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Old Saying Found to be True

Looking Back with Lloyd Mathews, originally printed June 13, 1979

 

I have always heard it said that as we human beings get older we get more set in our ways, more vocal about things we like, and more violent about things we do not like. I have found the saying true in my case.

I guess I have always been interested in the environment, but only in recent years have I become a full-fledged member of that unpopular minority group known as the Environmentalists. One doesn’t pick up the paper today that there is not a story about some group kicking up a fuss about an environmental issue. And hardly a day passes that some individual in a group doesn’t get around to complaining about the loss the economy is suffering because of the environmentalists, and the extreme regulations they are enforcing on an unwilling society.

The biggest argument of those who would like to see the present course continue is, that plants are being forced to shut down because of expensive control equipment. Plans operate to make a profit for their stockholders, and you can bet they’re going to do everything possible to keep down the expense. Kepone is a good example, but just one. I doubt if anyone can ever come up with a figure on how much that little backyard industry cost the American people.

They say we get too excited about little things, such as the Three Mile Island incident. It’s time to get excited when an emergency arises before we have made any preparation to cope with it. And it’s not really a little thing when radioactive material is found outside of a facility like Maxey Flats, Ky., where more than 4,000,000 cubic feet of low-level radioactive material has been dumped. The dump has been forced by the State of Kentucky to close down, but the waste buried there will remain “hot” for hundreds of years. Somebody has to be on to ball; else we would soon do away with ourselves in order to please the stockholders.

A number of years ago there was in Pulaski a large, rich, chemical plant, that was a much-needed industry in the area. Every day for years, this great friend of the city sifted deadly chemicals out over a large part of east, southeast, and northeast Pulaski, and beyond. Ironically, they were doing it on the very people they should have been trying to protect, because it was in these areas that many of the plant’s employees lived.

Thousands of acres of land in the area refused to grow a spring of usable vegetation until a company official discovered that those little umbrella-shaped catalpa trees thrived on chemicals, so thousands were put out. I must say, they served a useful purpose, because worms came in droves, to furnish fish bait for area fishermen, and to feed on the lush green catalpa leaves.

It is said that an area farmer took the company to court, hoping to recover damages for lost crops, or to stop the pollution, but as the man told me, “The company came down with their New York lawyers, and proved that the company was innocent of any wrongdoing.” The farmer spent the rest of his days watching his cattle try to fatten on shrived brown grass, and his wire fences disintegrate from rust before his eyes.

Anyone who left Pulaski in the days of the chemical plant would not believe he was in the same east Pulaski if he should return today, because it is lush and green, and asphalt and structures; and an occasional catalpa tree as a reminder of the old days when the chemical plant was the “life-blood” of the little town.

Many said the town would die if the plant should leave. Now the plant is gone, and Pulaski lives on. The one large shopping center that lies in the shadows of the rusty remains of the big plant probably works more people than were ever on the chemical plant’s payroll.

We learned one thing during those days. Air currents in Pulaski seem to move from west to east, taking factory pollutants with them. It has always been a wonder to me that a site in far west Pulaski was chosen as the home of the required pollution detection device. Maybe I’m the stupid one, but it seems comparable to dropping a float in Peak Creak, and hurrying upstream to find it.

I doubt if I will gain any new friends with this article, but I believe I’d rather have healthy enemies than a bunch of sick friends.

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