Sunday, April 13, 2014


This may turn into a bit of a series brought on by some mainly fundie written reviews of the film Noah. Truth in labeling here I’ve only read the novel and the written world sounds bleak enough. The reviews have been focusing of the “extreme” environmentalism and “how could it have gotten so bad without ______ ?” Fill in the blank. Are you guys really that ignorant? It’s possible. Given the right (wrong) mindset, it’s even probable,.

We’ve become so focused, rightly so, on human driven climate change that we forget that humans had found perfectly inglorious ways to fuck up the environment around us before we global warming/climate change ever showed on the radar.

Donora, Pennsylvania population approximately 14,000 on October 27, 1948. An inversion settled in over the town and the fog settled in. By the next day people were coughing, wheezing and gasping for breath. The local fire department was calling on every town they could reach for oxygen supplies. The local doctors were run off their feet. What at first looked like a strange epidemic of asthma (!) turned deadly. By the time it started raining on the 31st twenty people were dead and half the rest of the town were still having trouble breathing.

The true sources of the problem were quickly traced to hydrogen fluoride and sulfur dioxide emissions from U.S. Steel's Donora Zinc Works and its American Steel & Wire plant. The fluorine emissions from the zinc smelting were so bad that vegetation within a half mile radius of the plant had died.  

Centralia, Pennsylvania 1962. There are theories about the how, no questions about the results. Best guess is that the attempt to burn out a landfill (illegal under Pennsylvania law by the way) ignited left over coal seams in one part of the labyrinth of old mines under the town, population under three thousand mid century. Repeated attempts to control the fire failed.

By the late seventies/early eighties the potential for the side effects turning lethal were escalating. The owner of a gas station checking levels in a tank pulled out a stick and it was hot. Lowered a thermometer into the gasoline and the temp was just over 170 degrees. A sinkhole opened under the feet of a 12 year old. The sinkhole was four feet wide and over one hundred feet long. Fortunately for the boy his cousin pulled him out. The CO levels were lethal.

By 1984 congress allocated money for relocation and most residents accepted the buyouts. In 1992 the governor invoked eminent domain in an effort to get the last hold outs out of what was left of the town. The fire has extended under Byrnesville a few miles south. Byrnesville was also evacuated, the buildings leveled. If the fire continues at its current rate it could burn for at least two centuries. Giving off carbon monoxide and other gases as it burns.

Apparently there are other smaller fires in other parts of the state that are being fought at this time.

And how many broken pipelines, oil spills and oil train fires have we seen in the last six months or so?

Next stop? I think the Cuyahoga River.

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