Sunday, August 26, 2012

Countdown To CAOmageddon: Flaw #24 - Borrowed Risk

Way back in Flaw #8, we mentioned that the County had simply assumed that a particular list of pollutant sources were present in the county. In fact, they borrowed results from somewhere else. Here's the excerpt from the Wetlands CAO again.
As discussed in the BAS Synthesis, runoff from areas influenced by human development is well characterized (National Research Council, 2008) and is often contaminated with an array of pollutants, including: those from lawn and garden chemicals (containing both active ingredients and surfactants that can negatively affect aquatic species); building materials including pressure treated lumber (containing copper chromated arsenate), zinc and copper impregnated shingles and roofing strips, and roofing materials containing phthalates (plastic gutters and downspouts, roofing felt, roof membranes); fertilizers; rodent poisons; termite spray and other insecticides; moss control products; deicers; contaminants associated with automobiles, including oil, antifreeze, rubber and metals from the wear of tires, brakes and other parts; and sediment from dirt and gravel driveways. Many of these contaminants are directly associated with the choices and practices of the property owner and are difficult or impossible to regulate. If they are allowed to enter surface water bodies, these pollutants can contaminate and become concentrated in the food web, negatively affecting aquatic habitats and species.
As they say, based on information from the "National Research Council," runoff is contaminated. That analysis wasn't done here in our islands. It's a general study, and the County has used it to let their imaginations run wild about possibilities here.

Let's suppose you have a friend who doesn't take very good care of herself. She drinks, smokes, does drugs, and is overweight. You, on the other hand, are fit. You exercise, eat right, and take vitamins. So imagine your friend becomes ill and goes to the doctor for a diagnosis. How applicable is that diagnosis (or the treatment) to you?

That's what our "Best Available Science" has done. It has borrowed a list of pollutants (stressors) found elsewhere, borrowed buffer sizes from elsewhere, borrowed transport processes and pathways, and borrowed exposure scenarios from elsewhere. The borrowed problems and solutions of our unfit urban neighbors have been applied to us, despite their situation being fundamentally different from ours. If you have seen the Hyde talk, for example, you have learned that our marine waters are exchanged on a frequent and regular basis, but it takes weeks for that to happen in lower Puget Sound. And the differences don't stop there. We cannot borrow someplace else's risk situation anymore than we can borrow someone else's diagnosis or health risk factors.

After all this borrowing, the County then tells us that they've developed a "site-specific" CAO process for us. That's politician's logic for ya. Borrowing has become such a way of life here, we don't even recognize when we do it anymore. Maybe, in addition to the pledge of allegiance, every Council meeting should begin with a recitation of Polonious' advice to Laertes, especially the bit about "neither a borrower nor a lender be."

1 comment:

  1. One of the reasons this is happening is that some of the most strident of our so-called "local" politicians ain't from around these parts. They just don't get it. They're from back east.

    That doesn't mean folks from back east can't fit in any more than west coast folks can't make it in New York City. But the cultural differences are very real. It is up the individual to learn how to go with the flow. Those who have a hard time adapting or even worse think their own background elsewhere prepares them to lead locally ... well, swimming against the tide doesn't make a great deal of sense. And we're learning our local waters run deep, cold and fast.

    Two of our most earnest scolds on the County Council are from the east coast. They grew up with population density, restrictive land use regulations, old time political machines, New England Calvinism. Not wide open spaces, big skies and pioneer spirit.

    They brought this luggage along in their carpet bags when they moved to the islands to save us from ourselves. Beware, you will all become like Nantucket they say. Meanwhile while they work really hard to turn the islands into their borrowed vision of Nantucket. They can't help themselves.

    The same is true on the Planning Commission. Again, several of the most strident, out of touch Commissioners are not from around these parts, did not grow up on the west coast, do not understand the west, and brought their east coast patrician and urban ways of thinking here. They too want to save us from ourselves.

    Washington State was formed at a time in the 19th Century of great distrust within the new western states of east coast corruption, political machines, rail road robber barons, old money ties to Europe. You can see this in the Washington State constitution. It is stronger than the U.S. Constitution in protecting individual human rights and restraining the power of government.

    And, our County Council took an oath of office to the Washington State Constitution. They need to reflect on that.

    The CAO is supposed to be a "local ordinance." But that is not what we are getting. It is not local at all.