My job primarily deals with energy conservation. We work with low-income clients to reduce energy burden. Our non-profit’s catchphrase is “Helping people, changing lives”. I wonder.
This is BPA country. In the early parts of the 20th century, reclamation efforts the length of the mighty Columbia made electricity cheap, so it’s not always a cost-effective proposition to weatherize a home. Especially that woefully out-classed component of the local low-income housing stock- the mobile home. It’s expensive, meticulous, and …let’s just say character-building work to fix these things up after 40 or so Pacific NW winters.. I started on the crew, insulating and repairing these sad little cans but now find myself managing the program and unsure where to take it. Budgets dwindle, coast soar. It’s such a causal relationship. Whenever I breath in someone else is breathing out. Is it any wonder I spent the weekend running the power grid? The grid is everywhere, even it these remote areas. Wherever I look up, it looks down.
The future is education. That’s always a safe statement to make. Once upon a time, patients suffering from ailments such as gout or headache were directed to touch electric eels in the hope that the jolt might cure them. Legend says the suicide and cancer rate is higher in proximity to EMFs around power lines and transformers. People never tire of reinforcing their conditioned assumptions. You run into some breathtaking logic. Some well-seasoned and hardened by time and peerage. Or maybe because on one ever actually says them out loud. Even mute, most habits are easily observed. If you tailgate, you get to work faster and save gas by drafting. If you crank up the thermostat, the house will get warmer much faster. Refrigerators don’t use electricity if there’s nothing in them. Be sure to leave those TVs on so your cats don’t get lonely. Yes, leave every TV in the house on, yet follow me around during my energy audit to make sure I don’t forget to turn off the lights behind me. Because that 13w CFL bulb is the quiet killer, not the t-stat set at 85°, the empty refrigerators, the hot water dripping at every faucet, the five TVs, the six 2500w space heaters. Now, I always wear a headlamp and never turn on any house lights. Yeah, just sign here.
I’m not suicidal, yet, and not afflicted with cancer, yet- but maybe some other causal relationship is in generation here. I won’t deny I can get pretty animated on the drive back to the shop, and in the process uncover some pretty troubling assumptions of my own. So here’s to the spirit of saying things out loud.
In January 1999, the Rayonier mill site in Port Angeles was nominated for the EPA Superfund National Priority List. Site clean up involves a heady assortment of mutagens and carcinogens- arsenic, polychlorinated biphenyls, dioxins, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, manganese, lead, and phthalate contamination. While initially designated a Superfund Site, in 2000 the EPA deferred the cleanup to WA State Ecology’s Model Toxics Control Act instead, under the auspices of the Solid Waste Program. Cleanup stalled for seven years but after transfer to the Washington Department of Ecology’s Toxic Cleanup Program in 2007 things started happening.
The clean-up area has since expanded to the entire Port Angeles Harbor, which is an area of more than five square miles. Additional culprits have been notified. Rayonier will be responsible for cleanup of its own mill site, a segment of Strait sediments at the east end of the Harbor, and dioxins in soils off-property in and outside the city of Port Angeles. The responsibility for cleanup of the rest of Port Angeles Harbor has been divided into KPly (aka PenPly, demolished in 2013), and the still-active Nippon pulp/paper mill along Ediz Hook, and several others including the marina and a boat/ship repair area.
It is an interesting walk, since most of the Discovery Trail’s Port Angles Harbor frontage is actually considered toxic, and the irony is only mildly betrayed by the cleanup’s orderly yet oddly beautiful industrial landscape of chainlink fences, groundwater sampling wells, stockpile management berms, and suspiciously suburban grasses. Difficult to get pictures of it- the chainlinks are just high enough and hackneyed enough to discourage efforts. Not that the wistful backwards-glance photo above isn’t hackneyed, but I couldn’t resist.
*Francisco de Eliza, c. 1791
Friday at the lake. This group of alders is a recurring subject. I’d like to say I haven’t gotten what I want here yet but the truth is I’m too numbly comfortable here to move on. It’s a relaxing place to be, and having a fussy-to-use camera justifies the lingering, if not the internal dialogues that sometimes bruise the silence, to the passing hikers and tourists on the trail above.
I was interrupted by a curious onlooker, undaunted by my frightful hair and incomprehensible murmurs. In typical fashion, I was startled at the level of exertion I needed simply to be polite. I’m not especially fond of people to begin with. Much less so when their curiosity about what I’m doing is clearly more important than what I’m actually doing, so I usually just say ‘Yes, yes’ whatever the question. ‘Is that a new electronic digital camera device/ does it only take black and white pictures/ how bout a snapshot of me with my family?’ ‘Yes, yes’ and go about what I’m doing while they pose and wait pointlessly and eventually wander off. I keep waiting for one of these encounters to erupt in violence, but other than some general harrumphing they never have the energy or interest to expand on the awkward silence. But the possibility of a brawl is somewhat stimulating after a quiet morning at the lake.