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"What price growth...?"
Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Olympian Downplays Dioxin Damage - Harry Sets 'Em Straight

Jim Szymanski
Real Estate/Business Editor
The Olympian

hwbranch@aol.com wrote:

Sent today:

Jim Szymanski:

I am continually disappointed with the Olympian's coverage of activities at the Port of Olympia. Yesterday's article is no exception. Unfortunately this persistent window dressing is now at the point of endangering public health.

You state that dioxins come from the burning of wood, coal, petroleum products and garbage. Dioxins come from the manufacture of tires, paper, electrical components, herbicides, plastic, wood preservatives and trash incineration. Dioxins contain chlorine. They are typically the product of incomplete combustion. There are numerous possible industrial sources of dioxins in Budd Inlet. Someone reading your article would tend to think dioxins are a harmless byproduct of campfires.

Some Industry funded studies have indicated dioxins are not as toxic as people have feared. These studies are ultimately all refuted. Dioxins, especially 2,3,7,8 tetrachlorodibenzo-para-dioxin (TCDD) are among the most biologically

damaging chemicals known, in some ways 11,000 times as toxic as cyanide. They weaken human resistance to many diseases and cause cancer, reproductive disorders and birth defects. In some studies rats fed five parts per trillion dioxin all died. Humans are now carrying the same concentrations in our bodies. There is no safe level of exposure.

Dioxins are hydrophobic (water fearing) and lipophilic (fat loving). This means that when a living organism comes in contact with a dioxin in the marine environment it will tend to adhere to the organism. It also means the organism will normally carry the dioxin in its body until it breaks down, which can take virtually forever. There are two exceptions, ways humans normally rid our bodies of dioxins: cross placenta to a fetus and through mother's milk to an infant.

There is a tendency to say we don't need to worry. Dioxin contamination is starting to decline and if these chemicals were a problem people would be dying in greater numbers. Consider though that the rates of certain cancers of fatty tissues and other health impacts are on the rise. Meanwhile human reproductive potential is dropping. And dioxins can interact with other chemicals that are increasingly prevalent.

A few years ago I toured a contaminated industrial site. Even though the area had been buried under ten feet of clay all guests were required to wear special boots and were instructed to touch nothing with anything other than these boots. A neighboring site that had not been remediated was surrounded by a twelve foot high fence. To go in there one needed to wear a moonsuit.

There has been an incomplete assessment of the soils around Northpoint for dioxins and other highly toxic chemicals. If the land is contaminated we need more than an asphalt cap. We need about ten feet of clay and a big fence. The idea of a restaurant at this location may not be tenable.

It appears that the Port of Olympia attempted to arbitrarily draw a line and state everything to the East is contaminated and everything to the West is clean. We now know this isn't true. Why did it take the diligent efforts of a few local citizens to bring this deception to light? What does it take to convince us the system failed?

The subterfuge doesn't stop with dioxin contamination. How can the removal of a half million cubic yards of benthic soil, the expansion of the turning basin, the channel and the berths beyond what they've ever been be maintenance? To further this mendacity the masters of deception (and as alleged in your article) are now referring to sediments as "silt". Silt is material of a specific size that is either in suspension or recently deposited. Once it has been on the bottom for a while it contains gravel, sand and clay and benthic organisms and shells and other debris they leave behind. What the Port plans to dredge is sediments not silt. It may seem trivial but there is a significant difference. Where's the truth meter here?

Diesel exhaust is just about as carcinogenic as cigarette smoke. Exhaust from ships is now recognized as a significant health risk in open areas along the California coast. How about huge ships pumping exhaust the length of the enclosed waters of South Sound or while sitting at the dock?

What's more important? The health of our children or a few "family wage jobs"?

Harry Branch

cc: everybody

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