Sunday, May 15, 2005

What do I fear most? Asbestos or the EPA.

My idyllic new community (recently driving a backwoods county to #4 in income out of California’s 50-some counties) has asbestos. Naturally-occurring asbestos infests local veins of serpentine rock formation which occur all over the county (and 40 other California counties). The EPA has been blanketing us with information about the high level readings of their particle measurements in the community. When pressed for advice or interpretation of these measurements, however, their resolve falters. “We don’t really know”, they say. “Ask your county government. “

They relate the terrible fate of Libby, Montana where the whole community was engaged in the mining of vermiculite, which is contaminated with asbestos and apparently everyone, is dying.

But that isn’t very helpful. We are not, thank you very much, blue collar workers here tilling the soil and crushing the rocks. Most of us spend the day in Sacramento breathing the uncontaminated, filtered air where we struggle to keep up with the mortgage and taxes on our homestead. And our kids spend the day in lovely new schools where they are unlikely to actually encounter dirt, everything being paved with the exception of the obligatory patches of landscaping. So what are we supposed to do?

Well, the EPA is the government and so, of course, they are here to help. The question here is who is it that they want to help. They tell us that the problem here is (drum roll, please) developers Those nasty folk actually stir up the rock when they carve out homesites and that darn dust just hangs around. They tell us that the test show a level 10 times normal (whatever that is) but they don't tell us what is the level where lung damage occurrs. And, of course, the data points are selective. The high school playing fields (which had been determined to be safe after $1m in mitigation) and the community playing fields as well.

If I were a cynical sort, I would say that they are running a protection scam, but I suspect that it is no-growthers trying to scare off buyers.

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