Saturday, March 20, 2010

No Serious Threat

The latest edition of the Sherwood Park News has on it's front page a photo of the Suncor refinery in Strathcona belching out black and yellow smoke into the skies of Strathcona. The caption says:

"Smoke pours from the Suncor refinery in Strathcona County just off Baseline Road on Monday. The smoke was from a process upset but there was no serious threat to the public."

NO SERIOUS THREAT? Well... what kind of a threat does poisonous gas present to people living nearby?

Fire Department officials said the smoke was "a release of catalyst and hydrocarbons into the atmosphere."

I don't know about others, but looking at the crap that gets pumped into our skies day after day after day makes me very nervous. I work in the "Industrial Heartlan" in Sturgeon County and every day I pass chemical and fertilizers factories and LPG and Condensate docks where smoke stacks constantly flare and spew. I know that the railway rails my trains run over are constantly oxidized by the fallout of the cooling towers and pollution stacks.

I wonder what price we are paying for the life we are leading when we accept that this black and yellow smoke is something normal... something we should expect occasionally as a price for our modern lifestyles. Is the price perhaps too high? Are we turning a blind eye to the damage we are doing to ourselves. Do we let the corporations get away too easily with telling us there is "no serious threat" from the crap they spew into the environment?

Although Suncor claimed there was no serious threat to the public, they did admit to evacuating their own personnel from the site.

Suncor also claimed that air monitoring results were well within acceptable limits. We have to believe Suncor because the province doesn't actually test anymore. We've deregulated so far that we leave it up to the polluters to tell us whether they are polluting or not. That's just weird.

This particular release lasted only an hour, but I can tell you that these releases are not rare. The guys I work with at the Agrium fertiliser plant in Redwater have told me that if I am ever downwind of a yellow smoke release coming from one particular stack I should bend over and kiss my ass goodbye. Very reassuring.

When asked what effects people could see if they were exposed to the cloud, she repeated the air quality monitoring was within acceptable limits.

Day in and day out, our skies are filled with pollutants and crap that is the product of our "civilized" lives. We accept that they are not a danger to our well-being because the polluters tell us everything is okay.

I look at that black and yellow smoke and I just think... "no matter what they say, that just can't be good."

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