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topic 7099

Hypothetical Dead Fish!


(2001)

Q. I am a student working on a hypothetical problem situation...a fisherman goes to his normal spot and notices that the small fish are dead and floating to the surface. The water appears normal and there are no obvious signs of catastrophe such as an oil spill, etc. There is an electroplating plant upstream of his spot, and I strongly believe that it is the source of the contaminate, however, I am having difficulties determining what that contaminate is. Do you have any information or suggestions for the possible contaminate. I have found that chromium, chloride, lead, silver, selenium, zinc, copper, and cadmium are all possibilities. Your prompt input would be greatly appreciated! Thank you for your time,

Sincerely,

Jamal

Jamal A [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Maine


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Pop Bottle Science

(2001)

A. If the electroplating plant does any cyanide plating, my first suspect would be cyanide, Jamal A.

A start towards causality might be to burn a piece of the dead fish in an atomic absorption spectrophotometer, and compare the emission lines to that of a fish who died of natural causes. But in truth it is difficult and time intensive to determine something like this, and it really requires a professional investigation, where you look at all possible causes of the fish kill with an open mind. Hopefully some people who have done similar investigations can help us out here, because I don't really know.

In return for addressing your question, here's a hypothetical problem for you and your teacher if you have open minds:
There is a school near that electroplating plant. The students are gathered at assembly when a girl suddenly collapses. "Toxic fumes from the electroplating plant!" her schoolmates scream. Another girl is trampled to death in the wild rush to escape the fumes! Later, it turns out that the girl who collapsed had simply fainted, there were absolutely no fumes after all, and the whole tragedy was the result of chemophobia. So my question is, who should we blame for the trampling death of the student? Who is responsible?

My hypothetical is based on an actual event in Bernards Township, NJ where a child fainted, and the other children, obviously programmed to believe these kind of stories, went into a wild panic over non-existent toxic fumes. It resulted in 18 children being hospitalized for psychosomatic symptoms, and a whole fleet of emergency and rescue vehicles careening toward the school at reckless speeds. Fortunately no one was actually trampled to death this time, but they may well be next time.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


(2001)

Jamal, That hypothetical question was beautifully answered. As my father, bless him, used to say to me when I asked an IF, IF, IF Question .... If your Auntie had balls, she'd be your Uncle!

The dead fish, Jamal, could have been due to the school (upstream, of course) discharging all its wastes into that river. Had you thought about that?

I once had to show around 2 TV people because of complaints about 'air pollution odours' from fibreglass operations. We got to the site where the complaints issued from and yes, there was a smell and yes, our plant was 'across' the road.

But when I pointed out that the wind came from the other direction, I was ignored. These TV 'personalities', a scruffy pair of pre-adolescent kids, were interested in a story, not to be confused with truth.

I must go again and have a gander at As You Like It ... didn't Jacques say something about IF ?

freeman newton portrait
Freeman Newton
White Rock, British Columbia, Canada

(It is our sad duty to
advise that Freeman passed away
April 21, 2012. R.I.P. old friend).



(2001)

We are working on a hypothetical water pollution project at our high school. We have tested our water sample and have found that nickel is present in toxic amounts, killing the fish in the river. An electroplating plant is responsible for this pollution. We would greatly appreciate any information suggestions about means of remediation or prevention. Any information would be helpful. Also any information regarding the effects of aquatic wildlife would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you for your time.

Jamal, Susie, Jerry and Karen

Jamal H
- Winnipeg, Connecticut


(2001)

Hello Jamal H; I guess Jamals are natural leaders of these studies :-)

When you 'tested your water sample' and found nickel in 'toxic amounts', how many parts per billion or micrograms per liter was that? Was it in soluble form, or was it in the form of some kind of precipitate? If you don't yet have any numbers, perhaps your teacher can supply hypothetical numbers for you because it is difficult (silly even) to talk about remediation or prevention without some numbers and data to go by.

'The effects on aquatic wildlife' will also depend on real numbers. Too much nickel can kill wildlife but, so can too little (although it's very very unlikely to be a problem!). A web page about vitamins claims that: "Animal studies indicate a variety of possible deficiency symptoms. These include growth retardation, impaired reproduction, and inadequate plasma glucose levels. Nickel also appears to effect the activity of calcium, iron, zinc, and Vitamin B-12."

Give us some numbers to work with and we can try to help you.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


First of three simultaneous responses-- (2001)

Jamal & Co.,

Simply because a plating plant exists nearby, it does not necessarily follow that the source of toxins is the plating plant. Simple logic, based on the "necessary & sufficient conditions", but some environmentalists aren't interested in logic. Just interested in expounding their Luddite convictions.

When one gets into extremely complex bio-systems, like streams or oceans, anything can be going on. Nickel and other metallic compounds are a toxic heavy metals, and bio-accumulate within the food chain, usually not producing massive die-offs in the species groups within the eco-system. There may be other reasons than just a high nickel level in one water sample (problems of representative sampling). Greater research into the problem is indicated, before any finger pointing takes place.

One possible source of the die-off may very well be, "midnight dumping" of toxic components by any one. Or, the die-off may very well be due to a naturally occurring phenomenon or phenomena. Either way, more investigation is required. This is just good science and engineering.

Neil

N. E. Hatfield
- Franklin Park , Illinois


Second of three simultaneous responses-- (2001)

Geez, guys.. am I the only one here who sees a problem with what our kids are being taught about the metal finishing industry in our schools? Starting to piss me off!

Marc Green
Marc Green
anodizer - Boise, Idaho


Third of three simultaneous responses-- (2001)

Our group tested a sample of the contaminated water: a clear solution, with NO precipitate, specifically for nickel. We found readings of 10.7 ppm, 10.4 ppm,and 10.9 ppm.

We were only given the information that there is an electroplating plant upstream (not specifically what type, how old it is, how it disposes of its waste...for all we know, the nickel in the water may not even be the result of a waste product. But, that is all of the information that we are supplied with.)

We, at no time, were given any information or tested or did anything to a sediment, precipitate, particle, aquatic life other than the small dead fish (the only information we got about them was that they were dead and "belly up" to the surface), human consumption, effects on anything other than the fish, etc.

Thank you for your time. Sorry we weren't specific enough the first time.

Jamal, Susie, Karen, and Jerry

Jamal & Co.
- Winnepeg, Connecticut


(2001)

That's an awful lot of nickel, students. You are seeing a higher concentration in the stream, after presumably a huge dilution factor, than any electroplating shop is permitted to discharge even to their municipal sewer -- let alone what they are permitted to discharge to a stream anywhere in America. Present limits for a "bad day" are less than 1.9 ppm out of the discharge pipe itself, and this limit is in the process of being reduced.

So, prevention would be to simply enforce the law (assuming the electroplating shop was responsible). What did you do with the samples after you tested them? You didn't dump them down the drain, killing still more fish, did you?

Remediation is better done before dilution than after. It is very difficult to treat the stream itself with the fish in it, although there are certain weeds that could be hypothetically planted to absorb the metal. In theory the stream could be passed through an ion exchange column to remove the nickel, but this is probably really quite impractical.

What textbook is this question in, if it is in a textbook?

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


(2001)

Hi Students,

I wish you luck with your science project. We never, ever did anything like that at school. In fact, we didn't even know what plating was ... but we did know about Sheffield plate ... which I'm darned sure your teacher knows zip about... I've even got some, worth a fortune now especially in England where it was invented.

May I suggest that your teacher get some TRUE samples. Some from the school football field, some from a garden. Now you go and test those and you will get a FRIGHT! There are all types of things in the soil. Horrible creepy crawly invisible bugs! Copper, aluminum, maybe iron and lead and probably limestone but most of these things are in utter minute quantities. Mind you, the 'garden' samples will probably show some nasty things like ammonia, sulphur, potassium, etc. etc. etc. in large and dangerous not-to-be-ingested amounts.

Another suggestion, probably a good one. Get rid of the teacher and get someone who is practical, OK. Someone to teach you hands-on. I trust that the school has all the latest research equipment, if not, go and buy an A.A. machine (Atomic Absorber) to run spectrum tests on materials. Very cheap. Only $30,000 to $100,000.00... and if the teacher doesn't want to ante up, ask Bill Gates and tell him I suggested this approach. He'd love that (?) But whatever you do, keep an open mind. OK? CHEERS 1

freeman newton portrait
Freeman Newton
White Rock, British Columbia, Canada

(It is our sad duty to
advise that Freeman passed away
April 21, 2012. R.I.P. old friend).



(2001)

I've always wondered what Freeman was studying, with his head sticking out of Volvo #40 there. Now I've got it! He's got a teacher cornered in those shadows under his left front wheel.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


+

Our teacher informed our group that the electroplating plant is indeed the cause of the pollution. The waste pipe is draining into the river enough nickel containing solution to give the "sample of water from the fishing site" (she puts together a bottle of water with a certain level of contaminant in it and we test it...then once we have finished the testing, we dump it into a waste water bottle, which the school disposes of in a proper manner...no fish are REALLY killed!) a concentration of nickel of 10.7 ppm (we did have to dilute to measure this, however, this figure IS ACCURATE! The nickel is water soluble (because it is dissolved into a solution of water).

Our teacher asked us this question, and we were wondering if you had any input:

If nickel is discharged, what form (complexes) would it be in as it is released from the pipe and into the river (we must determine this in order for us to determine the best method of remediation). We realize that there are two problems with remediating, 1. the liquid layer (the river) 2. the sediments.

We also realize that you are pro-industry (and there's nothing wrong with that . . . we are not trying to put industry down), yet these problems have occurred before, and we are just experimenting with possible remediation techniques to increase our environmental awareness.

Again, thank you for your time and suggestions.

Jamal, Susie, Karen, and Jerry

Jamal H & Co. (again)
- Winnepeg, Connecticut


Challenging Environmental Mythology: Wrestling Zeus

(2001)

Nickel from an electroplating plant will be at a +2 valence state, and in the form of an aqueous soluble salt. That is, it will be dissolved in the water the same way that table salt dissolves in water; it cannot be filtered out.

It will be Ni++Cl-2 or Ni++SO4- - or another simple inorganic salt of nickel. It would be emerald green at plating strength because that is the color of Ni++. It will be very faintly green to invisible at 10.7 ppm.

I think it is very unlikely to accumulate in sediment because it is quite soluble, although not as soluble as table salt . Just as table salt makes salty water instead of accumulating in sediment, the nickel should do the same. We have an old page on line here that shows the solubility of nickel and other metals at different pH. Good luck!

(Pro-industry doesn't mean anti-earth! Finishing.com is a proud contributor to the Nature Conservancy. I personally am a member of Audubon, Sierra Club, Pinelands Preservation, and World Wildlife Federation -- and I'm confident that other writers from industry have similar interests.).

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


(2001)

After careful examination of the poor fishies...it was discovered that there was large amounts of undigested tater-tots, pizza, sandwiches, and Jello pudding in the fishes stomachs. An extensive search turned up evidence of a compost pile, behind the school, where all the leftovers from the school lunches had been dumped, which had obviously leached into the groundwater, and seeped into the river. So the OBVIOUS culprit is the school lunches! Ask any student, they'll tell ya that food they get served would kill anything! Perhaps there is another negative campaign here, in the making?

Marc Green
Marc Green
anodizer - Boise, Idaho


The Blue Death

(2001)

Jamal, Susan, Jerry, and Karen,

I applaud your questions and your application of science to answer questions about the world around you. As I suspect you are aware, the scientific method can retain objectivity while challenging prejudice and subjective, preconceived notions. A well thought out hypothesis, a well defined and executed testing method that will yield reproducible results, and a careful statistical analysis of the results indicating the degree of correlation of the hypothesis to the observed data are valuable tools of discovery in a careful, logical, disciplined search for knowledge. Please don't ever let anyone discourage you from asking questions. Question authority when appropriate, but mostly learn to question assumptions, and remember to thank your teacher.

Mr. Mooney,

Thank you, sir, for giving these folks information. They did a great job in finding an authority on the subject, and you deserve credit for answering their questions, encouraging with them guidance, showing objectivity, and for correctly pointing out that pro-industry does not mean anti-earth. Further, thank you very much for freely lending your knowledge and expertise to all who ask questions in this forum.

Everyone else,

Please do not discourage questions. Let's let smart, young minds do their best. Don't blame a teacher for teaching science. From what I have read here in these messages, the students are asking questions without making assumptions, and it is some of you who have jumped to conclusions in the absence of evidence.

To all fisherman, scientists (including engineers), and other inquiring minds, ask yourselves why the state fishing regulations in most of the states in this country list health advisories for fish consumption due to harmful contamination in specific waters that are open to fishing. Go to a place that sells fishing licenses and get yourself a free copy of the regulations, and read this for yourself.

The pollutants listed are PCBs, dioxins, chlordane, mercury, and others. The advisories state that you should eat no more than "one meal a month" or "one meal a year" or "do not eat" for different species of game fish in specific waters open to fishing. These warnings are for all of us, but are especially for children and women in their child-bearing years.

This pollution of our natural resources has been caused by ignorance. Please do not discourage these students' objective pursuit of knowledge. And remember these health advisories the next time you think that there's too much government regulation. And please take your kids fishing, but I hope that you choose to teach them to catch and release.

Thank you.

Ian Gillelan
- Airville, Pennsylvania


(2001)

I appreciate your very generous praise for our efforts, Mr. Gillelan, and agree with most of what you say-- but not all of it!

Charles Darwin himself noted that the scientific method does not try to achieve what you would like to credit it with. Every experiment is colored by the experiences and personal prejudices of the scientist. Darwin noted that to attempt to do science otherwise is to go down into a gravel pit and spend eternity trying to categorize each piece of gravel by color, size, and shape without any point.

Yes, those readers who asked whether the students looked at the school cafeteria or the school science lab as the possible source of the fish kill were obviously being sarcastic. But they were making the point that students should keep an open mind against a naive Bambi-like belief that industry & free enterprise are EVIL, and schools & government bodies are GOOD. Can you honestly say that you have ever seen a school science project where the school or the government is the potential "villain", rather than industry? And did you yourself not tell the children to "thank your teacher" -- but you didn't ask them to thank the industrialists for anything, did you?

So I understand electroplating shop operators starting to find the pattern offensive when they learned of the second teacher presenting the same proposition about the scummy electroplating shop to another group of students. The pollutants that you mentioned have nothing to do with electroplating, but the first thought most of today's students will have whenever they hear of water pollution may be: "Electroplating shop!".

Employment in the environmental regulatory field won't decline as the environment gets cleaner. Regulation will simply grow to ensure the regulators continued employment despite declining dangers. While I don't feel that the health advisories you mention are outright fraudulent, the first concern of the regulators, like everyone else, is to protect their job. Surely elected officials and the media are guilty of it: "Toxic time bomb!" keeps you up for the news and gets politicians elected; "Danger was exaggerated, you're safe" doesn't, so kids never hear this balancing side.

If the kids hear a few sentences of hyperbole from the other side here, it's no big deal.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


(2001)

Dear Mr. Mooney,

I agree with you that scientific method is far from perfect. There are many shortcomings in scientific method, such as you mentioned in addition to the well-known Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle, and others. However, these do not invalidate the scientific method, nor render it useless. Until a better analytical tool is invented, the scientific method offers the best practical opportunity to strive for objectivity, reproducibility, and statistical correlation in the pursuit of knowledge.

Your argument that the sarcastic, alternate hypotheses offered by readers is an attempt to help the students to keep an open mind against prejudice is specious. Rather, these comments were blatant, knee-jerk reactions to the students' intelligently presented questions. The readers' suggestions included ranting about illogical environmentalists and their Luddite convictions, a suggestion to "get rid of" the teacher, and criticism of what is being taught in schools. This hardly constitutes objective, rational suggestions, and, honestly, for you to present this as promoting a lack of prejudice is absurd and laughable. Rather, these comments by other readers are rife with defensive paranoia of the public's negative opinion of plating shops, specifically, and industry, in general. The Shakespeare quote "methinks the lady doth protest too much" comes immediately to mind. A call for objectivity is in order.

As you indicated, the four pollutants I mentioned in my previous message have nothing to do with electroplating shops, nor did I make the slightest inference that there was any association between these pollutants and the plating industry. I deliberately did not place any blame on the plating industry in order to make my point that we are all currently exposed to persistent environmental pollutants that exist out of ignorance, and that the pursuit of knowledge has the potential to enlighten us so that we may prevent further detrimental alteration of the environment and threat to the health of living organisms.

I was generous in not mentioning that sometimes harmful compounds are knowingly introduced to the environment by industry not out of ignorance, but due to laziness, lack of concern for the air, soil, water, and living organisms, and putting monetary profit considerations above health and welfare. I was also generous in not mentioning the many pollutants that have been introduced into the environment specifically by plating plants, although many other industrial plants, and sewage treatment plants, and even farming, housing construction, and many other human activities necessary to clothe, feed, and house humans share the blame for altering the environment in negative ways. I was also generous in not mentioning that there is an enormous body of hard scientific data, empirical evidence, that illustrates the exact levels and quantities of poisonous, heavy metal pollutants introduced to many of the harbors and rivers of the world by the plating industry. All of us living in the industrialized world share the blame, we all should be concerned, and almost all of these problems are complex and without simple remedies. We also do know that we can begin to understand the elements comprising these complex problems through science and the scientific method when it is applied strictly and carefully, and that we may be able to take actions or change behaviors based on the scientific evidence in order to slow the environmental degradation and health threats caused by mankind.

The many factors which can cause or contribute to fishkills fall into two categories: naturally occurring conditions, and those caused by man. The bottom line is that the students acted with objectivity and did the right thing: they tested the water. They were being taught to use science to take measurements rather than following blind prejudice. The shortcoming of the scientific method is that there must be a balance between subjectivity and objectivity in life. Therefore, prejudice may have caused them to suspect the plating plant, but objective science provides the evidence to indicate potential causes of the fishkill, regardless of any preconceived notions.

I suggest that no one in this discussion was attempting to blame anyone in the plating industry. Some people, however, were attempting to find information about potential pollutants in the water so that they could perform the best tests first to indicate what pollutant MIGHT be the cause of a fishkill.

Again, if my motive was to blame the plating industry for pollution, I would not have chosen the pollutants I did in illustrating my point regarding pollutant-contaminated gamefish that pose a threat to human health when consumed. If my motive had been to blame the plating industry for pollution, it is a simple task to find voluminous hard data on heavy metal pollutants in the sediments and solvents dissolved in the water column caused by plating plants, but I deliberately avoided that because my point was that we should applaud and assist inquisitive, intelligent young minds rather than sarcastically criticizing their efforts, the teacher's efforts, and the schools.

If the readers of this forum are so overly sensitive to the notion that the plating industry might cause pollution, then there may be a logical, scientific reason for this. This, however, is my opinion, and I am not concerned that some may find it offensive. Sometimes the truth is not pretty, but it remains the truth. Empirical data does not lie. Rather than blame anyone (leave that to the legal system), I promote awareness of the problems so that in the future we can do the right thing, and take whatever practical steps we can to slow the degradation to the environment. I also suggest that environmental degradation presents a much larger threat to our children and future generations than anyone's criticism of another person's livelihood.

Warmest regards,

Ian Gillelan
- Airville, Pennsylvania


(2001)

Dear Mr. Gillelan:

The hypothetical I posed to Jamal from Maine -- about a student being trampled as kids started screaming "Help! Toxic fumes!" after a classmate had simply fainted -- was based on an actual incident in New Jersey where 18 kids required hospitalization. Was any teacher or administrator held responsible for instilling this dangerous paranoia that the children had to be so carefully taught, and that caused them to injure their classmates by misreading a simple incident of fainting as a release of toxic fumes? No, of course not! Because "Teachers are GOOD, industrialists are BAD".

I attended countless back-to-school nights & project nights as my sons went through school. My boys and the other kids were taught right from kindergarten to draw factory smokestacks belching black gas, and waste lines dumping into streams of dead fish, sometimes with American Indians sitting on the bank with tears rolling down their cheeks.

To pretend that intense anti-industry programming doesn't exist in the schools is outright silly. So, what you see as "knee-jerk reaction" may be people who are trying to earn a living in private enterprise recognizing this very obvious bias and object to it.

Given the absolutely undeniable anti-industry bias of the schools, people in the plating industry have cause to worry about schoolbook questions which fill young minds with colorful images of hypothetical environmental catastrophes caused by plating shops. I recognize that they are primarily a scientific exercise, but I too became concerned about them when kids from the second school checked in with the same "plating plants = fish kills" project.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey


(2001)

As part of my science education at school we did the same or a very similar question. The objective was to teach scientific theory. To make sure that the experimental design that came out as an answer actually proved what was going on and what was killing the fish. The use of a plating shop or any other has no bearing on the actual thing being taught which is rational thought and experimental design. The fact that a plating shop was used was just because most plating shops have at least one and usually several items that are very effective poisons and also likely to be found in nature at trace levels. It allows for local geology and the water source to be included as factors and makes the problem a little more complicated bringing in more variables to increase the difficulty of the problem. Trust me on this I did not come out of this with the idea that all plating shops are nasty places that harm the environment. I came out of this with the ability to design experiments that give when possible a definitive answer rather than a jaundiced view of the plating industry.

Ciaron Murphy
- South Wales, U.K.


First of two simultaneous responses-- (2001)

REPLY TO MR. GILLELAN'S letter

Holy Cow! Surely the 'intelligently asked questions' of the students were 100% the teacher's suggestion, eh? I am the person who advocated, tongue-in-cheek, replacing the teacher with someone more practical. A teacher may have graduated with top honours and have a font of knowledge but knowledge by itself does not imply intelligence, does it?

Tut, tut, 'we' are accused (but only by you and by no one else) of ranting, paranoia and criticism of what is taught at school.

No way! Furthermore, you do not realize that the finishing.com site is a very great help to many, many people including students. 

As mentioned by others, students should weigh up the pros and cons of any argument ... but firstly they (i.e., their teacher) has to ask some pertinent questions and not unintelligently willy-nilly dream up things.

You suggested that 'environmental degradation presents a much larger threat to our children and future generations', but why is it that the newspapers claim that we are now all living, in North America, to really ripe old ages? It is fine sitting on a pedestal and pontificating about Pollution Threatens our Living Standards, but that has to be baloney. The EPA is pretty tough, too tough, I think, but we HAVE laws and regulations which are fairly onerous and should be so, within reason. WITHIN REASON.

We need, funnily enough, jobs in order to survive. I don't think you have a clue about true pollution. Go to Xian and you won't see the sun! Look at the smog in Athens from the Aetheneum. In the seventies the Prime Minister of Pakistan, I think it was, said, "I don't care about pollution, we want jobs". I heard it on the radio! There has to be a balance between 'pollution' and jobs. You can't live AND EXIST without jobs. Even, by your fallacious standards, an Indian having a fire near the Wigwam is generating POLLUTION!

Oh, by the way, methinks that thar Shakespearean quote of yours is slightly awry. Didn't Queen Gertrude, I think it was, add the 'methinks' at the end and not in the beginning? Maybe you have a different edition of Hamlet. Maybe.

Mind you, I'm a great believer in Goethe's aphorism, Das gedrückte Wort lügt... the printed word, lies. And you sure did write a lot. Jawohl!

Even WARMER regards,

Freeman Newton
Freeman Newton
White Rock, British Columbia, Canada

Second of two simultaneous responses-- (2001)

Mr. Gillelan,

You have to understand.. that yes, while my brief replies were meant as sarcasm, there is some underlying concern about the students being told that a plating shop was upstream..I saw no mention of a farm being upstream (phosphates, nitrates), or any other industry that perhaps could have caused the hypothetical kill.

Most of us work VERY hard at environmental compliance..I would advise you to take a look at at least half of the regulations that our industry has to comply with (it should only take you about 1 month, PLUS the expense of a lawyer to interpret these rules). And as environmental compliance manager for my shop.. its my job to comply with these regulations.

I personally think you are WAY off base saying that these rules do NOT effect my livelihood, as each individual rule/regulation costs my shop money to comply with..money which could be used for process improvements, benefits, pay raises, etc. While I believe that MOST of these rules are very necessary..there are some that are just plain asinine. And you SHOULD be very concerned, as the cost of these regulations end up coming out of your pocket through higher product costs, and wasted tax dollars (money that could be used to supply students with books, and other necessary equipment that a school SHOULD supply, as opposed to sharing, or doing without)..which..in turn.. affects YOUR livelihood.

At the same time.. I must applaud the EPA/DEQ for their recent efforts to work WITH industry..as opposed to the nazi tactics (very similar to the I.R.S.) that has been the policy in the past.

Of course the plating industry causes pollution..but so does the automobile that you drive to work in everyday, along with pretty much EVERY other product that you use on a DAILY basis. But yet.. the children were told of a plating shop being upstream..not a farm, junkyard, refinery, printing shop, and yes.. perhaps a collage laboratory. I live in the beautiful state of Idaho, and am an avid outdoorsman, so I am concerned about the health of our environment..but at the same time.. when I see several letters from school children fingering a plating shop.. I DO become concerned about the negative stereotyping thats going on in our schools..especially when I'm sure that there is NO information being supplied to our children as to how necessary our industry is..after all..with out us, you wouldn't have been able to write the e-mail that forced me (once again) to respond.

A couple more follow up thoughts on this entire subject, Mr. Gillean..as I've re-read all the questions, and answers on this particular letter.. I don't believe ANY of us had a problem with the students asking intelligent questions..where the problem lay (speaking for myself only) was that the teacher mentioned that, an Electroplating shop was upstream...that it was, INDEED the cause of the "fishkill". What I'm looking closely at was the fact that the TEACHER stated that a pipe was draining wastes into the river. Obviously this teacher is not very well informed as to how our industry is regulated THESE days...not as it was in the 1950s. Was it, indeed NECESSARY for the teacher to mention the electroplating shop upstream? Me thinks NOT. She listed the possible contaminants, and then asked them to determine which of the contaminants caused the "kill". The PROPER thing to do, would then, AFTER they determined which contaminate caused the "kill", to THEN ask the students to list POSSIBLE causes for the introduction to nickel in the river. That way. the students minds are completely open to any/all possible ways that the nickel could be introduced to the stream. God forbid that one of these students turns into the next Al Gore (oops, sorry, I didn't mean to get political).

Please keep an open mind, Mr Gilean..as now I'm sure that there are 4 students that now have preconceived notions about the metal finishing industry.

Marc Green
Marc Green
anodizer - Boise, Idaho


(2001)

I have found that the easiest way to cause fish to float to the surface, dead or stunned, is with the aid of a small waterproof explosive. Begin by casting pieces of bread onto the water until the fish congregate. Attach a ball of mud to a waterproof firework (the low powered M-80's available at the roadside fireworks emporiums will suffice) Light the fuse and drop the firework into the center of the fish congregation. Within an instant you will have pan-fish for the grabbing, just floating there and waiting for a dinner invitation! This is a much more reliable way to float a fish than to blame the metal finishing industry. And a lot more fun!

Howard Snyder
- North Royalton, Ohio


(2001)

Found this one pretty interesting (unfortunately I don't visit page 2 very often).

A very interesting book is Marine Pollution by R.B. Clark worth a read. I got a copy just out of interest as my plant is 300 yards from the north sea. Take cadmium, total input of cadmium to the world's oceans was estimated (at the time of writing of the book 1992 3rd Ed) to be 8000 t per year of which have was estimated to be from natural sources and half from mans activities.

Right let's legislate all cadmium platers to discharge limits of 0.1 ppb cause that's were the man made source is coming from right ?

Well how about the cadmium from auto tyre wear (amongst others), apparently 20-90 ppm Cd as an impurity in the zinc oxide used as a curing accelerator.

Well we stopped cadmium plating in about 1990 and decided to change all our auto tyres for wooden wheels.

To quote from the intro to the above book, "... The difficulty with a subject such as environmental pollution is that students almost invariably hold strong views about it. These are not views that they have developed themselves by a rational examination of the facts, but usually simply reflect current conventional wisdom. The conventional view has changed radically in the last 10 years even though the scientific basis for it has not. The current public assessment may be right or wrong, but it and the grounds on which it was based must not be above dispassionate examination. However, for many environmental enthusiasts, dispassionate examination of the facts is either irrelevant or, at worse, indicates an "anti-environmentalist" attitude. In these circumstances, the teacher whether he subscribes to the conventional view or not, is in danger of being accused of trying to indoctrinate the students, and this is not a happy situation when the objective of the instruction is to encourage rational and independent thought..."

So I guess everybody is a little bit fed up of dead fish high school questions, not because they aren't teaching students about experimental methodology but perhaps because to zero in on one industry in assignments like these may result in student misconceptions about what we do which some of them may carry around with them forever.(Or perhaps I do high school students an injustice)

I suppose the teacher did supply a hypothetical sample of water upstream of the plant just to make sure, it was that rogue electroplating plant!

Regards,

Richard Guise
- Lowestoft, U.K.

---
Ed. note Jan 2010: Wal-Mart and Disney sell kids' jewelry, that small children probably put in their mouth, with 100,000 times the concentration of cadmium that electroplating shops can flush down their toilet, and it's only news for two days. No recall ordered, no sealing the items into impervious bunkers, no sending it back to China. Just toss it in the trash. All forgotten now. But the 100,000 thousand times stricter effluent limitations that drove so much small American industry out of business, closed the Arsenal of Democracy, and replaced it with The People's Arsenal, are still in effect while China and the mega-corps get a pass.


(2001)

Hey, I've got a good idea.

Why don't a few of these clever lil' sprouts go and research electrowinning as an effluent cleaner and a economic boon? Then they could report back to their teacher about how the hypothetical plating shop could use a hypothetical permeable-electrode electrowinner to mop up virtually all the hypothetical pollution, saving themselves $100/day of hypothetical nickel in the process.

Since even a large electrowinner is unlikely to draw over 400-500 watts or so, even generating the needful current with hamsters running in wheels at 5 wh/hamster/day and hamster chow at $.23/lb and 1.5 oz. of feed/hamster/day makes excellent economic sense. Since this works out to $4.33/kWH and most plating shops are unlikely to operate at such a high cost of electricity, may I suggest that said problem is pretty much a non-starter?

Seriously, is anyone else really tired of liberal-arts graduates like public school teachers assuming that industry likes pollution? Industry hates pollution..those are expensive raw materials going to waste in that soot or sludge or scrap. If pollution-haters devoted themselves to solving pollution in sensible economic terms as much as they've devoted themselves to waving signs, staging riots, and permeating society with their crackpot assumptions, we'd be living in the New Jerusalem.

Sorry, I just get kinda worked up.

Dave Fitz
- Ogallala, Nebraska



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