Saturday, February 23, 2008

Coastal Pollution

A story in today’s Post and Courier "Pollution from Ships Big Worry" discusses the effects of ships that burn cheap heavy bunker oil on the environment.

Politicians and South Carolina Port Authority Officials have an amazing talent for trivializing the momentous and complicating the obvious.

A quote from Byron D. Miller, director of public relations for the S.C. State Ports Authority is a case in point:

"Unlike port cities in California, Charleston meets EPA goals for particulates, the small particles in diesel emissions that are blamed for lung disease and asthma. We are an attainment area, so we don't have some of the issues they have on the West Coast

In other words the ocean wind blows the diesel exhaust to Columbia so Charleston doesn’t have a problem.

Anyone who has traveled to Bermuda or the Bahamas has certainly noticed how clean and fresh the ocean breeze. While neither country has strict pollution regulations, many island streets are clogged with oil spitting smoking two and four cycle scooters and small cars and trucks that would make most state side tree huggers scream and the EPA to produce mounds of reports. Of course the reason the air is clear and clean is Mother Nature supplies plenty wind to give the islands a daily breath of “fresh air” but it doesn’t mean they don’t have a problem.

On days when the wind fails to blow it doesn’t take long and the air might as well be from Mexico City or Tokyo.


Green Turtle Cay Photo Chris McIntire

Green Turtle Cay in the Abaco Islands had a local trash dump that was becoming a problem. Weekly burning was used to keep the amount of trash in check and a debate raged on for nearly two years as what to do with the expanding mound of trash.

Recycling is not unheard of, as island people reuse just about everything but the trash mountain continued to expand. That was until Mother Nature settled the “what to do” arguments and brought a Hurricane to the islands that swept the 3 acre town dump out to sea, along with many homes and the beer cooler from Niper’s Bar. Twenty years of trash gone at about 130 miles per hour and spread over a million square miles of ocean.

Today rather than build a suitable recycling center and garbage processing facility they just went back to business as usual. Such is the way of the Islands, but I doubt we have that luxury here in Charleston.

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