnight dumper. Basing their decision
on a cost-profit basis, the latter option
naturally became the norm.
The State of Michigan is one of the
prime sites for a toxic chemical
catastrophe. In a just released national
study, Michigan was named not only
one of the top ten producers of toxic
waste, but one of the ten worst handlers
of the problem-the only state to be on
both of these lists.
IT IS TRULY sad that Michigan, a
state surrounded by the largest bodies
of freshwater lakes in the world, may
soon have to have drinking water piped
in from Canada. This is due to the fact
that not only the Great Lakes but much
of the Lower Peninsula's rivers and
groundwater systems have become too
contaminated to be consumed by
humans. In many areas the irreversible
damage has already been done, leaving
many rivers and their supporting
ground-water systems incapable of
sustaining the foodcycles necessary for
the fish that once plentifully thrived in
the rivers.
The most crucial problem in
Michigan, as in most states, is not the
lack of laws, it is not the continued
threat of industry abuse, but it is the in-
credibly late start we have made at

cleaning up the dumps (and the lack of
sufficient funding to do so effectively).
For according to the Comptroller
General of the United States, "Neither
the States or the EPA have the staff and
funds to operate programs effectively
for the control of hazardous waste
disposal ... and future funds are expec-
ted to be much less than estmated
needs."
It was not until 1978 that the State of
Michigan created the Environmental
Enforcement Division of the D.N.R.,
an agency empowered to deal directly
with environmental law violations.
Though the toxic waste problem is high
on the agency's priority list, Jack Bails,
chief of the EED, argues that with the
present resources it would take
"decades" to completely survey the
situation, much less clean it up. Noting
the late start of Michigan's clean-up ef-
forts, Bails has said that "It's to the
point where we may find it cheaper to
simply write off the groundwater sup-
plies for a large portion of Southern
Michigan." This is the chief of the'key
environmental agency in Michigan
speaking.The gravity of the toxic waste
situation just cannot be overstated.
The fact is however, that from a
biological standpoint, we can not just
write off the ground-water supplies of
such a large area. The grimmer fact
may be that we have no choice now.
These ground-water supplies may
really be lost to us.
HOOKER CHEMICAL CO. (Love
Canal) had a similar incident in
Michigan. It too was discovered by the
hardship of human beings imposed

upon by the mishandling of toxics.
Tragedies similar to this one have and
probably will happen again in our state.
Since August 1978, a list of potential
"trouble spots" in Michigan where
toxic waste problems could strike has
been compiled. The list includes 37 sites
where private wells are known to be
contaminated, 45 landfills which pose
"serious problems," 400 dumps which
"most probably" received ground
water contamination, and 97 locations
where "enforcement action is or may
be needed to resolve a problem." The
list grows daily. Out of these possible
disaster areas it is only reasonable to
fear the possibility of more toxic
damage.
Ann Arbor is not exempt from this
chemical madness that has gone on for
the past 30 years. It is now known that
Trichloroethylene (TCE), a known car-
cinogenic, is running through the Ann -
Arbor water supply. Though the level of
TCE in our drinkingwater is within
EPA standards, "safe'' levels of TCE
are highly disputed.
What can be done by us all to end our
"chemicajinadness"? Demand greater'
attention, funding and control of toxic
waste management. Your state
legislator and Governor Milliken are
two important people to contact.
Federal funds are available if the
States request them. Urge them to take
strong actions now. In the meantime,
be careful what you drink.
John Leone is a member of -
PIRGIM (Public Interest Research
Group in Michigan).

DNR Photo
The Story Chemical Company in Muskegon went bandrupt and left this
dangerous mess scattered over a large storage yard, exposed to weather.
Several wells in the vicinity are now producting foul-smelling water with a
color similar to root beer. Officials in this photo, made possible by the
Department of Natural Resources, are mainly reporters seen during an in-
spection tour of the plant last fall.

Letters to the Dail

be tYErbttran re3aiI
Ninety Year, of Editorial Freedom

Vol. LXXXX, No. 78

News Phone: 764-0552

Edited and managed by students at the University of Michigan
A newface in Mideast:
But the same problems

PERHAPS A CHANGE of characters
will brighten the painfully slow
talks regarding eventual self-
determination for the Palestinians
living in the West Bank and the Gaza
Strip. Maybe a new face in those
discussions can transform them from
its snail-like pace to speedy success in
guaranteeing future autonomy to the
frustrated Palestinians in search of
freedom. Maybe.
The new member of the autonomy
talks who arrived in Cairo yesterday is
no newcomer to the profession of
diplomacy. Sol Linowitz is a skillful,
astute statesman, who championed the
Carter administration's case during
the 1977 Panama Canal Treaty talks.
During that fierce battle, he survived
against the tough-nosed Panamanians,
and led the administration brilliantly
against the conservative forces in the
Senate.
But Linowitz, who replaces Robert

ties would aim to establish self-
autonomous governing councils for the
Palestinians in the occupied
terrorities. Those discussions,
however, which began in May, have
produced nothing. It even took a few
tricks to get both sides to agree on an
agenda for discussions.
Even when administration shar-
pshooter Strauss grabbed further con-
trol of the process, only the at-
mosphere seemed to improve. Any
progress on the practical issues has
been noticeably absent. In effect, the
talks have been a failure.
Furthermore, the Israelis have
stressed throughout the negotiations
that they seek to deal with Palestinian
moderates in order to produce a
solution to the stalemate. But the
Begin regime must now realize that
recent events in the West Bank have
made the government's relations with
the Palestinians even weaker. Begin's

To the Daily:
Since, as a newspaper, it is
theoretically your responsibility
to inform the public of current
events, it would be pleasant to see
more information and less
rhetoric in the current nuclear
power debate.-
Concerning your policy on the
presentation of said information:
Since one generally seeks advice
on dental matters from a dentist,
and legal advice from a lawyer,
does it not seem logical to seek
advice on nuclear physics from a
physicist, and not an actress such
as Jane Fonda? Such "experts"
in the anti-nuclear movement are
almost completely ignorant of
matters scientific. They seem to
acknowledge only those facts
which would further their cause,
while ignoring those which show
that nuclear power is both
beneficial and safe.
Most, if not all, of the editorials
published in your paper seem to
follow this pattern. The articles
are full of opinions, rumors, and
heresay, with few or no scientific
arguments or facts. A technical,
scientific issue such as nuclear
energy cannot be decided by such
means as these. Reason is called
for, not emotion, .for a person to
be qualified to write intelligently
about nuclear energy, one would
need a good working knowledge
of physics and engineering, not
drama and literature. The
technical knowledge conveyed by
these articles is nothing short of
laughable.
Foraexample: a common
argument against nuclear power
generation is thermal pollution.

ts released by a coal boiler.
Among thses waste gases,
present in significant quantities,
are a class of organic compounds
known as Poly-Nucleated
Aromatic Hydrocarbons
(PNAH's). These compounds are
the most powerful carcinogens,
known to man, and they are
released into the environment
around the clock without a second
thought.
Another issue hopelessly
distorted is waste disposal.
"Wastes can never be disposed of
safely", cry the no-nukies. This
must be a shock to the scientists,
and engineers who have come up
with at least a half-dozen per-
manent, completely safe
methods for waste disposal. The
only reason these methods have
not been implemented yet is that
they are being held up in
congress and in the NRC by a
bunch of politicians and
congressmen who don't under-
stand them anyway. It makes one
wonder where these people get
their informaion on nuclear
energy: from Scientific
American or Playboy?
Although the possible (if
unlikely) environmental effects
of nuclear power plants have
been exaggerated, over-
emphasized, and in general
blown all out of proportion, we
hear little in these articles of the
environmental effects of the

alternatives. To wit: there stands
today, in the Gulf of Mexico, an
oil well that is uncontrollably
gushing oil into.the waters of the
Gulf, fouling them and ruining
the ecology of the region. There is
no estimating the terrible toll of
wildlife this well will take. Even
if a reactor were to melt down on
the shores of the Gulf, it would
not cause this much damage..
The coast of Brittany, France
has been ravaged by massive oil
spills from tankers twice in the
last 10 years. For all intents and
purposes, there is no longer an
ecological system operating off
the coast of Brittany. Yet we hear
nothing of these real-life
--disasters in the. anti-nuclear
literature. We hear wild
speculation on distorted eviden-
ce, when the fact is no com-
merical nuclear power plant,
anywhere in the free world, has
been responsible for a death or
destruction of property. All the
problems at Three Mile Island
were confined within the con-
tainment dome, which is what it
is there for. The release of
radiation, so often quoted in
reports in the press as 'massive"
or some such hysteric adjective,
was actually negligible. Had the
evacuated women and childrent
spent their time far away from
Harrisburg, in Denver, Colorado,
they would have been exposed to
considerably more radiation
from the natural background
radiation of Denver than they
would have been exposed to ih

Harrisburg.
Where are the facts? Where are,.
the logical arguments? All we
ever hear from these people is
emotional rhetoric and fanatical
arguments. Nuclear energy is not
a moral issue, it is a scientific
and technical one. The question is
not, "Should we build more plan-
ts?", but -rather, "How and .
Where?". For we need nuclear-
power. You can't debate away
the crisis in Iran; or bury the
Energy Crisis under a flurry of
slogans. Solar power cannot sup-
ply our nation's electricity. The'-
methods of energy collection are
simply not efficient enough, even
if it isn't cloudy at the time. Solar
energy is but a small part of the
total solution. Nuclear energy is a
much larger part. We cannot
neglect a field that shows such
promise as nuclear energy. The
old slogans about cheap,. clean
energy are still viable. They have
just been buried under the
monumental amount of anti-
nuclear rhetoric. Granted, there
are some areas in which im-
provements are necessary, but
surely this is no reason to quit. It.
is the nature of humans to
struggle, to succeed, not to shrug
our collective shoulders and slink
away. Were it not for this urge to
succeed, we would all still be
living in grass huts. And without
nuclear energy, we may soon find
ourselves back in our former
situation.
-The League for a Rational
Energy Policy.

BUSINESS STAFF
LISA CULBERSON....................Business Manager
ARIFNF L'!L AIVAN.t ..............alIPsManageur.

1979-80 SPORTS STAFF
SENIOR EDITORSr
GEOFF LARCOM.................... Sports Editor

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