Sunday, February 8, 2009

100 pounds of Hg

largest mercury spill in 20 years the fact that this isn't simply the largest is scarier. Reading the idiocy posted by idiots reading the papers is even scarier. "He said he was unaware of any damage to workers' health." It's amazing what you can be unaware of, simply by not being told. No one could possibly know within 24 hours whether or not the workers' health is impaired. Still ... I had a job once where I was explicitly told to "take your time getting back here", so that the corporate president could go on TV and say "we don't have that information yet". Of course not, I had it. So, I'm not really impressed anymore with "I'm unaware of ...." He added he did not know which company employed the supervisors who gave his employees their instructions. -- this is just a prime example of failure to stay on top of your employees' safety. If anyone is giving my employees directions involving their health, I damn well want to know who they are. I might now know what was said/done, but I would at least know who ran my safety program. ...notified the state's Office of Emergency Services about a spill of one pint of mercury - equal to 14 pounds. About three weeks later, the company amended its report to 90 pounds. ... reported the [second] spill to the state as six pounds and about a week later amended that amount to 90 pounds do you think someone might have checked into this, after the first amendment? Changing it to a larger amount doesn't surprise me - once you have a better idea of what happened, I would expect the number to increase. But from 14 to 90? That's not just a little blip, that's a 500% increase. Under laws effective last year, any company failing to notify the center promptly about a reportable spill could face a fine of up to $32,500 a day, EPA officials said. come on ... does ANYONE actually think the EPA will even try to fine these people? He added that the law now requires a professional survey assuring asbestos has been removed from a site, but "there is no similar requirement to have a professional survey for mercury and other hazardous materials." I might understand this, in a general sort of way. Tearing down the Gustavus Adolphus building on 16th & Lake really wouldn't warrant one's attention for hazardous materials. But a manufacturing site, which is known to have used hazardous chemicals in large quantities? Anyone who has ever dealt with older companies and especially older facilities in disrepair knows that it is almost a sure-fire guarantee to find 'unexpected' items. (I could tell you horror stories about cleaning a deep freezer which had, at one time, belonged to an infectious disease laboratory.) Hazardous materials assessment should precede demolition or major construction activities at any facility. That could be as simple as "looked around, it was an office, no asbestos, no radon, check" - or in the case of an old pesticide plant, like the one just west of me in the Philips Neighborhood: "um, old pesticide manufacturing plant, no one owns it anymore, it's a Brownfield, there's arsenic all over the neighborhood ...".

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