Superfund sites are ticking time-bombs in flood-prone NC

Containing a cornucopia of deadly toxins:

Among the Superfund sites most at risk from Florence is Horton Iron and Metal, a former shipbreaking operation and fertilizer manufacturing site in a low-lying floodplain along the Cape Fear River outside Wilmington, North Carolina. The 7.4-acre site is heavily contaminated with pesticides, asbestos, toxic metals and cancer-causing PCBs.

Upriver along the Cape Fear is Carolina Transformer Co., a 5-acre Superfund site in Fayetteville that also contains contaminated soil and groundwater contaminated with PCBs. Forecasts call for the river to crest Monday at Fayetteville at more than 62 feet — nearly 30 feet above flood stage.

Some of you younger readers may not be familiar with Poly-chlorinated Byphenyls (PCBs), because they were outlawed before you were born. And in a perfect world, you wouldn't be reading about them now, at least not in the context of current events. But we have a really bad habit of letting polluting industries file bankruptcy and/or change their corporate structure, so they can walk away from toxic nightmares they've created. Superfund sites are scattered all across the country, and efforts to clean them up properly are usually mired in legal maneuvering that can last decades. Anyway, back to the PCBs:

Saturday News: Twitter to the rescue?

NEW BERN DEVASTATED BY STORM SURGE FROM FLORENCE BACKING UP RIVERS: An ominous tweet appeared on a historic North Carolina community's Twitter feed about 2 a.m. Friday. It came as rivers swelled, tides crested and the rain wouldn't stop. And that's when people found themselves trapped in their homes as the water rose. "WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU," the tweet said. "You may need to move up to the second story, or to your attic, but WE ARE COMING TO GET YOU." The city of about 29,000, which was founded in the early 1700s and was briefly the state capital, is near the North Carolina coast and is bordered on the east and south, respectively, by two rivers. When Florence started battering eastern North Carolina with record rainfall, the Neuse and Trent rivers began to swell — and combined with high tide, made for dangerous flooding. Roberts, the city spokeswoman, said preliminary estimates show about 4,300 residences and 300 commercial buildings had been damaged. She said that count is expected to increase significantly.
https://www.wral.com/-the-water-kept-rising-residents-overwhelmed-by-flooding/17845078/

Over-pressurized gas lines destroy dozens of homes in Massachusetts

Thanks for all the clean, safe, reliable, occasionally dangerous as hell energy:

A series of gas explosions an official described as "Armageddon" killed a teenager, injured at least 10 other people and ignited fires in at least 39 homes in three communities north of Boston on Thursday, forcing entire neighborhoods to evacuate as crews scrambled to fight the flames and shut off the gas. Massachusetts State Police urged all residents with homes serviced by Columbia Gas in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover to evacuate, snarling traffic and causing widespread confusion as residents and local officials struggled to understand what was happening.

The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency blamed the fires on gas lines that had become over-pressurized but said investigators were still examining what happened. Columbia had announced earlier Thursday that it would be upgrading gas lines in neighborhoods across the state, including the area where the explosions happened. It was not clear whether work was happening there Thursday, and a spokeswoman did not return calls.

One of the (many) drawbacks to using natural gas is that "all" lines require pressure, and that pressure is relative to the size and distance the gas must travel. The big pipelines require an extreme amount of pressure, which is one of the things that make them so dangerous. But even small lines that serve individual homes or businesses require pressure, and just a modest increase can result in fugitive emissions (leaks). And when those gas lines have been in place for decades, the danger becomes much more acute:

Friday News: Gee, thanks

ICE PROMISES NOT TO ROUND UP IMMIGRANTS FLEEING FROM FLORENCE: Immigrants in North Carolina and South Carolina shouldn’t worry about being arrested by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement as they evacuate their homes or at the emergency shelters, an ICE spokesperson said Wednesday. Bryan Cox, spokesperson for ICE in the southern region, said everyone should follow local evacuation orders during Hurricane Florence. “Our highest priority remains the preservation of life and safety,” Cox said in an email. “In consideration of these circumstances, there will be no immigration enforcement initiatives associated with evacuations or sheltering related to Florence, except in the event of a serious public safety threat.” Hurricane Florence has forced more than 1 million residents in the Carolinas and Virginia to evacuate their homes.
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/local/article218334165.html

Hurricane also reveals devastation of News & Observer journalists

Two decades of weathering the budgetary storm has taken its toll:

The last time a hurricane took direct aim at North Carolina, back in 1999, the Raleigh News & Observer mobilized most of the 250 people in its newsroom to cover the storm and its aftermath. For its extensive efforts, the N&O was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in breaking news the following year (it lost out to the Denver Post, which won for its reporting on the Columbine High School shootings).

As Hurricane Florence bears down on the Carolinas, the Raleigh newspaper is a shadow of what it was in 1999. As a result of the kind of downsizing and layoffs that have affected newspapers everywhere, its newsroom has shrunk from 250 journalists to just 65. Faced with steadily declining ad revenue, the paper has outsourced some of its most basic functions, such as copy editing and print design, to a sister newspaper.

I have come to realize over the last decade or so that efforts to come up with a working "business model" is simply the wrong way to approach this. The word "business" needs to be removed entirely, and replaced with something else, and that something else just might be "philanthropy." We spends billions every year in philanthropic dollars on physical health issues, but improving our intellectual health would help us achieve progress across the board. What we don't need is naive cheerleading from corporate leaders:

Thursday News: Here we go again...

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GOP CONTEMPLATES SPECIAL SESSION AFTER HURRICANE FLORENCE: Both Bell and Senate Finance Chairman Harry Brown said a session would deal only with disaster relief. The Republican majority that controls the General Assembly has a history, though, of dropping surprise legislation into special legislative sessions. They came back into session in December 2016 to pass some $200 million in disaster relief for Hurricane Matthew, then also passed legislation limiting incoming Gov. Roy Cooper's powers. This time, "if we come back into session, it will be for disaster recovery only," said Bell, R-Wayne. Brown, R-Onslow, said he couldn't think of anything else the legislature would take up. “I would think [disaster relief] would be the only thing," he said. The General Assembly already plans to come back into session after Thanksgiving to flesh out implementation language for any constitutional amendments that pass during the Nov. 6 elections.
https://www.wral.com/lawmakers-prep-for-special-session-if-needed-after-florence/17837427/

Coal Ash Wednesday: Florence likely to bring environmental nightmare

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And coal ash pits are perfectly situated to be flooded out:

Since power plants need vast amounts of water to generate steam, their unlined waste pits are located along lakes and rivers. Some of the pits were inundated during past storms, including during Floyd and Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

After a 2014 spill at a Duke plant coated 70 miles of the Dan River in toxic gray sludge, state regulators forced the Charlotte-based company to begin phasing out its coal ash pits by 2029. Because that work was already underway, wastewater levels inside the ash ponds have been falling, Duke Energy spokesman Bill Norton said Tuesday. "We're more prepared than ever," said Norton, adding that crews will be monitoring water levels at the pits throughout the storm.

Yeah, you can "monitor" those pits all you want, but if they are overrun by flood waters, and those dirt berms collapse, there is literally nothing you can do to stop the contamination. As I've mentioned in the past, using water for steam and cooling is not the only reason those pits are right on the banks of rivers. It's also a handy way of draining that toxic water right into a fast-moving body, where evidence of the discharge disappears after a short period of time. In addition to coal ash, pig poop and nukes are also a concern:

Wednesday News: Not-so-deep state

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MARK MEADOWS DEVELOPS CONSPIRACY THEORIES TO PROTECT TRUMP: On Sept. 5, a week after a closed-door interview between Ohr and the House Oversight Committee, Meadows sent a letter asking the Justice Department to review Ohr’s contacts with Steele. But even before that request, Meadows was floating a theory for his supporters to consider. “Here are some key facts you need to know about Bruce Ohr to understand why he is important to our investigation,” Meadows wrote in an email newsletter. “Bruce Ohr’s wife, Nellie Ohr, worked for Fusion GPS — which was the firm hired by the Clinton campaign to write the dossier. Bruce Ohr gave the dossier to the FBI. The FBI then used the same dossier to spy on the Trump campaign.” But as PolitiFact noted in a fact-check of conservative pundit Hugh Hewitt about Jordan’s theory, there is no evidence that Nellie Ohr personally routed the dossier to the Justice Department.
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article218184400.html

Tuesday News: McCrory jumps on Marsy bandwagon

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HIS FINELY-TUNED SENSE OF SMELL DETECTED THE $5 MILLION CAMPAIGN BUDGET: In what could be North Carolina’s most expensive single campaign of the fall, former Gov. Pat McCrory Monday helped kick off the effort to pass a constitutional amendment designed to ensure the rights of crime victims. “Victims too often feel abandoned and we need to give them a voice,” McCrory told reporters in Charlotte. A simultaneous news conference took place at Raleigh’s Crime Victims’ Memorial Garden. Speakers there included former Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby. Critics question the need for the amendment as well as its potential cost. “What’s most disturbing about it is it really crashes head-on with the presumption of innocence,” said Drew Findling, president of the National Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys. “The presumption of innocence is abandoned when you immediately take the position that there is a victim of a crime.”
https://www.newsobserver.com/news/politics-government/article218118890.html

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