Thursday, June 2, 2011

Are there toxic waste sites near your home?

Today I had my last class in my environmental communication class, and to cap off our quarter together our professor took us on a walking tour of a few toxic waste sites near Santa Clara University (including superfund sites). The Silicon Valley has more superfund sites per square mile than any other place in the United States, so it should not have been surprising just how many were close to SCU. 

Image courtesy of wikicommons

Within an hour and half we were able to see 3 toxic sites. We would have made it to all 4 that were planned, but some people forgot we were doing the walking tour today and were falling behind in their inappropriate shoes (read flip flops and heals). The 4th site sits right under our noses and we see it every day. Its across the street from campus near a popular grocery store. From the main part of campus it is clearly visible. 

This is a picture of the site looking out from campus. It's the fenced-in triangle in the middle of the screen behind the white metal box. 

This image is looking toward campus and you can see the largest dorm, Swig Hall, standing out in the background (the building under the lamp post). It's actually a really large site and SCU students are itching to build a garden or something else on it. (Sorry for the poor quality google maps screen shots.)

Can you guess what it was? It was an old gas station and when it went out of business, the owners decided it was too expensive to take the underground tanks out. The tanks inevitably leaked, and until they are removed and the soil around it is cleared, the lot will remain fenced off and completely barren and unusable. 

Do you know if you are living next to a toxic waste site? If you are in California you can check out Envirostor. If you are anywhere else in the U.S. the EPA also has a listing of superfund sites. What you find might shock you.

1 comment:

  1. I feel the need to comment on this with a quote from the hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy:

    "The disadvantages involved in pulling lots of black sticky slime from out of the ground where it had been safely hidden out of harm's way, turning it into tar to cover the land with, smoke to fill the air with, and pouring the rest into the sea, all seemed to outweigh the advantages of being able to get more quickly from one place to another -- particularly when the place you arrived at had probably become, as a result of this, very similar to the place you had left, i.e., covered with tar, full of smoke, and short of fish." -- the problem with cars, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe