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You GO, Girl!

I have been so busy lately getting ready for South By Southwest Festival and Conferences, monstrous issues at work, and the impending 40th birthday TOMORROW. Had to take time to record this great rant I received at 2:30 am from a fellow BGGW. CJ and I took a class on Contaminant Transport in Groundwater together last year, and the culmination of the week was a major discussion on the Woburn site. Here's something new she found.

From CJ:
So I'm working a bit late tonight (early morning really) writing a snippet on ground water contamination and I thought I'd look for a map of an infamous contamination site, Woburn, Massachusetts. I search for "Woburn"and an article from www.junkscience.com pops up, so I took a look at it. It made me mad, the writer was obviously ill informed and plainly full of crap. His name is Steven J Milloy, he hosts the junkscience website, he holds several degrees in the health sciences from Johns Hopkins, a law degree, probably a degree from an online university too....he has published only gray (more like black) literature. He reeks.

Luckily, article allows you to submit comments...these are my comments submitted (anonymously, you think I'm stupid?) to Mr. Milloy, he asked for them:

Long but worth the read!

Mr. Milloy,

I've never visited your website, junkscience.com, until I was surfing for maps of the City of Woburn, and found your 1998 article,"Silencing Science, Hollywood Style" criticizing Hollywood for its apparent support of an "anti-chemical" agenda in the movie, "A Civil Action". I saw the movie years ago, and remembered seeing it only when I began working as a hydrologist in the field of drinking water contamination. I can not recall the intricate details of the movie, nor can I say that I have read the book on which it is based, however I did manage to read almost every scientific publication on the science that was subsequently produced to the court action, which you had incorrectly calculated as being conducted 20 years later. Have you read the results of the hydrogeological investigations of the USGS or the data collected by the NUS Corporation (the firm hired for remediation) conducted only five years after the contaminants were detected?

In your article, you state that "Allegedly, the chemicals contaminated drinking water". When you were writing this article, did you bother to review the scientific literature or inquire of the City of Woburn or the Massachusetts DEQE to justify the use of the word "allegedly"? The two wells in question, G and H, were sampled in 1979 and found to be contaminated with six chlorinated hydrocarbons at concentrations ranging from 1 to 400 micrograms/liter. The most toxic chemical found, tetrachloroethylene (PCE), is implicated in causing cancer, it has a maximum contaminant level of 5 micrograms/liter as established by EPA. Ten years after the wells were taken offline, Ebasco Services, Inc reported PCE concentrations of 19 MILLION micrograms/liter recovered from groundwater at one of the FIVE sites that had been documented as having spills or illegal waste disposal of these solvents. I nearly fell out of my chair when I read that number, it deserves to be looked at again: 19,000,000 micrograms/liter. The documented spill at this particular site, the UniFirst Corporation, was 100 gallons of PCE and occurred in 1977. Even if you are completely oblivious to the simplest principals of hydrogeology, or even the physical law of gravity, I can not fathom how you can say "Science has yet to demonstrate the Woburn tragedy involved chemicals". By even referring to the contamination event as a tragedy, you contradict yourself.

Your law degree wouldn’t get me out of a parking ticket. For a man who spends a lot of time pointing out the faults of science, you seem to have quite a knack for distortion of fact yourself. I wonder if you have ever considered that movies such as "A Civil Action" and "Erin Brochovich" may play a positive role in making the public aware of the pollution of their drinking water. It is on a weekly basis that I encounter cases of chemical and biological contamination of drinking water. I can tell you that the general population is completely unaware of even the possibility of contamination of their water supply even though it is stated in an annual report they receive with their water bill. The average citizen, I have found, does not care about the quality of water unless it stains their clothes, or smells, tastes, or looks bad. In most of these cases the quality of water is not deleterious to health, just an unpleasantness. I hope, since you hold several degrees in the sciences as do I, that you may be aware that most contamination by organic chemicals does little to affect the observable quality of water. In my experience, businesses and industry are very effective at shirking the responsibility of cleaning up their messes, the challenges of an underpaid legal staff tasked with obtaining cleanup and compensation from polluters is enormous (being an optimist I refrain from using the word futile). In my opinion, the movie does a fair job in portraying the legal wrangling that occurs, even if dramaticized. I’ve reviewed your exhaustive list of publications, books, and reports and yet I fail to find one publication in a peer-reviewed journal among them.

In remedy of this hole in your achievements, may I suggest you serve as guinea pig in your first scientific examination questioning if these solvents are linked to cancer and drink from Woburn’s abandoned wells yourself? You are a hypocrite, Mr. Milloy, distorting the facts using sensationalist journalism in your attempts to expose faulty scientific data used to further an agenda. I wonder, what is your agenda, Mr. Milloy? A Civil Action does not qualify as junk science, it is a movie, you are searching in the wrong places for material, try picking up a peer-reviewed journal and (en)lighten up.


As a side note, folks,...I am all for the ecologically responsible sustainable development of natural resources for economic growth and the betterment of society...blah blah blah...and am no way anti-chemical
Have a good weekend, I need a beer,
CJ

Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
bumperman
Mar. 5th, 2004 03:17 pm (UTC)
Whoa whoa whoa. Who's 40th birthday?
Certainly not your's, young lady!
popejoan
Mar. 5th, 2004 04:02 pm (UTC)
Happy Birthday!!!
drfardook
Mar. 5th, 2004 07:49 pm (UTC)
Goodness, everyone knows that the pollution levels in groundwater are never caused by people pouring chemicals onto open soil. God provides and I'm not going to question god but he helps those who help themselves so he must allow the chemicals to ... i guess evaporate or something.

Everyone knows pollution is caused by people like you talking garbage about the government. Yes, your evil secular humanist socialist anti-american commentary spontaneously gives birth to PCB Mites which burrough into the soil swish their little bodies into the drinking water.

Given the level of PCB Mites in MA I can only come to the conclusion that those wells were above a bunch of godless heathen tree hugging queers who deserved to get cancer.

If you didn't keep talking garbage and saluted old glory on a regular basis, our drinking water supplies would be safe.

You have been warned.
snaxxx
Mar. 6th, 2004 05:28 am (UTC)
Thank you
You never cease to amuse and amaze me with your warped observations of American society. I knew you wouldn't be able to resist this fodder. I forwarded your comment to CJ and she had a good laugh about it.

Thanks for stopping by!
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )