Saturday, April 14, 2012

Who'll clean up Hamilton Airport now?

Just when we thought that it couldn't get much worse for public health in Hamilton, indeed across the country -- yup, it's gotten worse.

In December of last year, I was writing about how the leachate run-off from the fire training facility at Munro Airport (YHM) had high levels of PFOS, the former active ingredient in Scotchgard ™.   At least twenty times the legal limit for the chemical in "safe drinking water."   I also noted how the runoff was ending up in a creek which skirts through the southern rural part of the city, through a popular lake for sunbathing, and eventually to the Welland River.    So concerned is city hall that they agreed with the current private operator of the airport to study how to get rid of the mess on site.   And who knows what's happened at other airports with similar facilities?

Now it got even more interesting this week.   Pursuant to a §22 petition, the Auditor General of Canada has said he will investigate why the Con government hasn't set guidelines for how to clean up PFOS runoff.   The reason for the concern?   A study from the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) which suggests that exposure to the chemical decreases the immunity offered by vaccinations.   (Unfortunately, I can't offer a link since the article is behind a firewall -- stupid doctors who think civilians can't understand the truth; of course we can handle the truth!)

 In other words, PFOS makes those vaccines next to useless.   (Maybe this is something Jenna McCarthy should be looking at -- that it was stain retardant that caused her kid's autism, not vaccines!)   There are also demands that the feds impose safe levels of PFOS contaminantion in the food supply -- the same as for mercury and other nasties in fish.

I laugh at times when I read the provincial guides to limits on catches and how much is safe to eat.   For instance, it's legal to catch up to 50 perch a day, per capita, in the lower Great Lakes; but the safe limit for consumption is eight per month (only four for expectant and nursing mothers).    Mercury levels are way down compared to forty years ago; due to major conservation efforts, but increases in safe consumption limits have been incremental at best.   My guess is that the fish and wildlife services don't want to take chances.

What level is truly safe for this one?   PFOS has a half life of five years.  A simple half life calculator shows a half-life of that long means that it will decay to imperceptible levels after, say, one hundred eighty one years.   No wonder 3M ™ changed the formula for one of their top selling products.

Frankly, I wouldn't swim in Lake Niapenco anymore -- let alone eat the fish that run through it.   And if I was swimming in that stuff every year when I was younger, will it affect the immune systems of any kids I may have down the road?   What about the people downstream who use it as a water source?   I said it before and I'll say again, people in rural areas have the right to safe water as much as we "city slickers".

Since the feds ran the airport when all the contamination happened then they should bear the full costs of cleanup.   They also need to step up for public health and safety and set real guidelines -- and more importantly, enforce them prosecute offenders to the full extent of the law.   Voluntary measures just don't work, just look at the Maple Leaf ™ scandal a few years back.    Nightmares like this won't go away overnight but it would be helpful if someone took responsibility.

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