Sunday, July 12, 2009

Wyoming Cold War residue could harm "our precious bodily fluids"

In "Dr. Strangelove," when Col. Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden) starts talking about commies poisoning "our precious bodily fluids," Group Captain Mandrake (Peter Sellers) realizes his commander is nuts. So nuts, in fact, that Ripper has launched World War III.

Col. Ripper says this: "Do you realize that fluoridation is the most monstrously conceived and dangerous communist plot we have ever had to face? On no account will a Commie ever drink water, and not without good reason."

Baby Boomers probably remember that the John Birch Society made hay with the conspiracy theory that commies somehow arranged to fluoridate our water to neuter God-fearing Americans in time of war, cold or hot.

But the Birchers should have been more concerned with the trichloroethylene (TCE) used to clean our own nukes, here in Wyoming and elsewhere. TCE has been poisoning our precious bodily fluids for 50 years, rendering us useless against attacks by commies, Saddam Hussein's WMDs, swine flu, feminists, wayward Yellowstone wolves, atheists and any other menace (real or imagined) wingnuts can devise.

A plume of TCE, maybe one of the largest in the country, is moving toward Cheyenne. One of these days, it may lurk right under our house near Yellowstone Blvd.

Actually, we already have contamination in our neighborhood from Cold War chemicals used on Wyoming Air National Guard's aircraft. TCE and carbon tetrachloride have been seeping from the sprawling Guard base south of us since the 1960s. To the Guard's credit, it has been on this issue since I moved to the neighborhood back in 2005. I receive frequent mailings on the clean-up status. There's a monitoring station in Mylar Park, just a 10-minute walk from our house. A trench 100 feet long and 35 feet deep is being dug in the park to try to contain the seeping solvents. Groundwater that flows into the trench will be treated and discharged into nearby Dry Creek. The goal, according to an Air Guard release from 2008, "is to prevent further underground contamination and keep the chemicals from getting into the creek."

But the TCE plume at F.E. Warren AFB is more problematical. Between 1960-64, USAF personnel used thousands of gallons of the chemical to clean Atlas rocket engines once the fuel had been removed. The used solvent went into unlined pits and eventually trickled down into the aquifer. For many years, the Air Force and the Army Corps of Engineers refused to acknowledge a problem. Then tests were conducted by the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality. The Corps still did nothing. And in 2007 Sen. John Barrasso got involved. Amazing the difference a U.S. Senator can make when he sets his mind to it. Studies were conducted on this substance that may cause cancer. The obstinate Corps chief was replaced by one more accountable to the citizenry. A a major report detailing clean-up solutions will be issued in September. You can hear the details at a public meeting July 28, 6 p.m., in the Cottonwood Room at the Laramie County Public Library in Cheyenne.

The reason I bring this up? Jared Miller wrote an excellent series of articles for today's Casper Star-Tribune about this threat from the bad old days of the Cold War. Read the series at http://www.casperstartribune.com/articles/2009/07/12/news/wyoming/813bd62b38077e9b872575f00020f944.txt

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smarry said...
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