The Watering Hole: Tuesday November 1, 2011 – The Sandoz Spill

Twenty-five years after a fire caused a major chemical spill near Basel, questions are still being raised about how much pollution remains at the blaze site.

Basel Country environment officials say there is no need for action, a claim contested by a chemicals site expert.

In the early hours of November 1, 1986, fire broke out at a warehouse belonging to chemicals company Sandoz at the Schweizerhalle industrial area just outside Basel. Around 1,351 tonnes of pesticides and agrochemicals went up in flames.

The accident turned the River Rhine red, killed thousands of fish and sent acrid smoke over the city. It was one of Europe’s worst environmental disasters and made world news. (read full story)

Recently authorities have decided that no further clean-up was necessary. There are only a few hundred kilos of Oxadixyl left in the ground. It is said to  be a non-hazardous substance. The fish beg to differ.

This is our Open Thread. Open Up!

115 thoughts on “The Watering Hole: Tuesday November 1, 2011 – The Sandoz Spill

  1. ” two firefighters were charged over the Rhine pollution resulting from their actions fighting the blaze”

    Punish the fireman, that’s brilliant!
    Why don’t we do that?
    Oh, wait a minute we are already doing that to the World Trade first responders…

    Fixing the blame is sooooo much easier than solving the problem.

  2. Good Morning Lady EV, sad, ugly and much like our spills here in the states..Thanks for posting the info…Peace, Blessings & Joy to you..

      • Power we have. And we should, too, considering there is a NYSEG Power Substation just a few hundred feet from our house. It would be very depressing to have everyone further away have power and not us. Unfortunately, when that tree came down in my front lawn, it took out some cable and phone lines. I have no idea when they’re going to be fixed. But we’ve been without our internets since the pwoer first went out Saturday afternoon (and then shortly came back on.)

  3. Good thing we humans are created in the exact image of the Great God in Heaven Itself, else all our environmental crimes and the resulting pollution of the planet might well come back to haunt us someday.

  4. None of the Sandoz management was held to account.

    Naturally. If corporations are people, why can’t we put them in jail when these things happen?

    • The (typical) GoOPer ‘apology’:

      Apparently, some individuals have interpreted an image of Barack Obama that appeared within the email as intending to portray the president as a victim of a violent crime. Nothing could be further from the truth, and we deeply and sincerely apologize to the president and anyone who viewed the image if that was the impression that was left.

      • They are disgusting. For three years, they have allowed outrageous acts and words against Obama to proliferate without a word of condemnation — so it becomes acceptable to many. Now it goes even further, and the GOP feigns outrage — where have they been? Their refusal to condemn previous emails and words from teabaggers, candidates, politicians, talking heads, et al. has caused escalation in this sort of thing — so their apology is hollow, insincere and not to be believed.

  5. This coming Thursday, 11/03, all four academic unions are scheduled to go on strike here at SIUC. The Chancellor — having unilaterally set aside contracts, frittered away $1.5 Million to “rebrand” the university, and demanding that tenure be effectively eliminated — insists that it is the intransigence of the professoriate that has led to this impasse. (One might add that the source of cost increases in higher-ed over the last 40 years are pretty much entirely in the administrative area, even though it is the instructors who are blamed. SIUC is 10% higher cost wise in this area than any other state school in Illinois.)

    • Good for them, Gary.

      I’ve long thought higher ed was too top heavy and sports heavy in terms of costs. They need to remember that they are institutions of education.

      Oh wait…they don’t care.

      • I’ve long wondered just how much college “sports” actually increase the cost of getting an education. I suppose some programs here and there are self-supporting, but overall I’m willing to bet that the national bottom line is written in bright red ink. Consider the cost of stadiums, arenas, and all the other sports facilities on college and university campuses across the country and then wonder how much better a use all of that cash could have been put to; then ask, why? Why the waste? For what purpose?

        I have no answer for that.

      • I’m not sure what the costs of sports are in the general scheme of things.

        But I should add that I don’t believe salaries are the main issues here. Rather, job security, maintaining tenure, advance layoff notices for the adjuncts, and shared governance (this latter being another point where the chancellor has made substantial efforts to undermine the professoriate) are the sticking points.

    • He only used one hand under his chin in this re-enactment and said he was indicating the height of his wife. Maybe in the original version he used two hands to infer something special about a certain woody?

      Guys can be hard to figure. But not very often.

    • I’ve got a feeling that Hermie did more with his hands than just holding one at his chin. I doubt that that alone led to complaints. I suspect he may have indicated he wanted to compare other physical attributes of this woman to his wife’s attributes!.

      • He must have done, right?

        Filing a sexual harassment complaint or lawsuit is such a huge pain in the ass that I doubt a complaint would be filed for a single hand gesture.

        I’m wondering if “Herb” keeps talking enough about this, that maybe the confidentiality agreements signed in the these settlements might lose their power? Or maybe other women who didn’t file complaints will come forward?

        • I was called to HR when I worked for a cable TV company. A complaint was made about my inquiries about a woman who worked at another office 300 miles away. I had never seen the woman in person and only seen brief glimpses of her on an internet camera in her office. I did speak to her several time a day, however, but never talked about anything but customers.
          I was perplexed about how I could be suspected of improper behavior when I had never met the woman.

          A month later the woman made arrangements to meet me for dinner one night as she was passing through town while on vacation. I learned that the HR complaint had been made by a male co-worker of hers in her office. He was involved in a legal suit with her and didn’t like my asking about the woman with a sultry voice.

          I can understand the guy not wanting to say anything about her but never could understand the “concern” the HR head at my location had about my “inappropriate” behavior. I kept asking the HR head what I had done but the only answer I got was that a complaint had been made.

  6. Who said OWS wasn’t having any effect.

    Big Bad As* was holding its ground and now scurrying back into a hole.

    BofA Dropping Debit Card Fee Plan

    Bank of America is nixing its plan to charge debit card users a monthly fee…

    The move is a dramatic retreat following decisions by several rivals in recent days to drop customer tests of the new fees.

  7. 01 November – El Dia de Muertos

    cempasuchil/flor de muertos

    Another example how religion attempted to ‘take over’ then having to adapt some aspects of ‘heathen doings’ in order to ‘convert’ the indigenous people:

    After Halloween ends, many American Latinos celebrate “El Día De Los Muertos,” or Day of the Dead. This holiday is deeply rooted in history with roots tracing back thousands of years to Aztec traditions.

    When the Spanish arrived in what is now Mexico, they attempted to get rid of this Aztec tradition and replace it with All Souls Day, the Catholic holiday for honoring those that have passed, but the Aztec people would not budge. This resulted in the Day of the Dead we celebrate today which is a hybrid of Aztec and Spanish Catholic customs.

  8. Whenever I hear the name Sandoz I immediately think “LSD”. It was the Holy Grail for some in the late 60s, but I only knew one person who actually had any and that was when she was on staff with Timothy Leary.

    • Where I worked when fresh out of college, at a corporate BCW research facility, LSD was called EA-1729 and was a recognized psychedelic chemical warfare agent. Far as I know, no particular research project was underway when I was there, but half-full jar of the stuff on a lab shelf strongly suggested that something had already gone down in months or years preceding.

      Google EA-1729 and note that the designation is no longer classified, also that it was investigated “as a possible incapacitating CW compound”. Some have even been so bold to suggest it was used in the (supposed) MKULTRA project designed to permanently erase Sirhan Sirhan’s memory of reasons for (and specifics of) his involvement in the events at the Los Angeles Ambassador Hotel early on June 5, 1968.

      Interesting shit, EA-1729.

  9. Gummitch, by the way, is home sick. Terrible night’s sleep and then about 5:00 I fell into deep sleep. Less than three hours later my ex woke me up with a stupid phone call. Back to bed and actually fell asleep again until after 10:00. If only I didn’t still feel like shit.

  10. Ron Paul talks about student loans, and basically points out that it’s useless to pay to educate people. Why? Because there are no jobs, of course.

    The attempt to help people in education, all you do is you don’t get better education, you end up actually pushing the price of education up. So we’ve delivered now hundreds of thousands of students graduating with a trillion dollars worth of debt? And no jobs? So it is a totally failed policy.

    Paul is finally exposing himself to be almost as nuts as his son. And that’s saying something!

    • Only a generation ago we didn’t have government programs and people worked their way through college. And I was able to get through medical school and college. But it wasn’t so expensive. So it’s the inflation, the problems with the government. As soon as the government gets involved for good intentions, there’s always unintended consequences and almost inevitably it back fires.

      Hey, shitheel, a generation ago all tuition for higher education in California state schools was ZERO, And then “government” did screw it up, “government” in the person of Ronald Reagan. And, yes, tuition elsewhere didn’t leave students with crippling debt, which is why you could “work your way through.” Oh, that and scholarships, but I guess Ron Paul never qualified for one of those.

      And besides, let’s say it did sort of work — and it does work for some people. Some people get an education at the expense of others. But why should people who are laborers who never get to go to college, why should they be taxed to send some of us through college? So it not even a fair system when it works.

      The whole point of Pell Grants and federal loans is to allow “laborers” to go to college, idiot! But we should cut off those loans so that only the truly wealthy can afford to put their kids through college and everyone else can work cheerfully at their non-union jobs and dream of retiring to a cardboard box.


    • Ron Paul says he worked his way through school. I wonder if he claims that he never took student loans — even while getting through medical school?

      Of course, back then education was fucking AFFORDABLE.

  11. Michele Bachmann on her “flat tax” proposal:

    I take a page from Ronald Reagan and the economic miracle that was wrought in the 1980s. Reagan flattened the tax rates and he simplified them.

    Ah yes, the Reagan economic miracle–the policy that became the foundation for today’s record debt and grossly fucked up tax rates on the already wealthy, the basis for the predicted and steady “trickle down” of wealth to the poor and the middle class.

    Yep. Miracle for sure. Well, maybe if we raised the taxes on the rich to what they were when St. Ronnie left office … hmmm.

    • Reagan’s tax rates and tax raises on the middle class caused the yo-yo dieting that our Federal government has been bingeing and purging for 30 years now. It’s pathetic. And leave lots of losers in it’s wake.

  12. From the “you can’t make this shit up” file.

    Bill0, of all people, actually had the gall to tell a guest who disagreed with him that, as a FAUX”News” contributor, she had a “responsibility” to make sure that she is able to “back up” anything she says. He even went on to say that “other networks might get away with that” but FAUX”News” demands accountability. The fact that he did not break out in boils, turn into a pillar pf salt, or burst into flames serves as another data point implying that Old Testament God is no longer on the job.

    Seriously though; Bill0 is a smoother liar than most of the rest of the FAUXhounds. Much of his schtick is creating and defeating straw man arguments so he can always fall back on a defense based on merely exploring a hypothetical. If he ever mentions that he was dead wrong on the whole $16.00 muffin thing his defense will be: “I was saying it was an outrage IF they spent $16.00 on muffins”, “the actual cost of the muffins doesn’t matter, they should all buy their own breakfast”, or he’ll just claim it was a cover up to make Bill0 look bad.

  13. I’m not out here hiding in shame due to the propensity of some of our citizens to make our state look like a bunch of violent bigoted fools (trashy looking blonde pagent lady, Loudon GOP). I’m just really busy with the new barn and stuff. Took son and three of the grands out for trick-or-treat and pizza last night. The youngest, 5, was a little loud in the restaurant. When I asked him if he knew what happens if you’re rude, he answered “Bad Karma?”

    • What’s a corporate zygote look like, I wonder? Where are they found? Are they mainly a result of corporations fucking everything that walks by?

      There are lots of unanswered questions for SCOTUS to tackle.

    • She is so flustered. Can’t even articulate her position on such silly legislation.

      (difficult to believe she’s an attorney)

      Really liked Tom emphasizing the words cell and zygote.

    • One could, with accuracy, define most any mammalian fetus as a parasite, as in (New World Dictionary) “an animal or plant that lives in or on another (the host) from which it obtains nourishment. The host does not benefit from the association and is often harmed by it.”

      I’ve tried laying it out like that on a wingnut or two and whether they want to die of shock on the spot or come after me, their reaction is quite curious given the absolute reality of the matter, of the situation.

      The bottom line question is, so often, why do so many ‘humans’ have so much difficulty recognizing that humans are nothing more–and nothing less–than any other life form anywhere? Humans may have various traits that other genus-species lack, but the same could be said about those others when compared with humans as well.

      I have a strong feeling that if we as a species don’t very quickly come to realize that we have no more working in our favor than did the wooly mammoth, our fate is obvious. But how to get that concept across to a wingnut?

    • Very Disappointing. A broad law to protect only the situation of when a woman chooses to use a surrogate to carry a child?

      How will it benefit most women? Sounds like a back door to banning abortion to me.

  14. Quote of the Day:

    “Even though Cain won’t be the nominee, his candidacy tells us a lot about the psychology of GOP activists. Our team wants someone authentic, creative, fresh, bold and likeable. And we don’t have much tolerance for too many facts or too much information.” – GOP operative Ed Rogers.

  15. Rand Paul On Cain Scandal: It’s Getting To Where You Can’t Joke With Women Anymore

    TPM commenter bearclaw:

    A doctor, a politician, and an idiot walk into a bar.
    The bartender says, “What can I get you, Senator Paul?”

  16. Arizona’s Governor (while in NEW York on a Book Tour) is calling a special session of the state Congress to impeach the independent member of a independent redistricting panel that had been voted on by all Az voters a few years back– to be replaced with another Republican to redraw the redrawn districts in favor of Republicans.

    Can you say “Gerrymander”? I knew that you could.

  17. Cain’s Wife To Appear On Fox News Friday
    Herman Cain promised the public would meet his wife in a soon-to-be-announced exclusive interview, and it looks like we’ve got a date: The Hill reports that cain’s wife, Gloria, will appear on Fox News with Greta Van Susteren Friday evening.

    • On Faux? Your kidding. I would never have guessed. (slapping my forehead while keeping my beer steady and letting out a resounding Homeresque DOH!)

  18. New from Andy Borowitz:

    Sex Scandal Might be First Sign Cain is Qualified to Be Politician
    Makes Him Seem ‘Presidential,’ Expert Says

    MINNEAPOLIS (The Borowitz Report) � Herman Cain’s burgeoning sex scandal might actually be the first sign that he is qualified to be a politician.

    That is the assessment of presidential historian Davis Logsdon of the University of Minnesota, who believes that news of the sex scandal could convince previously undecided voters that Mr. Cain, a former restaurant executive, is of presidential timbre.

    “Voters look at Herman Cain and say, wait a minute, a pizza guy? Does he have what it takes to run for office?” Mr. Logsdon said. “The fact that he is involved in a sex scandal gives him instant credibility.”

    “It makes him seem presidential,” he added.

    Reports that Mr. Cain may have been involved in fundraising irregularities could also add to his presidential luster, Mr. Logsdon said.

    “Voters want to know that their elected leaders have experience mishandling money before they take office,” he said. “When you’re President, there’s no time for on-the-job training.”

    Mr. Cain could do other things to reinforce the impression that he has the right stuff to be a politician, “such as lying about his military record,” but ultimately everything hinges on the sex scandal, he said.

    “If it turns out there was just one or two women and it all blows over, it may not be a big enough sex scandal to help him,” he said. “But if it emerges that Herman Cain was an obnoxious horndog who’d chase anything in a skirt, he could be the next President of the United States.”

  19. The Best Underexplored Art Treasure in the City

    Diego Rivera hidden treasure in SF.

    Go to the middle of the article – click on the rectangular mural – it’ll open for full exploration.
    Amazing depictions!

  20. Another “isolated incident” of domestic terrorism. Explosives and ricin are a nasty combination. For those unfamiliar with ricin; it’s a very nasty poison that anyone with access to castor beans and some advanced high school chemistry knowledge can cook up in their basement.

    • I should also probably use some of my professional knowledge of explosives, and chemistry in general, to explain why this is a real live unholy union.

      Ricin is easy to produce and very basic explosives can be used to make aerosol “grenades” that would be devastating. I must digress…

      As a chemist, I can make some very credible explosives from common ingredients. I used to make my own fireworks and always put the blast/concussion at the top of my list. I finally arrived at a device that was about the volume of two postage stamps, was wrapped in masking tape (no shrapnel), would light with a match, and would propel a plastic 5gal. bucket about 30 feet in the air. An ounce of this substance could form an aerosol from a few ounces of risin and kill a whole lot of people.

      (NOTE: No one, including myself, was ever harmed by any of the explosives I made for enjoyment. I did, however, kill a whole bunch of fish when I tested a electrically triggered underwater device. I also got soaked to the skin from a device that was 50 feet away and under 4 feet of water. I may have underestimated the amount of explosive needed to make a fountain.)

      Anyway… It would not take much of a chemist to use ricin as a, very terrible, terrorist WMD.

        • Nope. It’s not “odd” at all. What it is, though, is a demonstration that banning the kinds of weapons maniacs use to shoot people would not influence our efforts to stop terrorism. I could, as a chemist, construct a bomb that would kill thousands without ever being subjected to official scrutiny. What is hard, and should be harder, is buying a firearm that can, by itself, outgun a whole platoon of Revolutionary Soldiers from the 18th Century.

        • Then there’s the “logic” of these so-called “militias”. If society were to collapse to the point where I might think I have to kill a soldier? I would pick him off from many hundreds of yards, with my .30-06 Browning bolt action, or from feet away with my 12 gauge shotgun. An M16 or AK-47 stye assault rifle isn’t really the best weapon for an insurrectionist. They are, however, the perfect weapon for mass murder.

    • For many decades people have cleaned up and attempting to keep Lake Michigan pollution free…
      this happens. It never should have.

      Rules and regulations – who needs them/

      • Despite this particular disaster; we still need to appreciate the success stories of the Great lakes. When I was very young the Great Lakes were basically a toxic brew, unfit for any life. If one managed to catch a fish it was probably so infused with chemicals as to be inedible. Now? The Great Lakes support thriving fisheries. I think that the Great Lakes are a shining example of Man’s ability to fix the damage he has caused.

      • Regulations? Those are only for Democrats. Republicans don’t need no stinking regulations.

        Of course, regulations are another word for consumer protections BUT who needs them?

  21. Let me get this straight. Everything that Obama does is a camping ploy. Everything that Obama does is wrong. Everything that Obama did despite the precedents of his predecessor is wrong. Everything he did in accordance with his predecessor is right but he can’t be right. So? Everything that Bush did and Obama wasn’t able to stop is right except for the fact that everything Obama does is wrong. Did I mention that he’s a nigger?

    • Had you mentioned the “R” word this mess would make repugnant party sense!

      Rove is sooo jealous of Obama’s accomplishment and GW’s failures. GW never had the ‘follow through’ only the ‘bravado’ scenery wearing a codpiece on a carrier.

      • I hesitate to use the “R” word because it has lost it’s meaning. It wasn’t that long ago that I was more likely to vote for a Republican than a Democrat but that time is long gone. I can no longer maintain that level of disbelief or cognitive dissonance.

      • Rove is jealous because the capture of Bin Laden, the Arab spring, Libya getting free of the G man, all happened on Obama’s watch.

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