Sunday, October 22, 2006

Did somebody pass gas?

Did you smell that? Sort of a pungent aroma, like someone passed some gas? That’s because last week, they did. In fact, they passed a lot of gas. Ten thousand pounds worth of gas to be exact.

As reported Saturday by the Daily Gazette and posted at the state Department of Environment Conservation’s Web site, an Air National Guard C-130 dumped 1,500 gallons of fuel over the city of Saratoga Springs. Apparently, there was a fuel leak that concerned the pilots shortly after the plane took off from the Stratton Air National Guard base in Glenville. The end result was the fuel release between 7,500 and 11,000 feet above the city of more than 27,000 inhabitants.

While both the guard’s press flack and the DEC spokesman were perfectly content to say the fuel “evaporated” before it hit the ground, this sort of reasoning is a bit difficult to swallow, especially if you happened to be wandering around in the rain that day. It would seem that the DEC could provide a bit more of an explanation of how this amount of fuel might affect the ground and perhaps the ground water when it evaporates into the atmosphere, then comes down in the form of rain.

True, the amount of fuel dumped might seem a bit insignificant when compared to the volume of atmosphere. But then again, how many people are willing to chance the inhalation of a teaspoon of jet fuel with their coffee in the morning. What’s a bit more startling is the fact that the Gazette needed to ferret this story out through the DEC’s hazardous spills site online and that neither the Guard nor the DEC felt compelled to report the event when it happened.

Given this track record of being forthcoming, one can only wonder what kind environmental calamity is taking place inside that giant atomic sphere the military is maintaining at Kesselring. Or better yet, what the hell happened at Skidmore College in May of 2005, when the DEC passively notes that a gallon of mercury was somehow spilled and could have entered the ground water; an investigation is ongoing, according to the site.

And knowing the affect mercury can have on a person coupled with the gravity even a minuscule spill is often given by Hazmat teams, let’s hope this is a DEC typo.

Editor’s note: as an astute reader pointed out, it was the Glens Falls Post Star that originally reported this story on Friday. The Gazette managed to reprint it in Saturday’s edition.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, The Post-Star "ferreted out" that story a day before the Gazette. But yes, it does seem hard to believe that such a spill could have no environmental impact...

7:06 PM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

I stand corrected. Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get my mits on the printed edition of the Post Star Friday. And as I'll be blogging about in the very near future, the bulk of the paper's Web site is by subscription only. So kudos to the reporters in Glens Falls for pointing this recent DEC calamity out.


8:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, you have no clue about flying in general. You would be absolutely horrified by the actual amount of fuel that is dumped by airplanes every single day. It's a common procedure to lighten up the plane before landing. I am a pilot with over 7500 hours in all kinds of planes, including commercial. Before you go scaring the public, do some research and facts first. First and foremost, jet fuel evaporates when it is vented. Please be careful about scaring the public in the future.

2:08 PM  
Blogger Horatio Alger said...

While it’s a bit presumptuous to proclaim I know nothing about flying, flight or all the intricacies thereof, I will admit that aviation is not a forte of mine, so to speak. And perhaps you’re correct in your second supposition, that indeed jet fuel when dumped over populated areas has NO negative effects.

However, I feel compelled to point out where your assumptions run into some problems. When used in the chemical sense, the term “evaporate” is not synonymous with “vanish;” rather it means “to change from a liquid or solid state into vapor.” Where does that vapor go? Well, here’s a hint: it doesn’t go into outer space.

Where this fuel likely returns to earth is likely in the form of rain, or perhaps the air we breathe. Is that harmful? Well, I’ll be the first to assure you I am no scientist. But if I were given the choice between inhaling jet fuel vapor with my morning yawn or sip it with my drink of water, I’d prefer to abstain.

10:06 PM  

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