CAUTION UNEXPLODED ORDNANCE Surveyors found 54 toxic substances in the soil, including eight of the top 10 most toxic substances. WATCH a video interview with Robert Speight at txlo.com/clws Site 35B. “The red wells are contaminated. Almost certainly groundwater here is also contaminated,” he adds, pointing to an area below the red wells to which groundwater is flowing and where there are no monitoring wells. At Site 50, he says, the Army drilled just one well, so it hasn’t measured contamination there, either. To solve most of these problems, the Army is proposing a process called monitored natural attenuation that involves leaving the contamination alone and watching it degrade over time. But it might take centuries for volatile organic compounds like TCE to degrade. Heavy metals never break down. “I don’t believe that they’ve done what’s necessary in order to show that monitored natural attenuation is a viable remedy for cleaning up groundwater at these sites,” Rice says. “Looking at the data, frankly, I doubt it’s going to work in most cases.” The EPA is responsible for approving or rejecting the Army’s plan, and back in Washington, EPA staffers admit there has been a problem nationwide with “inconsistencies” in groundwater cleanup. Stephen Tzhone, the EPA project manager for Region 6, which includes Texas, says, “In the past the Army has resisted some of the groundwater restoration policies by the EPA” and that “this is not a Longhornspecific issue.” In June 2009, headquarters sent a memo nudging all Superfund national policy managers to clean up their acts. Back at the town hall meeting, Robert Speight, who runs Caddo Lake Water Supply Co. in Uncertain, speaks next. The town of Uncertain \(the name originates from the surveyors’ uncertainty as to whether water wells bordering the hazardous waste site. “We want to be able to produce water safely,” Speight says, “not for them to take 100, 200 years and see what happens.” The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality tests Uncertain’s wells for compounds like TCE every six years. The public water supply is not routinely tested for perchlorate. Under public pressure, TCEQ tested the water supply around the facility for perchlorate once, in December 2004. Speight says he never saw the results. The Army didn’t attend the meeting to respond to community concerns. “No one would deny there have been releases [of chemicals] to Caddo Lake in the past,” Zeiler, the Army’s site manager for the plant, tells me later. She says the Army is confident the chemicals are mostly contained. She says that if they do not disperse naturally, another remedy will be applied. As for now, “I can’t say there’s no seepage” into those creeks, she says. If TCE is seeping into the creeks, is it reaching the lake a mile away? She says no. According to Rick Lowerre, an environmental lawyer and the president of Caddo Lake Institute, “The agencies [EPA and TCEQ] unfortunately have taken more of a position of negotiation in cleanups rather than saying, ‘Here are the rules, follow them.” He doesn’t think they’ll hold the Army accountable. Since the institute has leases on some of the Longhorn land, it can legally appeal an EPA approval of the Army’s plan. “This is one way to get the agencies to stop this negotiation game, is you get the court to tell them, ‘You can’t do that,'” Lowerre says. The community is waiting to see if the EPA approves the Army’s proposed cleanup plan. If so, you can bet the institute will bring out its guns, and hydrologist Rice will be one of them. As for the 54 chemicals found in Caddo Lake, the Army says the contamination cannot be clearly linked to the bomb plant. “We’re not the only contributor,” Zeiler says. The contamination could come from any of the industries around Caddo Lake, “including but not necessarily limited to the former Longhorn AAP, lignite-fired power plant, chicken processing plant, coal-fired power plant, steel company, abandoned oil and gas pipeline, oil and gas wells, industrial wastewater outfalls, mine lands, abandoned municipal solid waste sites, marinas, boat ramps, and regional industrial emissions.” In other words, if you cannot determine whose toxic waste is whose, you cannot hold anyone accountable. El THEHIGHTOWERREPORT RIGGING THE RULES THERE’S ONE GRASSROOTS way that workaday folks can create more fairness in our country’s plutocratic, corporate-controlled economy: unite in unions. Some 60 million workers say they’d join a union if they could. Well … why can’t they? Because corporate chieftains and Wall Street financiers don’t want us hoi polloi having any say over such things as offshoring, downsizing, wages, benefits and work ing conditions. So for decades, they have deployed their lawyers, lobbyists and politicians to rig the rules of unionization to keep people from joining. For example, the Railway Labor Act, which sets union rules for railroads and airlines, has a tricky little provision to sidetrack nearly all new union izing efforts. When workers vote to decide whether they want a union, employees who do not vote are counted as “no.” In every other American election, people who don’t vote aren’t counted. The Obama administration has repealed this absurdity, and whoa, Nellie!the airlines have gone bonkers. Sen. Johnny Isakson, a Georgia Republican and wellfunded attack dog for Delta Airlines, stood on his hind legs to declare that deleting nonvoters from the “no” column was an “assault on employee rights.” Really Johnny? How would you like playing by such rigged rules for your own elections? In his last run, 79 percent of eligible Georgians either voted against Isakson or did not voteso nonvoters would’ve soundly defeated him. Hmmm … if it would get rid of all the Isaksons, maybe the nonvoter system might be a good thing after all. JIM HIGHTOWER A FIND MORE INFORMATION on Jim Hightower’s work and subscribe to his awardwinning monthly newsletter, The Hightower Lowdown at www.jimhightower.com 26 THE TEXAS OBSERVER WWW.TEXASOBSERVER.ORG
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