Time to break out the hazmat suits!
I was pleased as punch a few days ago when I learned some lovely news about Ridgewood, the Queens neighborhood that my girlfriend Michele and I live in. The Environmental Protection Agency just added a block of Ridgewood as a Superfund site. In fact, the EPA announced that this spot has the highest radiation levels anywhere in New York City. As announced earlier this month on the EPA’s website:
“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has added the Wolff-Alport Chemical Company site in the Ridgewood section of Queens, New York to the federal Superfund list of hazardous waste sites. The soil and nearby sewers were contaminated by radioactive material from past industrial activities at the site. Testing indicates that there is no immediate threat to nearby residents, employees or customers of businesses in the affected area along Irving and Cooper Avenues. Since exposure to the radioactive contamination may pose a threat to health in the long-term, in December 2013, the EPA took action to reduce people’s potential exposure to the radiation and address the potential health risks from the site.
“The now-defunct Wolff-Alport Chemical Company operated from 1920 until 1954, processing imported monazite sand and extracting rare earth metals. Monazite contains approximately 6% to 8% thorium, which is radioactive. Radiation can increase a person’s risk of developing cancer such as cancer of the lung or pancreas.”
According to The Forum West local free newspaper, regional EPA administrator Judith Enck stated that “the EPA would be seeking out those legally responsible for the contamination and holding them accountable rather than forcing taxpayers to pay the price of the clean ups.” Hmmm, good luck with that. I seriously doubt that the Wolff-Alport Chemical Company is going to be of any assistance in cleaning up their mess. Are they even still in business? I’ve never even heard of them before. If another company bought up the assets, I’m sure the present owners’ legal council would argue that they were immune from liability for any number of reasons. This is the sort of thing that could be stuck in the courts for years, if not decades.
As you can imagine, I’m none too thrilled with this. After all, I’m only 37 years old and I’ve already had cancer twice in my life (and I don’t even smoke). Finding out I live in the same neighborhood as a radioactive site is the last thing I wanted to hear.
Not to get political, but this is the exact reason why I get so angry when pro-business legislators, supported by massive campaign contributions from corporations, cut back on the EPA’s funding and budget, or gut regulations against polluting. Inevitably they argue that too many environmental regulations are “bad for the economy.” Yeah, well, a significant percentage of the population coming down with serious illnesses is probably bad for the economy. Our overtaxed health system having to then treat all of those sick patients is also bad for the economy. But y’know, in the end, when politicians say that something is “bad for the economy” that is usually just a euphemism for “it’s going to cut into the profits of our corporate puppet masters.”
I’m sure some people reading this are probably muttering “That dirty commie!” Well, let me tell you, I am definitely no fan of communism. In a completely unregulated capitalist society most of the population is slowly exploited, left to attempt to live on starvation wages, with no health care and no protection against pollution and crime. In a communist society, on the other hand, you probably have a good chance of getting shipped off to a labor camp, if not being executed outright as a “dissident” or “enemy of the state.” So, yeah, I’m not a huge fan of either extreme.
There is nothing wrong with free enterprise, just so long as it does not exploit people. That is why I think labor unions play a key role, but it is also important that they do not become too powerful. You really need a balance between management and labor, so that neither group becomes too influential or authoritative. Along those same lines, a certain amount of laws, of government regulation & oversight is necessary. Without it, individuals and corporations are both going to run unchecked and claim victims, whether it’s by knocking over the corner liquor store or dumping toxic waste in someone’s backyard. There is no liberty or security. But too many laws, too many regulations, are a surefire recipe for also strangling freedom and innovation, as well. It’s a case of anarchy versus a stifling, oppressive, wasteful bureaucracy.
Heh heh, I’ve probably managed to upset quite a few people by now. That’s the great thing about being a moderate nowadays; you are almost guaranteed to piss off nearly everyone on both sides of the political spectrum.
Oh, man, give me a soapbox and do I ever go off! But getting back to where I started, I’m none too thrilled at the notion of possibly glowing in the dark because decades ago Wolff-Alport decided the cheapest, easiest way to deal with their trash was to dump it down the drain. That’s the problem with selfish, short-sighted thinking. Eventually it will lead to really crappy unintended results. And by the time that happens the people being affected, the ones getting bit in the ass, are those who had nothing to do with causing the problem in the first place.
Well, that’s enough out of me. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off buy a Geiger counter.