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April 18, 2000

Wake Up and Smell the Chromate

by Ted Mooney

At a recent AESF meeting, a board member passed around photocopies of the cover story of the Feb. 7 issue of Time magazine. The same Time story is the subject of this month's editorial in Finishers' Management magazine.

To summarize the story, America's scrap metal dealers got themselves exempted from Superfund liability by donating $300,000 to political candidates. And to summarize our industry's reaction, on the one hand we are wailing about how "terrible" this "political prostitution" is, while on the other hand seeming to lament the fact that we haven't put our legislative/lobbying representatives to work making us the focus of a front page scandal too.

Allow me to suggest that if it's terrible, and political prostitution, that what we should be doing is putting our legislative/lobbying representatives to work all right . . . screaming bloody murder from the galleries. If, as an aggrieved industry sector, we would band together with the public to fight things that "make us sick" we might achieve the goal of rolling back this exemption which we claim will cost us so much, while gaining the good kind of publicity, and doing the right thing as well.

Let's wake up and smell the chromate:

1). Chromic acid and chromates are toxic and carcinogenic. These are not "perceptions", they are facts, widely known for more than half a century. Our wastes are not going to be exempted.

2). The chemicals we use will leach into water supplies if not managed, and are expensive to get out. One Superfund site is a minuscule chrome plating shop which operated out of a two-bay garage. The cleanup is still underway years later, while millions upon millions of dollars have been spent repairing the damage to the aquifer. Our wastes are not going to be exempted.

3). America's sweetheart, Julia Roberts, will surely win a nomination, and possibly even the Oscar, for her starring role in one of today's most popular movies, "Erin Brockovich"-- a film centered around the toxic effects of hexavalent chromium. Our chromium wastes are not going to be exempted.

Let's make sure that Ms. Roberts/Brockovich isn't referring to us with her famous line: "They're called boobs, Ed" .


Time for a change?

reply by Jim Treglio <ismtech@ixpres.com>
ISM Technologies, Poway, California

If a non-plater's opinion is worth anything, I would like to add to Ted's comments. If the waste issue is one of business survival, then perhaps the platers should consider alternatives. I'm from the vacuum processing industry, and have seen absolutely dramatic advances in the past few years. The equipment has improved markedly, and the costs have fallen as well. A number of coatings applied by PVD can compete economically with hexavalent chrome, and processes such as ion implantation can improve the wear resistance of trivalent chrome to match or exceed hexavalent chrome.

Now may be the best time to start looking closely at a changeover. First, interest rates are not too high, a key point since vacuum processing capital costs are high. Second, the bad political environment for platers created by Ms. Roberts is not going to improve. In fact, based on the experiences of the tobacco and nuclear industries, it is only going to get worse. Third, the movie has made the political environment for supporting industry transition to non-polluting surface treatments strong.


Follow-up to govt. waste - Just one more guys opinions

by Matthew Stiltner <stiltner@buckeye-express.com>
J & J Plating Company, Toledo, Ohio

On the topic of political contributions and their potential paybacks in the end.

No matter what association it is you're contributing to that has people lobbying the capitol, they all get a back scratch. I'm not pointing fingers, frankly because I don't have enough fingers to do all that pointing. We (J & J Plating that is) are large supporters of the NFIB, behind the AARP and NRA probably one of the heaviest-hitting lobbying groups around, with many hundreds of thousands of members from small businesses. They are constantly keeping a finger on the members of congress who support small business and those that don't, its sick to see that some people have voted for 0% of bills and laws that would assist small businesses, and then there are the 100% guys, guess who gets the funds when it comes to re-run?

I myself was asked to run for a local office that was vacant. I was honored that someone considered me a candidate for office (even if it was small in the large scope of life) but I turned down the offer for many reasons. Things like those noted in the Time article would be one of them. I couldn't stand there and watch people taking pay-offs and basically sucking up taxpayer dollars faster than a Vaccuum in a wood shop sucks up wood shavings. Its sad to realize how much the government truly wastes than turns to the taxpayers and says...HELP! Ah well, I'm ranting like I tend to do so often.

Keep your heads up guys, the EPA ruling was a wonderful one and we all owe it to the AESF and all the other supporting foundations that made this law passage possible, it was and will forever remain, the heaviest weight we as metal finishers of any type have to face.


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