C 0 CBill Reeves, general manager of TECO car and checked to see what type of odor could be detected. An odor similar to ethyl acrylate was picked up approximately one-half mile east of the Gonzales residence.” Dr. Joseph Highland, chairman of the Environmental Defense Fund’s toxic chemicals program in Washington, D.C., calls use of the human nose to detect air pollutants.”primitive.” “It’s not out of character,” he says of the procedure. “It’s Notice to Subscribers With the inflation rate last year at 13 percent and this year’s rate 18 percent so far, we are required to turn again to the annual question of a subscription price increase. This year we must also deal with a special circumstance. The Observer’s present financial situation has been hurt by income losses associated with our production problems of the last six months. These problems have been solved, and the cash-flow situation has returned to a stable income-outgo balance, but we are impelled by the circumstances to decide that this year’s subscription rate increase must be a $3 advance, to $18 a year, which becomes effective immediately. Coinciding with this increase, we establish now a special one-year subscription rate of $12 a year for full-time students. Others who may find it impossible to pay the full $18 should let us know at renewal time. Many Observer subscribers who can afford it renew at more than the going rate, and we record the excess in a Gift Fund ledger and .decide, on the basis of the condition of the Gift Fund, to renew subscriptions of other loyal readers who might be financially burdened more severely than the rest of us. We regret having to ask you to share the impacts of inflation on our costs again, but as we embark with high enthusiasm on this new period in our 25-year history, we hope very much that you share our enthusiasm and will stay with us and see us through. Ronnie Dugger similar to other states. But you really need specifics. One should look with good scientific technique to determine whether an air pollution problem exists . . . . Sniffing is for flowers, not for chemicals.” In addition, the federal Environmental Protection Agency has a policy known as “prevention of significant deterioration,” which means that areas with clean air cannot be allowed to degrade. But the air control board’s Bradford says, “EPA’s policy deals with particulates, sulfur dioxide, hydrocarbons and oxides of nitrogen. It’s not applicable to odor.” TECO’s disposal procedure involves breaking open 55-gallon drums filled with toxic wastes, mixing the waste and barrels with dirt, and landfilling it all into what are described as “secSome of the chemicals dumped by TECO are volatile, others are carcinogenic, or cancer-causing. Yet the Texas air control board puts no controls on this procedure, resulting in both emissions of chemicals and waste particles escaping into the air. Recent off-site monitoring by the air control board found low levels of benzene, a chemical which has been linked to leukemia. The storage also of sealed-drum waste, interred and covered with dirt, has caused problems when the drums rupture. “The toxic drum landfilling operation is [an] odor source,” wrote Palmer to Bill Reeves, TECO’s general manager, over two years ago. “This appears to be caused by some of the drums being broken during landfilling operations. To reduce this, more care will have to be taken in handling the drums. One consequence of locating a toxic waste site so near farm fields was seen last April when a corn crop was poisoned. A water resources department memorandum: “Herbicide in powder form reached a maize field just north of TECO when a gust Robert Lewis, a water resources department inspector, made this notation: “The farmer has a good attitude and settlement was made” [italics added]. The same memorandum mentions that TECO was told to notify the air control board of the complaint. But there is no record that the firm did so, or that the water resources department did any more than send the air control board a transcript of the telephone conversation. Nor is there any record of the air control board taking any action on the crop poisoning. The current response by the state’s pollution control officials is to require TECO to clean up wastewater and sludge ponds that trap and hold contaminated runoff at the site; these have been among the chief sources of odors for more than five years. The company’s excuse for not cleaning up the mess sooner has been that unexpectedly high amounts of rainfall have gotten in the way. But Attorney Thompson for Citizens Against Chemical Dump Sites notes that the Gulf Coast’s heavy rainfall “is one of the best reasons I can think of why that site should never have been put here in the first place.” “I think we [the air control board] could have been tougher with them,” Bradford said when asked why the waste disposal firm was given so much leeway. “But it was felt that the company was working with the department of water resources. We couldn’t say, ‘Close those pits.’ We don’t have the authority.” Bradford’ was asked if he thought the waste disposal site was compatible with the Robstown agricultural community. “I’m like those people,” he said of the farmers. “I feel like it’s farmland and that the site shouldn’t be there. Of course, industry generates waste and it’s got to go somewhere . . . .” If the regulation over air pollution and odor problems arising from the site has been less than ideal, the record of the water resources department has been all but shameful. 6 APRIL 11, 1980
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