Bacon Bits: Two Reasons to Be Worried, and One Reason Not

Be afraid, very afraid. How frequent is cell phone use? According to a team of Old Dominion University researchers tallying seat belt use, some 4% of drivers they spot are on the phone or texting. So reports the Daily Press. Clearly, cell phone use is a problem. But I would argue that texting (which I never do) is far worse than yakking on the phone (which I do do… occasionally). Both may be a distraction, but the one requires drivers to take their eyes off the road, while the other doesn’t. If distractions are the issue, then the General Assembly should ban husbands and wives driving in the same car together. There’s nothing like a side-seat driver to grab one’s attention and increase the risk of accidents!

Virginia lost a big one. I have long hoped that the Wallops Space Flight facility might engender the rise of a space industry in Virginia. But the odds of the Old Dominion developing a critical mass in this industry of the future suffered a significant setback yesterday when Boeing announced that it would relocate the headquarters of its Space and Launch division from Arlington to Titusville, on Florida’s Space Coast. States the aerospace giant: “Looking to the future, this storied Florida space community will be the center of gravity for Boeing’s space programs as we continue to build our company’s leadership beyond gravity.”

Scary ignorance about coal ash. Coal ash is a potential hazard to human health, but the risks it poses are extremely low level. Unfortunately, an article in the Prince William Times, describing how Governor Ralph Northam signed a coal ash regulation bill into law, incorporates some of the hysterical rhetoric that has infiltrated our discourse. The article refers to the coal combustion residue as “toxic coal ash” and describes it as “composed of lead, mercury, cobalt, arsenic, hexavalent chromium and other heavy metals, many of which are carcinogens.” In truth, coal ash is comprised mainly of rock mixed with coal that is not removed in the coal cleaning process and does not combust in boilers used for electric generation. The ash does contain trace amounts of all the aforesaid metals, which can leach in minute quantities into ground water, but is toxic only when it rises above certain levels. If the ash itself were toxic, then the new law requiring utilities to recycle at least 25 percent of it into cinderblocks and pavers would the greatest folly indeed.

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10 responses to “Bacon Bits: Two Reasons to Be Worried, and One Reason Not

  1. duplicate- see below

  2. As far as coal ash, capping in place (per Obama EPA regs) might have been the best eco-solution as well as less costlly. The political justification given for outhauling the coal was (silly) to protect Chesapeake Bay. The Bay is already saline and contains traces of just about every element on the periodic table. The chance of coal ash runoff hurting the Bay is slim to none. Furthermore, those coal ash ontaminants still exist in the groundwater under the coal ash piles, and if anything, outhauling the coal ash may actually hasten leaching of thise contaminants to the Bay.

    But let’s face it, cleaning up the Bay was just a typical political justification with zero apparent truth.

    I have an important safety suggestion, for all of the Liberals who feel tiny traces of toxic metaks are killing us all, DO NOT go swimming in the ocean this Summer. Meanwhile please excuse me, I have to find my boogie boards.

  3. Okay – one more time Bacon and I agree – in spades. People who take their eyes off the road to fiddle with something are as irresponsible as those who drink and drive. No excuses. Supposedly perfectly sane people, many of who are employed at jobs that require good judgement , mandatory good judgement when human lives are at stake – these folks loose their freaking minds when they get into a car holding a cell phone.

    What in the world is so important that you have to handle that phone – not once in a blue moon and you pull over – no – every single time they get into their car they do it. They do it with others in the car – their own kids … it’s like a disease….

    Now on to the Coal Ash.

    ” … and describes it as “composed of lead, mercury, cobalt, arsenic, hexavalent chromium and other heavy metals, many of which are carcinogens.” In truth, coal ash is …. ”

    okay – plain old sewage has much of the same stuff in it – are you okay just releasing it because it has “low levels” of “stuff” in it?

    You can say the same thing about many landfills….. Do we really need liners?

    we can just dump all that sewage into the Chesapeake Bay because it’s all “low level” stuff and we’ve way overreacted to it?

    That’s exactly what many polluters have argued over the years in fact.

    What so bad about one little poultry farm piling up poop on land next to a river – right?

    what’s so bad about a farmer having a thousand head of cattle walking down to a creek to pee and poop – and drink?

    I think MOST people FULLY UNDERSTAND that coal ash is not high level toxic waste – but they STILL don’t want it not contained properly. It’s as simple as that. And people who live next to unlined coal ash pits DO have their wells contaminated… that’s a fact.

    • @LarrytheG

      This is a bit of an apples and oranges comparison. There are two problems with poop: pathogens and Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD). Given that coal is a “fossil fuel”, the notion coal ash is highly toxic is sort of weird. Chemically, how is it different from burning wood?

      The principal problems dumping coal ash waste into water should create is to change the acidity of water and perhaps encourage algal growth.

      What should we do with coal ash? My preferred solution is to tax such low level pollutants. When a company produces a product, that company should be designing their product so that the materials that go into it (especially the hazardous materials) can be recycled. Therefore, everything that is sold that involves hazardous maters should be taxed appropriately with a Pollution Added Tax (PAT). Then if business recycles a hazardous materials from things that would otherwise be thrown away, that business should be able to be “reimbursed” the PAT tax.

      The point is that we ought to encourage industry to design the stuff they sell to be recycled instead of being discard as waste into the environment or landfills.

      The customers of coal companies should pay a sales tax on the hazardous waste that results from burning coal. Even coal ash can be reused somehow or some way.

  4. The obvious solution to our coal ash and other pollution problems is less people. There would be no need for txting while driving either. We should live worldwide as the American Indians did, in harmony with the land and its other inhabitants, at their population levels, and everyone not selected for this fate should march off to the crematorium. Now, having solved that problem, let’s find a way to deal with the political leadership skills of reality TV hosts.

  5. You forgot recycling – which we are finding out – means to ship stuff to other countries – and when they refuse to accept it any longer and we have to do something – “recycling” becomes HARD and we end up landfilling it!

    Just imagine how many companies and government agencies who have committed to 20/30/40 % recycling of their stuff find out no one wants it anymore and/or you have to pay them extra to take it!

    WAIT! Some folks say that because it’s “low level” in toxicity that it’s okay to pile it up on riverbanks because even if it gets into the river – it has a negligible impact!

  6. Coal ash is not a health or environmental problem? That’s a bit of a stretch given the compounds it contains. Also weird to leave in in place with only a top liner mere yards from a river that is likely to flood even more thanks to climate change. Did you have hear of the Dan River spill at Duke? Or how about the TVA? And this problem is exaggerated.
    Jim, you do sound like Dominion here because that was their point of view a couple of years ago when they cast tracking a limited coal ash solution their way. Public outcry was so loud that the utility must take more extensive steps to secure the ash ponds.

    • Peter – don’t worry. Our state government has this issue well in hand. I mean it’s not like they’d allow a nuclear power plant to be built on an earthquake fault line or anything like that.

      BTW – Duke Energy pled guilty to criminal negligence in the Dan River spill. I think we may have a solution. If Dominion wants to leave the coal ash sitting next to the river then all of their executives are criminally liable for any serious
      environmental damage done by that ash for as long as they live. Let’s set the minimum sentence at 5 years.

  7. I do not think Coal Ash is a deadly toxin and I suspect most ordinary people do not think that also despite those that claim the media and the ‘greenies” are misleading/scaring people and that’s why they support moving it.

    The simple reality is that most folks don’t believe it should be stored on the side of a river no more than they’d agree to have an unlined landfill on the bank of a river.

    The narrative that Dominion and it’s supporters have promoted is totally blind to the fact that most folks just think it’s a bad idea to store waste on a river bank that inevitably will flood one day.

    The “analysis” that we got from Dominion and it’s hired guns talked about how expensive and costly it would be – for something that is not really “toxic”.

    Dominion has a big conflict of interest here. The right path was to turn this over to a 3rd party and put it out for bids and a decade or so timeframe such that the “cost” is not terrible on a monthly basis.

    Dominion chose to not do that.

    Virtually every one of us – when we buy tires or have an oil change will get a line item charge for “waste disposal”. We PREFER that to tires being trucked off to some ad-hoc dump and then later having to clean it up or oil being dumped in places it ought not be. You have to pay for that.

    People PREFER to pay for sewage treatment. They do not want it dumped in the river untreated.

    Only from the fetid minds of folks who are way too far right – do we get these spurious arguments against cleaning up – paying to clean up and they blame “media” and “greenies” when the reality is MOST people want it disposed of correctly so that it is not a future problem.

    We could have “disposed” of this issue a long time ago had it not been for Dominion and it’s surrogates continuing to fight and delay it.

    What’s the real point of that – to show folks that Dominion has “power” and can affect public policy even when most folks don’t agree? It’s arrogance on steroids. Dominion SERVES the people of Virginia – it does not dictate to them.

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