Heckuva job on that toxic plume, y'all

Here is what I would do if I were the governor. I would march down to the office of my secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection and start kicking him square in the butt.

"Ow, governor!" DEP Secretary Michael W. Sole would exclaim, trying to protect the region in question from my gubernatorial brogans. "Why are you kicking me in the butt? Please stop!"

But I would just kick him in the pants again and say, "Not until you fix this toxic chemical plume in my hometown of St. Petersburg! Your department has been dillydallying about it like a bunch of $#%$%s forever!"

Then I would hand DEP Secretary Michael W. Sole a bucket and a shovel and tell him to get down to St. Petersburg, and not to bother coming back until it was fixed. And by "fixed," I would not mean, "Scheduled to receive another report."

Okay, my little fantasy is finished now. This is not going to happen.

Here, instead, is what is going to happen with the toxic chemical plume that we now know to be on the move, making its way through underground western St. Petersburg, migrating toward Boca Ciega Bay:

Nothing.

By "nothing," I mean that the DEP has ordered the property owner, the Raytheon Co., to … to … to swing into action by turning in another report by the end of this month.

And then if the DEP doesn't like the report, it will really crack down, and … and … give the company another 90 days.

This is after more than a decade and a half in which the state has kept its thumb jammed up its own, uh, bureaucracy. For good measure, the Pinellas County government and the city of St. Petersburg learned about it along the way too, yet nobody ever thought to tell, you know, the residents.

At no time was this "fine," but it REALLY stopped being fine in recent years, once the stuff decided to go on a little chemo-walkabout, showing up in various monitoring wells, not to mention the private irrigation wells of some of the folks who live in the Azalea area, southwest of Tyrone Square Mall.

Nice area. Lots of trees. Raytheon itself is a good-looking place, kind of office-parky. There's a beautiful city park right across 72nd Street from the company's site, with a playground, and ballfields, and a Little League building. Most of the homes affected lie among the blocks just south of the park.

Raytheon is not the original source of this stuff, but it bought the site at 1501 72nd St. N from a company called E-Systems.

To boil down the statements of recent weeks and months from Raytheon and the DEP:

(1) There is no danger to the public health because it isn't in the drinking water.

(2) Don't worry, we are filling out all the necessary reports.

As for the chemicals not being in the drinking water, I am not sure that is the only yardstick. Some of the scientist-types quoted are warning the residents against, you know, rolling around in the stuff.

I would kind of like to see DEP Secretary Michael W. Sole and his staff dancing around in the irrigation spray of the affected wells.

"Don't worry, Mr. Secretary!" I would chirp reassuringly. "The plume consists mostly of vinyl chloride, dioxane and trichloroethylene, but you're gonna be okay as long as you don't drink it!"

Heckuva job on that toxic plume, y'all 05/14/08 [Last modified: Monday, May 19, 2008 2:22pm]

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