Sunday, October 4, 2009

Of Family Reunions and Toxic Waste

Yesterday a family reunion on my mother’s side offered a great southern banquet (but no fried chicken!? - a sign of the times) which served as a nice change of pace from the usual schedule of buying groceries, yard work, house cleaning, and laundry. I only see most of that part of the family once a year – just frequently enough to get a few people’s names mixed up.

Topics of discussion at these things stay fairly benign, generally limited to how mockingbirds are bad to eat your tomatoes, an update on the latest aliments various distant family members are dealing with, trips taken over the past year, how’s work or retirement going, showing off photographs, etc. Randall (who I had initially mistaken for Gary) and I had what was for me the most substantive conversation of the gathering when he brought up the fact that five of his friends had fairly recently been diagnosed with various forms of cancer.

A physician had recently confided to him that he had never practiced in a place where there was a higher rate of cancer among the population than around here. I interjected that it was because of local industry and he immediately agreed. Years of illegal toxic waste disposal, little or no protection from various chemicals in the manufacturing plants, the subsequent deterioration of the quality of the drinking water were all to blame Randall said.

Randall used to work for the county road department and told me that several times through the years the crews would run into unknown, buried dumps while laying new roads. Construction would have to halt for a few days so that someone with environmental experience could be called in to clean up the illegal dumps which were usually comparatively small but nevertheless hazardous. Randall stated he believed that for years local industries had simply paid some farmers for the right to bury whatever it was they wanted buried on the farmer’s land. The sums of money were cheaper than other waste disposal methods and seemed abundant to the farmer who was likely told just to keep his mouth shut.

All those things add up over the years, Randall said, and they seep down into the water table. Randall is just a country boy. He’s certainly no eco-nut. And his story is one I have heard from others over the years. Whenever someone complains about the Environmental Protection Agency and government “red tape” with pollution controls and waste disposals, I think of stories like Randall told me. Honest stories from individuals with no agenda.

We know what this country would be like with government environmental laws and controls. It would be like all the little illegal dumps in my county. It would be like
Lake Erie dying. It would be like the uncontrolled pollution in China and India today. It would be countless little acts by random corporations and businesses that add up to freedom abused and a degradation of the quality of life on a massive scale.

Then we all sat in various groupings for photos and left after everybody had a shot at the desserts. Reunions aren’t my thing really but we do it for my mom.

Saturday was our first real weekend day of fall weather. Bright blue skies, cool, a bit breezy. Fall is my favorite time of year. No color around here yet – that usually comes around the end of October. But, just the feeling of fall is so refreshing.

Jennifer and I worked in the yard, mulching beds and mowing. We made sure to take a couple of breaks on the front porch to enjoy the day. No need to push ourselves. My daughter was out with my sister and cousin shopping. She went to a movie later and got home rather late.

Later in the afternoon Jennifer and I watched
the Braves lose to the Washington Nationals 6-4 despite a great job of starting pitching by Jair Jurrjens. What a terrific young pitcher. I hope the Braves are able to hold on to him when he becomes eligible for free agency. He reminds me Tom Glavine or John Smoltz when they were in their early 20’s. A different style of pitcher, of course, but very much in that same class potentially.

The loss was rather typical of the Braves season. Great starting pitching, some timely hitting but not enough of it, and an erratic bullpen. I really like our individual players but the team just didn’t jell for
Bobby Cox this year. Wait ‘til next year.

After the game we listened to music. I read until about midnight. All-in-all a relaxing day.

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