If that were all it were, I would probably be OK with it. However, I do have a problem with it, not with bourbons, shots or beers, mind you, but with trash, pounds and pounds of trash. GarbageHaulSmallA couple of times a week, we have to walk our 800 feet of road frontage and pick up trash. A couple of times a year, our neighbors have to join together to do a much larger clean up. Seriously, in this day and age, littering is still a problem?

The trash we pick up ranges from the Big Gulp Styrofoam cups, McDonald’s sacks, every imaginable brand of soft drink cans, to an unfathomable number of beer cans, beer bottles, vodka bottles, whiskey bottles, etc. etc. etc. For the record, these alcohol bottles are empty and thrown from cars…and we have an open container law? There is even one guy that must have a serious problem because we find an empty pint bottle of Jim Beam every Monday. I even sat behind a red pickup the other day, when the driver opened the window of his cab, stuffed a bag of McDonald’s trash out of it and threw it, not into the bed of his truck, but right on the side of the road. My honk, only drew a one fingered salute. Seriously?

We live in one of the most picturesque parts of our city. A few minutes east of one the largest shopping malls and one of the busiest intersections in the state, you descend into beautiful wooded valley. Trees overhang the road on both sides, a creek meanders through meadows and yards. It is quiet (except for the speeders who think it is a drag race, but that is ANOTHER post), it feels as if you are out in the country, not a part of a major metropolitan area.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m4ozVMxzNAA&w=420&h=315]

There are only a few houses in this area, so most of the cars are “passing through” on their way to one of the most affluent suburbs in the region. When I drive through those areas, I do not see roadside trash scattered on their manicured lawns, it seems as if, they have decided to literally trash our road instead of their own.  Where do they think that trash goes? Who do they think cleans it up? (btw, some ends up in our rivers and streams see my previous post  A Dishwasher, two hot water heaters, and a hide-a-bed )  Do they not care what it looks like to drive by miles of soft drink cups? Seriously?

I fantasize about tracking some of the litterers down and dumping their trash onto their lawn, but that would make me no better then them. I have thought about collecting the trash and building a monument for all to see, but then I would just have to look at it (and people would probably litter more). Seriously?

I really can’t think of a solution for ignorance. I can’t think of a way to make people care.  Until then, we will continue to pick up after them and pray they don’t wrap their car around one of our trees. Seriously!

If anything you read here or in other posts strikes a chord, I would love to hear from you. Leave a comment, hit me up on Twitter (@jtongici), find me on LinkedIn, or Google +.

Final installment of a series examining the impacts of a “dewatering system” on an eco-system. The series began with “We have met the enemy and he is us” This post introduces the topic of the impacts of a “dewatering system” on the infrastructure of a city. Part II “It’s all related” continues the discussion with the impacts on water and rivers. Part III of the series “What watt?” looks at the direct and indirect energy use resulting from the installation of the system and the resulting CO2 emissions.

PVC or Polyvinyl Chloride seems to be everywhere these days. It’s in everything from electric wires, to toys, to portable electronic devices and of course pipes. The “dewatering system” installed underneath the new 1,000 Marriott Hotel in downtown Indianapolis consists of almost 5,000 feet of PVC pipes. These pipes are used to gather the naturally occurring groundwater and funnel it to the sump basins where it is then pumped into the Indianapolis sewer system.

PVC has been the subject of a lot of attention since its first commercial uses in the 20’s and 30’s. Throughout its lifecycle (manufacturing, use, and disposal), it has been linked to various health issues including cancer, birth defects and reproductive impairment. Many of the environmental and health issues stem from the additives used to soften the normally rigid material.

During the manufacturing process workers exposed to the vinyl chloride face an increased risk of cancer of various types. Since the link between the vinyl chloride and the cancer in workers was discovered in the 1970’s, changes in the manufacturing process have virtually eliminated the exposure to the workers. Virtually eliminated…I don’t know about you, but virtually eliminated does not make ME feel warm and fuzzy, nor does it make me want to go to work in one of those factories. However, the danger does not stop at the factory doors. The EPA found “vinyl chloride emissions from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), ethylene dichloride (EDC), and vinyl chloride monomer (VCM) plants cause or contribute to air pollution that may reasonably be anticipated to result in an increase in mortality or an increase in serious irreversible, or incapacitating reversible illness. Vinyl chloride is a known human carcinogen that causes a rare cancer of the liver.”

Another problem with PVC is its tendency to leach and off-gas its chemicals. Leaching is a process by which the carcinogens and other poisons transfer to other things that come in contact with them. This was discovered to be a significant problem in such things as soft toys that would be chewed on by infants and even in (sorry mom) some adult “toys” as well. This has led to bans on various additives in some products. Studies have shown that chemicals in the PVC can even leach into water as it moves through a pipe. Off-gassing, is the process in which these poisons are released into the air. You know that new car smell? Yep, you guessed it…off-gassing! NOT a good thing. This has led to various manufacturers (Toyota, Nissan, Microsoft and others) to eliminate PVC from their products. It has also led to retailers either reducing the number of PVC products they carry or eliminating them altogether.

Finally, disposal…products made from PVC are very difficult to recycle. Since they are made up of various additives, the process to break down the material into useful components is costly, inefficient and only so successful. Most of the products made with PVC end up in being disposed of by the consumer, either by burning it with their trash, or throwing it away in their trash, where it might go to a municipal incinerator or to a landfill. What is significant about this is the fact that when burned, PVC releases all kinds of toxic chemicals into the air, like hydrogen chloride and dioxins. (Do you know how common landfill fires are?)

If all these things are wrong with PVC, why is it still in use? The answer is simple…it’s CHEAP! Human Health vs. the Dollar…now THAT discussion is a whole other BLOG!

Conclusion-

So dear reader, I hope you have stuck with me through this series of articles. I hope they underscore the synergistic nature of our environment and the need to consider ALL impacts when trying to solve an issue. What first looks like the fast, easy, and inexpensive way out may prove to be just the opposite. Finally, I hope they inspire you to get involved in your community by asking why things are done they way they are done and seeking better and better ways to live on this planet without killing it (and ourselves).

 

 

Part Three of a Series: “We have met the enemy and he is us” introduces the topic of the impacts of a “dewatering system” on the infrastructure of a city. Part II “It’s all related” continues the discussion with the impacts on water and rivers.

So what does a water issue have to do with energy? Simple, you may recall from the previous posts, that the new Marriott Hotel being constructed in downtown Indianapolis has a parking garage that is three floors below grade (underground). The third floor extends below the top of the water table which required the installation of four pumps to extract the water and send it into the sewer system. These pumps run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year (and sometimes 366).

Now, I don’t know what types of pumps are installed in the Marriott or the size of the pumps nor am I an electrical engineer. However, it is reported that they are pumping a total of 1,200 gallons per minute, or 300 gallons per minute per pump. I doubt very seriously that they sized the four pumps right at 300 gpm, but let’s say for a minute they did. A quick internet search finds that a typical industrial dewatering pump capable of pumping 300 gpm requires about 460 volts of electricity and draws about 20 amps. That is the equivalent of 9.2 kWh (kilowatts per hour). Four pumps running 24 hours a day comes to about 900 kWh every day. As a comparison, the average American family uses 938 kWh every day. So, every day, the pumps use enough electricity to power a house.

As I mentioned, they probably did not size them at the bare minimum. Perhaps they put in 600 gpm pumps. One of those pumps uses 460 volts and draws 54 amps. That is almost 25 kWh per hour per pump. Four pumps running 24 hours a day would use about 2,400 kWh a day, or enough to power about 2.5 households.

We can’t have a discussion about energy use without mentioning CO2 emissions. This amount of electricity produces from 236 metric tons of CO2 a year on the low end to 629 metric tons on the high end. That is the equivalent CO2 of between 43 and 115 cars on our roads…from the dewatering pumps of one building in one city.

And since 96% of Indiana’s electricity comes from coal, consider the other impacts of burning coal…air pollution (beyond carbon), water pollution, sludge creation and storage.

There are indirect energy impacts as well. Since all of this water is being pumped (presumably) into the Combined Sewer system it has to be processed as wastewater. A typical wastewater treatment plant burns 6,000 kWh of electricity to process each million gallons of water. As we know, these pumps are flushing 1,728,000 gallons a day into the system or about 630,720,000 gallons a year. How does 3,784,320 kWh of power sound? That’s almost 11 more households of electricity. And carbon? How does another 2,195 metric tons of carbon sit with you? ANOTHER 400 cars!

Keep in mind; this is all to move water that didn’t have to be moved in the first place!

Stayed tuned for the final installment in this series, “Killing me softly with…PVC”.

Part Three of a Series: “We have met the enemy and he is us” introduces the topic of the impacts of a “dewatering system” on the infrastructure of a city. Part II “It’s all related” continues the discussion with the impacts on water and rivers.

So what does a water issue have to do with energy? Simple, you may recall from the previous posts, that the new Marriott Hotel being constructed in downtown Indianapolis has a parking garage that is three floors below grade (underground). The third floor extends below the top of the water table which required the installation of four pumps to extract the water and send it into the sewer system. These pumps run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year (and sometimes 366).

Now, I don’t know what types of pumps are installed in the Marriott or the size of the pumps nor am I an electrical engineer. However, it is reported that they are pumping a total of 1,200 gallons per minute, or 300 gallons per minute per pump. I doubt very seriously that they sized the four pumps right at 300 gpm, but let’s say for a minute they did. A quick internet search finds that a typical industrial dewatering pump capable of pumping 300 gpm requires about 460 volts of electricity and draws about 20 amps. That is the equivalent of 9.2 kWh (kilowatts per hour). Four pumps running 24 hours a day comes to about 900 kWh every day. As a comparison, the average American family uses 938 kWh every day. So, every day, the pumps use enough electricity to power a house.

As I mentioned, they probably did not size them at the bare minimum. Perhaps they put in 600 gpm pumps. One of those pumps uses 460 volts and draws 54 amps. That is almost 25 kWh per hour per pump. Four pumps running 24 hours a day would use about 2,400 kWh a day, or enough to power about 2.5 households.

We can’t have a discussion about energy use without mentioning CO2 emissions. This amount of electricity produces from 236 metric tons of CO2 a year on the low end to 629 metric tons on the high end. That is the equivalent CO2 of between 43 and 115 cars on our roads…from the dewatering pumps of one building in one city.

And since 96% of Indiana’s electricity comes from coal, consider the other impacts of burning coal…air pollution (beyond carbon), water pollution, sludge creation and storage.

There are indirect energy impacts as well. Since all of this water is being pumped (presumably) into the Combined Sewer system it has to be processed as wastewater. A typical wastewater treatment plant burns 6,000 kWh of electricity to process each million gallons of water. As we know, these pumps are flushing 1,728,000 gallons a day into the system or about 630,720,000 gallons a year. How does 3,784,320 kWh of power sound? That’s almost 11 more households of electricity. And carbon? How does another 2,195 metric tons of carbon sit with you? ANOTHER 400 cars!

Keep in mind; this is all to move water that didn’t have to be moved in the first place!

Stayed tuned for the final installment in this series, “Killing me softly with…PVC”.

In my previous post “We have met the enemy and he is us“, I discussed the “dewatering system” that was built for the new Marriott Hotel in downtown Indianapolis and the impact this system will have on the Combined Sewer Overflow system. Today, let’s examine some of the other impacts this system and others like it have on our environment.

John Muir once said “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” What this means is all of the systems in nature are interrelated and changes in one area can have dramatic impacts in others, in other words, when we try to outsmart nature, we inevitably screw something else up! This “dewatering system” is an excellent example; there are impacts, not only to the water systems, but also to energy, carbon emissions, human health and wildlife survival.

Water – Forget the fact that these pumps are taking what could be perfectly good drinking water (or at the very least perfectly good “process” water) and flushing it down the drain, there are other impacts to the water systems. Because the parking garage in this example was built below the water table, pumps run continuously to pump the naturally occurring groundwater into the sewer system. The effect of this pumping is to lower the water table in the area, and potentially in a large surrounding area. When the water table is lowered several things occur. First, anyone in the area that is using well water will find that their wells go dry as the water table lowers, thus requiring them to dig their wells deeper, sometimes at great expense. Next, as the water table lowers, water, being water, will follow the path of least resistance and begin to “fill in” the area. This means groundwater from a larger area will begin to move thus impacting larger and large areas. In some cases, nearby wetlands and rivers could begin to drain and dry up.

In addition, as the water table lowers, plant life that is dependent upon that water will begin to die out as its root system can no longer reach its water source. This may require additional irrigation to keep the plants alive which adds to the vicious cycle and strain on the water system. In some cases, invasive plants will migrate into the spaces left behind by the dying plants. Wildlife that depends on the native plants will die out or migrate to other areas due to lack of food.

Among the impact caused by lowering the water table is subsidence. Because the presence of ground water creates hydraulic pressure, it is able to support the weight of the soil, rock, AND BUILDINGS above it. Removing the groundwater will cause a “sinking” or settling of the earth above it. Don’t believe me? The city of San Jose is THIRTEEN feet lower today than it was 100 years ago. The problems in New Orleans were exacerbated in part by subsidence caused by the extraction of groundwater over the last century. What will be the impact to the buildings as the ground around them SINKS? They too will sink and settle causing foundation problems, and other structural and non-structural issues throughout the building or HOME!

River – While we are talking about water, let’s look at the impact on the river. According to the senior manager on the project for Marriott, the water was going to the river any way, well was it? Ground water is replenished by rain water, surface water, AND NEARBY RIVERS AND STREAMS. This water may have COME from the river not be on its way TO the river. As the water table lowers, the river could try harder and harder to refill the void, eventually drying up the river. It has happened before folks! However, let’s assume for the moment that the manager was right and the water was heading to the river. By “speeding up the process” the ecosystem of the river will be changed. Rather than the water slowly filtering through the ground (and being naturally cleaned and filtered along the way) it will be blasted into the river. This will lead to increased erosion as the water speed is faster than is natural. The increase in erosion will lead to additional sediment in the water (already the number one pollutant in Indiana). This increase in sediment will begin to kill off the fish and plant life in the river as they can no longer find food or the food dies off because of lack of sunlight that is now blocked by the sediment. In addition, many of the organisms that serve a key role in the food chain are impacted by even slight changes in water temperature. Because this water did not reach the river naturally, it will change the temperature of the water.

Energy – What a minute, I thought we were talking about water here, what does that have to do with energy? In my next post we will discuss the energy impacts (both direct and indirect) of the “dewatering systems”.

What was true in 1970 when Pogo first uttered his immortal words is truer still today. At the time of this writing, my city, Indianapolis (ok, yes I live in Carmel, but much to the chagrin of many Carmelites, Indianapolis STILL is the major metropolitan city in this area), is in the midst of a 17 year project to mitigate it’s sewer overflow problem. Indy, like several hundred other cities, utilizes a Combined Sewer Overflow system. Basically, what that means is wastewater from homes and businesses (uh, sewage!) and rainwater from streets and parking lots utilize the same pipes to transport the water (and the, uh, sewage) to the treatment plants. Sounds logical, right? You only have to lay one set of pipes, excellent! Except…when it rains. That’s where the overflow part of the Combined Sewer Overflow system comes in. When the amount of “water” to be processed exceeds the capacity of the system, it is allowed to flow freely (“floatables” and all) into local rivers and streams. In Indianapolis, the amount of rain required to cause the overflow is ¼”! One quarter of one inch! In 2008, Indianapolis received a rainfall of over ¼” SIXTY times…about 6 or 7 BILLION gallons of sewage a year! Anyone want to go for a swim? How about a nice drink? Or, fish fillet? Want to be grossed out? Check out WTHR’s Bob Segall’s article at http://www.wthr.com/Global/story.asp?S=9260797.

The good news is we are fixing the problem, to the tune of several BILLION dollars, but we are fixing it. The bad news is…we haven’t really learned anything in a hundred years. A recent article in the Indianapolis Business Journal featured the “dewatering system” of the new 1,000 room Marriott hotel in downtown Indianapolis. This $425 million project is part of our city’s plans for hosting the Super Bowl in 2012. “Dewatering System” sounds so innocuous doesn’t it? Sounds almost like a dehumidifier or something, right? So, what exactly is a “dewatering system”? Many of you have homes with basements; undoubtedly you have a sump pump. These systems are designed to funnel water to the pump where it can be moved away from the foundation of the house. They help to prevent water from leaking through the foundation of the house into your basement. On a much bigger scale, that is the type of system engineered at the Marriot. Still sounds pretty harmless, right?

The system at the Marriot has a series of almost 5,000 feet of PVC pipe, funneling water to sump wells that are four feet wide and nine feet deep. There are four pumps that run every minute of every day pumping 1,200 gallons of water a minute. That’s 1,728,000 gallons a DAY, or 630,720,000 gallons a YEAR! That is enough water to supply 10,000 households for an entire year! And, what are they doing with all that water? According to the senior project manager they are sending it “right to the [White] river”. Hmmm, so they ran a pipe west from those pumps over a ¼ mile UNDER White River State Park to the river, or was it south almost half a mile under Victory Field, or north under the Eiteljorg and the Indiana State Museum. Uh, I don’t think so Tim. If I were a bettin’ man, I’d bet they will pump 630,720,000 gallons of water each year into the Indianapolis Combined Sewer System, where it not only adds to the amount of waste water that has to be handled by the system, it also has to go through the waste water treatment facility and be processed before it goes “right to the river”.

What design issue led to the decision to pump over a ½ a BILLION gallons of water into the Combined Sewer System? The three story BELOW ground parking garage is five feet deeper than the level of the water table on the site….five feet. So, think about this…how many buildings in downtown Indy have three floors of parking, or other space below ground and are pumping just as much, if not more water into the Combined Sewer? Dozens? Hundreds? In some states, it is a criminal offense to capture the rain water that falls on your property, yet we are literally flushing billions of gallons of water each year down the drain…AND we are all paying for it. Not only are we paying for the project to overhaul the sewer system and the capacity to handle water that was not entering the sewers to begin with, but we are paying for the waste water treatment facilities and operations, and we pay for it in the damage all this water has on the river itself. One day, in the not so distant future, we are going to be desperate for water to drink. Think of the cost that will entail!

Surely in this day of Low Impact Development and Sustainable Design we can come up with better solutions than just dumping the water down the drain. How about a two story parking garage, instead of three, how about building above ground instead of below, how about using that water to flush the 1000 or so toilets in the new hotel and for other non-drinking uses, how about filtering it and using it in the hotel pool? How about building codes that require developers to USE the water on their site rather than just pumping it into the water system?

The impacts of design decisions like this one go far beyond the strain it places on our sewer infrastructure. The great environmentalist John Muir once wrote, “When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” In my next post, we will examine some of the other impacts of the “dewatering system” on, not only water, but energy, carbon, and human health.

No, that is not my shopping list for a home renovation, believe it or not, this is a partial list of the junk we found during the White River cleanup last Saturday! The list also includes over 20 car tires (some still on the rims), a couple of truck tires, ½ of a boat, a chair, part of a dock, and mounds of trash! All in, our crew of 14 hauled an estimated ¾ of a ton of trash and debris out of a 2 mile section of the White River.

For our Fall Cleanup we joined forces with groups across four counties that worked to remove over TWENTY TONS of trash, two and half tons of recyclable metals and several hundred tires. What is absolutely mind boggling, is that this was the 15th annual clean up…you’d think we would run out of crap to pick up…but no…people keep tossing in more junk. Some of this stuff is thrown off of bridges or down embankments, purposely tossed into the river. Other stuff comes from parking lots, roads, and fields where people throw out their trash and it washes into the rivers. What really scares me is that this 20 tons of trash is only the stuff we can SEE. What about all of the crap that is either buried in the river bottom or in water too deep to spot it…or what about the stuff we can’t see because it is chemical in nature?

A Network of Support - Partnering to Protect the White RiverI could go on and on…but what I really wanted to do was to thank the 14 people that gave up 5 or 6 hours of a gorgeous September Saturday morning to provide the muscle needed to accomplish this daunting task! Our 11 canoeists were ably supported by a land crew of three that helped shuttle us along the route and made sure lunch was ready when we were finished. The 11 members of the water crew weere in six canoes (thanks Alan for volunteering to go solo!) and had a fantastic barge provided by the City of Noblesville. Within the first quarter mile we had amassed so much stuff, we had to offload the barge and a couple of canoes at the 206th bridge, where a group of boy scouts helped to move it to the dumpsters.

Before we had gone much further, the barge was again loaded down with enough junk that it could not be towed behind a canoe. So Skipper Scott Martin hopped aboard, sat on an over turned barrel and PADDLED the barge downstream. It looked like the Beverly Hillbillies on their way to Hollywood! After piling on the dock, an erosion tarp, and a half dozen more tires, even Skipper Martin couldn’t steer the load. Yours truly grabbed a rope and pulled the barge downstream towards the finish, aided by some pushing from the team of Brown and Brown. After a mile or so, 51 year old legs and lungs gave out, and Skipper Martin grabbed the rope and finished the journey. Skipper Martin Barge Pilot Extraordinaire

About a half dozen of the tires we collected had to be hauled out of the river more than once. Within sight of the take out, a stack of tires shifted in one of the canoes…sending them, other trash, and the pilot of the vessel into the water.

After a little over three hours, we arrived at the take out, unloaded the canoes and barge and hauled our collection up the banks where employees of the City of Noblesville loaded the refuse into trucks for its trip the main collection site.

Many, many thanks to the canoe crew of: Scott Martin, Carrie Tarver, Don Weiser, Jamal Handy, Alan Francoeur, Rick Brown, Cody Brown, Brad Ton, JT Ton, and Carmen Ton. Thanks also to our land crew: Andrea Osman, Mary Ellen Ton, and Gene Ton. In addition to the donations of time and muscle, we were supported by a group of sponsors who helped by providing much needed financial support. The sponsors helped to provide lunch, t-shirts and prizes for the event. Many thanks to Elements Engineering, Ron West, Nishida Services, Arete Software, Cisco Systems, Brad Real, and ROI-LLC!

This was in the River??

Did you see the headline? Court OKs dumping gold mine waste in lake – AP, if you missed it, I am not surprised. I didn’t hear a peep about it on TV news nor did I read it in the papers. When I DID find out about I was outraged. “How could they do that?” How could they allow this mining company to dump the waste into a lake when everyone, including the mining company says it will kill every living thing in the lake? Surely, the Justices are not that cold and callous and anti-environment, there HAS to be more to the story than that, doesn’t there?

I searched online for an answer. Let me tell you, I found a lot of outrage, I lot of opinion in the “blog-o-sphere” on both sides but I wanted more answers. So, I did something I have never done before, I downloaded the entire Supreme Court Decision to read it for myself, every word, all 49 pages of it. Now let me be totally transparent with you, I am not a lawyer, but let me summarize.

Basically, Coeur Alaska, Inc. plans to reopen a gold mine that has been closed for over 80 years. Due to changes in technology (froth-flotation) they can now economically extract the gold that prior has proven to be too cost prohibitive to mine. The problem? The remnant of froth-flotation is a rock and water mixture called “slurry”. The company was faced with the problem of what to do with gallons and gallons of the slurry, produced at a rate of 200,000 gallons A DAY. Anecdotally, this slurry also contains copper, aluminum, lead and, my favorite, mercury. So after contemplating this dilemma, they decided, let’s dump it in Lower Slate Lake. The fish in that lake aren’t special, they are just “common fish”, we know it will kill them. In fact, operations of the mine and the dumping of the slurry will raise the bottom of the lake 50 feet. Folks, the lake is only 51 feet deep! Essentially, they are going to fill it in, divert the streams that feed into it, around it, kill every living thing in the lake, then when they are done, (now this is my favorite part), they are going to dredge it all out, clean up the lake, and restore it to better than before. Really? So this company is going to create a man-made lake that is better than the one nature created in the first place? This I gotta see! I have seen a lot of man-made lakes in my life and they all have one thing in common…they look man-made!

Coeur Alaska (coeur is French for heart, by the way, isn’t THAT ironic?), filed for permission to dump the waste with the EPA, no wait a minute, that’s not right, they filed for permission to do this with the Army Corps of Engineers. What? The Corps of Engineers? Well, the Corps granted the permit and plans proceeded. A collection of environmental groups sued under the Clean Water Act stating that the EPA should issue the permit, not the Corps and that the slurry discharge would violate the Clean Water Act itself. The District Court decided in favor of the mine, so the environmental groups appealed. The Ninth Circuit Court overturned the lower court decision, so the mine appealed. Enter, the Supreme Court.

In a 6-3 decision, the Court found that the Corps did have permission to issue the permit under the Clean Water Act. Section 404 gives the authority to the Corps to issue permits for the discharge of “fill material”. The definition of “fill material” includes slurry. (Can you guess which administration amended the definition of “fill material” to include slurry? Let me give you a hint, they were in office after the Clinton Administration and before the Obama Administration). The Court also found that the performance standard of the Clean Water Act does not apply to “fill material”.

I could go on, but you can read it for yourself if you’d like. I must say though, I agree with the dissenting opinion of Justices Ginsberg, Stevens and Souter, while they agree that a permit for fill material could be issued by the Corps, they contend the discharge is a pollutant and therefore covered by the performance standard and must be authorized by the EPA, stating in part that the Clean Water Act reads “The use of any river, lake, stream or ocean as a waste treatment system is unacceptable.”

Are you still with me on this one? Let’s go back and look at the due diligence done by Coeur and by the Corps. As part of the due diligence they are required to look at alternatives. In this case, according to both killing of a lake is the better alternative, the lesser of two evils, if you will, than the option of piling the 4.5 million tons of slurry up on the land surrounding the mine. The Supreme Court decision even speculates that the resulting pile will be larger than the pentagon and would destroy the wetlands surrounding the mine.

So these are the only two choices? Kill a lake, or destroy a wetlands? Is there nothing else that can be done with the slurry. The mine argues anything else would be too expensive, so if we won’t play be their rules, they aren’t going to re-open their mine, and they’ll just take the 200-300 jobs with them and go home. Well, that’s one way to get what you want in this economy. Threaten either the loss of jobs, or the loss of a promise of jobs that don’t even exist in the first place. If you can create jobs it’s ok to rape the environment? If the new technology is only economically viable if you destroy a lake, then I don’t think the new technology is economically viable, do you?

I don’t know about you, but I am still outraged. Write to Coeur Alaska expressing your outrage, write to the Corp of Engineers with your opinion, write to your Senators and Congressmen asking them to eliminate the ambiguity in the Clean Water Act as pointed out in the Court’s decision.

Something about the American Reinvestment & Recovery Act (aka The Stimulus Package) has been bothering me for several months now. Until recently I was not able to really put my finger on what was bugging me.

It started with the initial discussions surrounding it. Yes, it is a staggering amount of money. Yes, the country is incurring huge amounts of debt. However, many of those that came out in opposition were using the “we are mortgaging our children’s and grandchildren’s future”, “we are piling debt on their backs”, or “our children will not be able to pay off our debts”. These are the same people that want to continue to burn oil, gas and coal to power our daily lives. If that is not mortgaging our children’s future, I don’t know what is. Every mile we drive, every lump of coal we burn, creates a huge burden of debt on our children’s head. Even if you don’t buy into global warming or climate change, you cannot argue that our addiction to fossil fuels is creating a huge health burden for the future. Coal is a cheap fuel only because we are not paying for its full cost.

Almost immediately after ARRA was signed into law, I would sit in meetings with other business professionals and invariably the discussion would be splattered with comments like “I want to get a piece of it”, “we have to figure out how to get a hold of our share”, or “where can we find a project to submit”. One website that was gathering project information had over 9,000 projects for the state of Indiana alone. This was before one dime was released or even before we had any understanding of what was in the volumes of text of the bill.

Recently, I participated in a workshop helping to provide information regarding the stimulus package. I sat at a table with one gentleman that admitted he was embarrassed to be there. When I asked why, it was because he was so against the Stimulus Package and the Obama Administration that he didn’t really want to take the money. Almost as if it was tainted or blood money. But yet he was there trying to get his piece of it for his new business venture. Unbelievable to me. This was a man who had been laid off from his company after 10+ years of service, was so against the Stimulus (which was written to create and save jobs) that he felt guilty even attending a workshop, yet was there to get funding for a new business. If ARRA had not been passed, it makes you wonder where his business would look for funding. Of course, this same man informed me that alternative energy was a joke and we would never solve the energy crisis that way (his company was building a new fuel efficient engine). We needed to rely on nuclear. When I admitted that I struggle with the nuclear question because of the toxic waste, his answer was that we bury it and sometime in the next thousand years we would find a way to dispose of it by blasting it into the sun.

Now, really? First of all, isn’t that kind of like hiding your head in the sand and letting our children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren solve a problem that we create. (Kind of like borrowing from the future isn’t it?) Then, seriously, we are going to blast it off to the sun? When are we going to learn that trashing the natural world is only going to cause problems in the future? Who knows what kind of problems that would cause? We already have to worry about space walking astronauts getting clobbered by junk we sent up hurtling through space.

Ok, I digress, back to the Stimulus Package. Most businesses will not receive funding directly, especially small businesses. Yes, there are some provisions for small business like the elimination of the SBA Loan Fees, however the majority of businesses will benefit from the stimulus by providing goods and services to businesses or government agencies that ARE receiving funds. I heard some excellent advice last week that made me realize what was bothering me so much about what appeared to be almost panhandling. Ed Dougherty from B&D Consulting in Washington, D.C. had this piece of advice for businesses looking to gain from ARRA. Look first at your own business strategy, and then look to see where your strategy aligns with the goals and objectives of the stimulus package. Once you have identified where your strategy aligns with the goals then you can begin to identify the projects and the companies that are being funded by the stimulus and initiate your sales and marketing methodology to target those projects and companies. This really made sense to me. In a sense he was saying to remain true to your business strategy. Don’t change the focus of your business to chase the stimulus money, but rather, seek the areas of alignment. I’d be willing to bet a significant number of those 9,000 projects are those that don’t really fit the strategy of the company or companies that submitted them.

No, this is not another post about the Lizard King, Jim Morrison, based on the lack of hits THAT post received I don’t think even my mother read it! This is about my favorite new yard tool! I have been searching for years for a way to take care of my yard and not burn gas to do it. Short of ripping out all the turf grass and replacing it with native plants and grasses, which neither my wife nor my HOA will allow, I have been stymied.

Years ago I tried using one of those throwback mowers. You know the kind, the reel mowers, the kind used before gas powered engines. That experiment did not work. Just ask my son, JT, who was just old enough to help dear old dad with the yard work. Our yard was too big, had too many bumps, twigs, rocks and other things that would get stuck in the blades as they spun bringing the mower, and the mow”er” to an abrupt stop. So we gave up on that idea, donated the reel mower to Goodwill and went back to the old Briggs and Stratton. But…my quest continued.

Fast forward about a decade and half. My wife and I were touring the Smart Home at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry (Read More) when we reached the garage, there it was, in the corner, next to the hydrogen powered car, The Neuton, a battery powered lawn mower (Read More). I swear there was a bright light from the heavens and a celestial chorus. (Ok, maybe it was just the solar powered lights in the garage and the radio, but hey, it’s my story). I knew right then and there, I had to have one.

Since it was autumn and it didn’t make much sense to take advantage of the six month money back guarantee when there wasn’t anything move, I anxiously awaited spring. In March, I placed my order. I was concerned about the size of my yard, so I ordered the larger of the two models and an extra battery, and of course I had to have the accessory pack which includes a weed trimmer/edger that attaches to the mower itself…how cool is THAT? Now before you shake your head at my wanton consumerism let me assure you, my current mower was over 10 years old, need significant repairs, AND I ordered one of the used, refurbished models.

I was like a kid at Christmas when it arrived, tore open the box and assembled it right there in the family room. It was a thing of beauty. I don’t know what was used and refurbished about it, it looked brand new!

A few days later it finally stopped raining and I gave it a whirl. It does a tremendous job on the yard. We have about 7,000 square feet of yard and it breezed right through it. I was glad I had ordered the extra battery for trimming, but to mow the yard itself I can do it with one charge. The trimmer attachment does take a little getting used to, but once I got the hang of maneuvering the mower with the trimmer attached it did a great job as well.

One of the amazing things about this mower is how quiet it is. As I am pushing it, I can actually hear the blade cutting through the grass. When my neighbor is mowing at the same time, I can hear the roar of his engine above the sound of the Neuton. I have even startled my wife as she works in the yard because she can’t hear me coming.

As for my old mower, after one time of using the Neuton, I donated the old mower. It’s now almost the end of May, two months into the mowing season here in Indiana, and I have yet to use any gas to mow or trim my yard. The batteries charge in about 24 hours and use just pennies of electricity. If you are looking for a way to reduce your carbon foot print or to stop fooling around with gas cans, I highly recommend the Neuton Mower. They even throw in a stylish ball cap with the lizard logo on it, so now Jim Morrison is not the only Lizard King!