Archive for the ‘Environmental Issues’ Category

State recommends blood tests for lead poisoning but few show up

The state recommended that residents of Upper Ringwood, especially children, get tested for lead poisoning because of the contaminaton left there decades ago by the Ford Motor company. Several remediation efforts have removed thousands of tons of chemical waste but their presence has left high levels of chemical residue in the ground. High rates of cancer and other illnesses among local residents lead to concerns of lead poisoning, and the recomendation for testing. Unfortunately, few showed up for the testing last week.

Two amazing military finds

Find #1: These guys snuck aboard some abandoned naval vessels out SF.  And here I thought I was badass sneaking into Greystone. My only complaint is: you sneak aboard an abandoned Destroyer and you only post a dozen pictures?

Find #2: An abandoned military base (Vozdvizhenka Air Base apparently). I can’t be sure because the LjJ page is written in Cyrillic which I don’t speak or read. If anyone can tell me what it says I’d be appreciative.

The Belle Meade Depot

The GSA-Belle Mead Depot was located in Hillsborough and had several purposes thru its history. It was primarily a warehouse and there were numerous railroad lines running into the facility. During WWII, the facility was used as sort of 20th century Guantanamo, housing Italian POW’s. After the Vietnam war, the property was then turned over to the GSA from the Army until it was closed in 1991. In 2009 the Belle Meade Depot property was transfered over to the Somerset County Improvement Authority. Bought for $15M, the 369 acre property will be jointly owned by the county and the town of Hillsborough. it is hoped that after any contimination is removed (which cost another $20M) the property will become ball fields and recreational areas.

I visited there in 2007 with the intent to scale the most notable thing on the property: a giant water tower. I went there with several friends and we scouted the property which was very close to some ball fields. After scouting out a handful of remaining buildings that were in serious disrepair, we headed for the tower. I have to say that this was not a smart move. We didn’t know the structural stability of the tower, or more importantly the ladder. Like stupid spider monkeys we one by one climbed up and were treated to an amazing 360 degree view of the area. At the time there was a geocache up on the top, easily one of the riskiest geocache finds ever. Still, this isn’t the stupidist or riskiest thing I’ve ever done in my explorations. All the pictures are up on flickr

Hanover Airport, Morris County

East Hanover Airport is located in Hanover NJ close to Route 280. It is located in what was the Glacial Lake Passaic. This was an area that was carved out by the last glaciers of the ice age that ended roughly 15,000 years ago. The area of Lincoln Park, Hanover, Chatham and the surrounding area floods frequently because of the low lying swamp land and the convergance of the Passaic and Pompton Rivers. The areas flooded badly several weeks and ago and 3 times in the last 4 years. the airport operated here from the mid 40’s until August 1985. The airport had been losing 10-15K a year and when a proposed office park fell thru, the airport closed for good. Thruout the 2000’s there were discussions of selling the 53 acres of land to the town or county and turning it into a park of some sort, perhaps funded thru the Green Acres fund. I came across a newspaper article in 2005 stating that this was the plan, but on a recent visit in 2011 it was clear that nothing has happened to date.

The airport originally had a 2,000 foot unpaved runway which eventually became a gravel runway and later a paved runway that ran northeast/southwest. At the southeast corner (where the nearby road bends sharply now) sat a hangar and some other office buildings. Despite the short runway, DC-3’s made an occasional landing there. The airport’s FAA license was not renewed in 1984 which sealed the fate of the little airport. The land is apparently still owned by the owner from 25 years ago, but there is no evidence that the property will be converted to a parkland any time soon. there is, in fact, evidence that there is some sort of contamination at the site. I don’t know anything more then what this sign says, so if anyone has a clue, please let me know.

All my flickr pictures can be found here.

Most of the information about the history of the hanover airport was found here a website which focuses on abandoned airports nationwide.

I have known about this place forever and had visited here in 2005. Not much has changed since then. Here is a picture of the office building from when the airport ewas open. Note the name of thew airport on the roof.

Today it looks a lot worse for wear.

When I was inside the building snooping around the tin metal sheets of the roof were shaking and flapping, making for am very unnerving experience. When iI emerged I realized why it sounded so loud. A turkey vulture had been perched on the roof and flew off before I could take a picture. Inside the building I found the weirest grafitti, apparently outing a local resident who had been cheating his his spouse. Odd.

This compass was painted on the ground so it was visible from the air. This would help pilots orient themselves. In the second picture you can see the compass from the air.

The name of the airport was also painted in giant letters on the runway and are still legible after 3 decades.

Met Sean Casey and the entire crew at LSC after watching Tornado Alley

Tornado Alley is an Imax film that premiered this weekend all across the US. I went to see it on the world’s biggest Imax screen at the Liberty Science Center. There was sneak peak two days ago at the MONH in NY, but luckily the entire cast and crew of the movie were there with their vehicles. I have been a huge fan of Stormchasers on Discovery Channel since day one. Sean Casey is a film maker who has been working on this project for 8 years. He was partnered with Dr Josh Werman, a scientists studying tonardoes. Sean built a vehicle called the TIV (Tornado Intercept Vehicle) for the express purpose of being able to survive a direct pass over by a tornado. Sean said this was *the* shot he needed for his movie. He spent many years trying to get this shot and although he filmed many tornadoes, (helping Dr Werman with his research along the way) he didn’t get the shot he needed until recently.

The show documents his tornado chasing and eventually covered the chasing done by other’s including Reed Timmer and Tim Samaras. Dr Werman eventually was able to head a massive project called Vortex 2 and at this point he and Sean for the most part seperated. Although they still helped each other out, they did not actively work together and their relationship was strained. Sean also seemed to dislike the upstart reed Timmer, something that Discovery Channel played up in the show.

When I heard that the movie was in the can and would finally eb released I wondered how it would compare to the 3 seasons of stormchasers we had seen. Would it be basically a lnog episode, only on the giant screen? Would the show increase interest in the movie? or would people say “why bother? I’ve seen this already on Discovery.” After seeing it today I can tell you that there is no comparison between watching Stromchasers on your living room tv and seeing a tornado on a giant Imax screen.

The movie is hosted by Bill Paxton (of Twister fame) which lends a certain tone to the movie. Serious and not at all Hollywood. I thought it might overshadow the movie and make it too similar to twister but it didn’t, he was an excellent choice to do the naration. The movie is in many ways better then the show because it focuses on the science and the research and leaves the personalities and the drama to the side. (not that seeing the crew do what they do isn’t interesting, but I like that this movie focused solely on the science). I give this movie 4 out 4 and highly recommend it. Try if you can to see it on a real Imax screen not one of these faux Imax screens at the local multiplex. It will be good but not as good as seeing it on true Imax.

Afterwards we got to go out and meet the crew. Sean was gracious and seemed happy to answers questions, but I think I hit a nerve when I asked how he felt about how he was portrayed on the show. If you haven’t watched, he can come off as being kind of a dick to Reed Timmer. He appears to be irritated with Reed and thinks that he’s trying to copy what he’s doing. I’m not saying he he/isn’t a dick, or that he is/isn’t justified with his feelings toward Reed, but that’s how he’s portrayed. Anyone who knows anything about reality shows knows that things are almost always made more dramatic thru the editing process. He said it “is what it is”, that it’s the nature of Hollywood and they pay the bills.

We got to speak with the driver Marcus Gutierez and he was extremely open and friendly and answered every one of our questions. We were talking so long I felt like we were monopolizing him, but he said it was no problem and he was happy to talk to us. Marcus explained that on the show it’s edited to look like there’s just the TIV but in reality there’s about 4-5 other vehicles involved including spotters to help locate tornadoes and navigate traffic, as well as the Discovery channel trucks and other support vehicles.

We spoke with Brandon who helps put the TIV in the right place for an intercept and picked his brain, as well as two members of the Vortex 2 team. We asked them technical quesations about the truck, the process, the research, the logistics of trying to do the research keep everyone safe, coordinate so many vehicles, get Sean’s shots for his movie as well as the shots for the Stormchasers show. In some respects it’s a lot of hurry up and wait because they have to get into position and then wait for things to develop. Once things develop it’s pure insanity. I have so much respect for how they do what they do.

Here’s a few pics.

Brandon, marcus, Sean and me

cab of the DOW

my son in sean casey’s chair in the TIV

the DOW

Cab of the TIV

Here are all the photos.

Recent news

Bergen Record article on a study of some really really old rocks in Passaic County

AMC is bringing it’s “dine-in theaters to NJ, but they’re only coming to central jersey for now. I wanna try this even if it means going down to Bridgewater just for a movie.

A stockpile of 2600 tons of mercury has finally been relocated out of Hillsborough, NJ. Only took 50 years….

A Hunterdon man grew (then carved) a 500 lb pumpkin

Scott Willman doesn’t just take care of Mount Pleasant cemetery. He lives there. Speaking of cemeteries, A pair of retirees have been working hard to research the locations of veterans buried in forgotten cemeteries in Morris County. In another cemetery story, a slave headstone is beyond repair, but a locals are pitching in to replace it with a new one

Speaking of odd jobs, apparently people go around the state gathering acorns (fighting off squirrels) so they can plant them and keep oak trees alive.

I once was young and stupid. (note: I’m now old and stupid). I stole road signs and dropped bowling balls from great heights. But I still can’t help but be amused when idiot teens get busted for… I dunno… stealing stuff for a scavenger hunt.

Finally, the state has decided that the best way to handle the over 20,000 toxic waste sites is to farm out the cleanup to private contractors and let the DEP handle only the worst of the worst. Yeah, I can’t see anything wrong with that.

Ford payouts don’t make up for the damage they inflicted

Anyone who lives in the Bergen County area knows that Ford Motor company screwed the town of Ringwood and the indian tribe that lives there. Over a period of 3 decades they dumped paint and toxic sludge into old mines and sometimes along the sides of the roads in Ringwood. The materials came from a car manufacturing plant that was in Ramsey at the time and has long since closed down. As local residents became sick with all manner of illnesses, eventually Ford admitted what they did and made a token effort at cleaning up what was now designated a Superfund site.

As years progressed and lawsuits were filed, nothing more was done until an award winning series of articles was published by the Bergen Record in 2006. That spurred action by the EPA and promises of arrests and fines by the prosecutors. Fast forward to 2010. There’s still sludge in the mines and it likely will never be properly remediated. Ford settled the lawsuits, but anyone expecting to be fully compensated for the loss of loved ones and the suffering caused by cancer and other illnesses was dissapointed. The settlements ranged between 5K and 35K per person.

Words can’t express how inadequate this is. It’s a testament to how toothless our government can be at times. Ford didn’t just flaunt the law, they ruined hundreds of people’s lives and left an area that is basically unihabitable. They killed numerous people and in the end, heres a few grand, sorry about the cancer, kthxbye? The punishment that Ford received is a joke. The fact that they will be allowed (for a 2nd time) to walk away without fully fixing the situation is criminal.

Maybe they should use the Ford logo as the official state superfund logo.