Opinion

Environmental sins of the fathers

A story out of Atlanta is another of those reminders (we never seem to get enough of them, or maybe we just don’t learn enough from them) that environmental damage is seldom a short-term sin.

This story, reported by WSB-TV, involves an Environmental Protection Agency study released about two weeks ago on the condition of Proctor Creek. (Proctor Creek feeds directly into the Chattahoochee, and it’s upriver from Columbus, so this is not an irrelevant matter hereabouts.)

After years of reckless treatment of the Chattahoochee, it must be acknowledged that Atlanta has picked up its game in recent years, in terms of both water quality (finally, if all too belatedly, upgrading its sewer systems) and consumption efficiency.

The same has been true specifically of Proctor Creek on the west side of the city. Pollution levels have decreased dramatically, with e. coli contamination in the headwaters dropping almost 50 percent just in the last two years. The creek has its own ecological protection organization, the Emerald Corridor Foundation, and WSB reports that the city of Atlanta has budgeted $3 million in TSPLOST funds to build a greenway along the Proctor Creek banks.

That’s all good news. The bad news has been lying hidden, literally for decades.

According to the EPA report, among the things the waters of Proctor Creek are carrying to the Chattahoochee are high levels of pesticides and PCB, chemicals that have been banned for 30 years. The high concentrations have been found in Proctor Creek fish, and signs along the stream warn against fishing or swimming.

The Emerald Corridor Foundation’s Debra Edelson told WSB that “the EPA estimates this system … carries 40 percent of the pollutants that the city's contributing to the Chattahoochee River.” The Proctor Creek watershed covers about 16 square miles.

So while a lot of people have been working hard to make the waters of Proctor Creek clean and clear, old industrial chemicals that scientists now think have been brought to the surface by rain and erosion are draining into it.

Too often we’re faced with cleaning up messes other than our own. When we don’t clean up our own, somebody else pays the price. And so it goes.

Discomfort zone

As if commercial air travel weren’t already miserable enough for the multitudes (i.e., most of us) economically excluded from the privileges of first class, now it seems just waiting for a flight is more uncomfortable, too.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that Delta has replaced cushioned seats at its Hartsfield-Jackson departure gates with solid black polyurethane ones. The new seats have armrests and USB ports. What they don’t have, according to passengers interviewed by the AJC, is basic fundament friendliness.

A spokesman for the manufacturer told the newspaper that travelers might be biased by “perceived comfort,” or how comfortable the seat looks before a person sits in it.

Trying that line on tired, stressed and sore travelers is not recommended.

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