More bad air alerts: Where does the bad air really come from?

Shouldn’t it be safe for young children to play outside in the summertime?

From the Delaware Department of Natural Resources (assembled from recent emails):

Code Orange Levels of Ozone Forecasted for Saturday, July 2, 2011

Code Orange Levels of Ozone Forecasted for Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Code Orange air quality forecast for ozone is a level of pollution that can be unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as young children, the elderly, and those with heart and/or respiratory conditions. Such persons should limit outdoor activities, especially those that require a high level of exertion.

Code Orange Levels of Ozone Forecasted for Tuesday, July 5, 2011

July 6 -  Code Orange levels (unhealthy for sensitive groups) of ozone expected for Wednesday throughout Delaware. Particulate matter continues in the moderate range.

July 7 -  Code Orange levels (unhealthy for sensitive groups) of ozone expected throughout Delaware for Thursday. Particulate matter expected to remain in the moderate range.

And so on…..

Per usual, we note that the actual forecasts are for Code Orange ozone levels and Code Yellow particulate levels.  These are additive in effect, thought the Air Quality Index system doesn’t treat them that way, so the real threat is more like Code Red (unhealthy for everybody).

Then add high heat, high humidity, and often high allergen (“pollen”) levels and we have what even the DNREC itself calls a “very soupy air mass.”

The combination of high ozone, high particulates, high temperature, high humidity, allergens, and other air pollutants present such as sulfur dioxide and “NOx,” for a prolonged period, is very dangerous.

Death rates rise under these conditions. Take care and don’t become a statistic.

As we recently noted:

Bad air comes from a combination of natural and man-made causes.  Forest fires in Canada, dust storms and industrial pollution from Asia — all show up in Delaware.

But much of the pollution IS local and within Delaware’s power to curtail, both by making and enforcing state and local pollution laws, and by supporting Federal legislation and the enforcement thereof.

A key contributor to bad air in Delaware is the Markell/Coons Refinery in Delaware City, restarted in the dirtiest of deals.  More here.

Here’s a recent (July 6, 2011) example of the consequences:

“The Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control is reporting a release via the Delaware Environmental Release Notification System. On July 6, 2011 at 5:20 PM there was a release involving 181.00 LBS of SULFUR DIOXIDE into the air from DELAWARE CITY REFINERY CO at 4550 WRANGLE HILL RD in DELAWARE CITY. This chemical or substance is considered to be hazardous by the EPA. This incident is currently under investigation by DNREC. For more information concerning this incident, contact GREG FIELDER at 302-834-6252. This is the final report on this incident. Comments: RELEASE OF 181 POUNDS OF SULFUR DIOXIDE AS THEY WERE STARTING A COMPRESSOR.”

(Sulfur dioxide is a dangerous pollutant in itself.  But it also contributes greatly to particle pollution as it reacts with other substances in the air to form sulfate particulate.)

So far as I know, no Delaware official opposed the reopening of the Refinery, long known as one of the dirtiest in the world:  for one recent year, 68,207,232 pounds belched into the air alone.  That works out to 187,000 pounds per hour.

Most people aren’t surprised that Delaware officials would favor big business over public health; this is traditional and helps keep Delaware one of the unhealthiest states.  (The US was recently rated 49th in life expectancy, though some other sources put it higher.  There’s no dispute that the US ranking has declined dramatically.  Delaware ranks around 28 out of 50, with a life expectancy over a year less than the lousy national average.)  If Delaware was a country, it would fall somewhere in the fifties in life expectancy.

What might surprise more people is that none of the mainstream “Environmental Community” orgs in Delaware seemed to object to reopening the refinery.  Nor did any public health, medical, or nursing organizations.

That’s not surprising if you know how the system works:  Every few weeks, or as needed, representatives of these groups (Delaware Nature Society, Sierra Club, Audubon, League of Women Voters, Nature Conservancy, and more) are called into the Governor’s office to meet with a staffer.  They are allowed to whine a bit, and are given their marching orders and a dog biscuit.  Of course, Green Delaware isn’t invited to these meetings and the “enviros” who go don’t tell us anything.  Here’s an exception, reported in Alert 649:

“David Keifer, a retired bureaucrat connected to the Sierra Club, called one day–I feel able to write this now because Dave is unfortunately deceased–to say he’d been at such a meeting and the main agenda item had been now to neutralize Alan Muller (Green Delaware) and Jeff Montgomery (Wilmington News Journal environmental reporter).  I’d daresay this agenda was acceptable enough to the brownnosers making up Delaware’s industry-approved ‘environmental community.’”

In the past few years, the state has set up a special system for handing out money to groups in return for their collaboration.  This payoff scheme, wired up by DNREC Deputy Secretary David Small, sails under the name “Community Involvement Advisory Council.”  We’ve written before:  “DNREC’s “Community Involvement Advisory Council” gives its money to the likes of incinerator-promoting ‘Clean Air Council‘ and the multi-billion dollar ‘Nature Conservancy,’ closely tied to British Petroleum,–and in Delaware to DuPont and Delmarva Power.” Set up, supposedly, to promote “Environmental Justice” and run by one of the DNREC’s token-minority managers, it actually serves to further reduce, divert, and corrupt grassroots advocacy in Delaware.

This is how the system works, folks.  The pollution and resulting bad health isn’t inevitable from a technical and economic point of view.  It’s a consequence of having a political system controlled by special interests.  We are breathing the consequences, drinking the consequences, and growing our gardens in the consequences.

Shouldn’t it be safe for young children to play outside in the summertime?

If this bothers you, you can take actions, including:

(1)     Stop contributing to the stooge “enviro” groups and let them know why;

(2)     Contact Governor Markell and other elected officials with your concerns.

Alan Muller

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