Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Sunday Morning Edition

Yes, today is Sunday, where I get a chance to relax, read the paper and do Sudoku. Ahhhhhh!

So I have gentler rants of things seen in the paper.

1) Honda had to pull out of Formula 1 because of the economy. They were getting little return on an annual investment of maybe $100,000,000 per year. Audi likewise pulled out of American Le Mans series (where they had won everything in site for over 10 years.) Reminds of the joke we used to tell in our old auto shop (we ran two Pro Rally cars out of the shop). "How do you make a little money racing cars?" Start with a lot of money.

2) Canada is bailing out US auto manufacturers in Canada to keep them there. There economy would be hurt worse than the American economy if the Big Three went down.

3) Great article in the NY Times about how companies are cutting out 101k matching contributions as credit has dried up. Pensions have basically disappeared as American workers were told that "the company will match the 401k contribution and you can live on your investments." I am so glad that Social Security was not put into Wall Street, even though I am betting the plan was to put Social Security into Wall Street to cover how bad it really was. The next president would have found that there was a time bomb there and would have had the recession named after them. Things fell apart before the hot potato could be passed.

Anyhow, the point being that there was great quotation in the article which I will paraphrase- "The last thirty has been a grand experiment of workers making their own investments for their own retirement and it has failed."

4) The Bush Administration did not know how big the housing bubble was. They were unaware as late as early this year. How long ago did Atrios nickname this the Big Shitpile?

5) Lost in all the verbiage over the health of the Sacramento/San Joaquin River delta and all the new regulations is one point that is very important to me. Background-I have wastewater treatment licenses in a mess of states and helped write the new Water Environment Foundation Wastewater Plant Operation Manual. For as large and environmentally progressive California is supposed to be, what I have seen is a stranglehold of regulations, three wastewater agencies that don't work and play well together, tons of reporting and mandatory fines unlike any other state. Yet, the discharge standards in this state are the most lenient I have seen in years. For example, I ran a small wastewater plant the mountains of Colorado. The discharge limit for ammonia there was < 1.3 mg/L ammonia because of fish toxicity. Here in CA, fish are dying, especially salmonoids, and no one talks about the lack of ammonia limits. Sacramento alone puts 14 TONS of ammonia into the river annually. The excuse from the State is the flows are so high, there will not be a toxicity problem. That is right--The Solution to Pollution is Dilution!!!!! This was an old refrain from engineers that few reasonable people use any more. Heck, San Diego places primary treated sewage (meaning let 50-75% of the solids settle and we'll let the rest of the shit and water combination be discharged to the ocean. It can be diluted there. Makes you want jump right out there and swim on the beaches, doesn't it. BTW, Anchorage does the same thing because the area around Anchorage is basically dead because of glacial till so their not really hurting wildlife (in their opinion). Ever here of tides, idiots??!!

Also, California has this great thing called economic benefit. Meaning it would cost cities too much to actually treat the sewage to the level acceptable around the country. Wow. I know other areas have that clause in their laws too. But CA pulls that one out a lot. And oddly enough, smaller towns and polluters have to clean up sewage more than big cities do (keep in mind, I do not know how well LA cleans up their sewage). Just like Denver in CO has lower effluent limits than small towns. Why, because of costs.

You would think the reason to have BIG central sewage plants would be that the economy of scale would mean better treatment than a whole bunch of little plants, but that is seldom the case. The smaller plants get hammered because they can afford less lawyers and have less political pull than big cities (aka polluters).

Given that large centralized wastewater plants in areas of low flow and water diversions like in CO, or other arid areas can actually move water from its normal runoff point in a stream to a more centralized location somewhere else downstream, you would think that state environmental protection departments would want more smaller plants discharging at various locations and not disrupting the historical flows in streams, so water right diversions would not lower river and stream flows to the point where wildlife would be affected. Sadly, that is not the case. Ride your bike down the Platte River trail in Denver when there is a drought and see that the river can almost be dry until you get to the Denver Metro Wastewater Plant and all the effluent from the Denver area gets back into the river flow.

The diversion of the Arvada WWTP similarly affects the flows on Ralston Creek. The lack of North Lakewood and Wheat Ridge WWTP effluent can let Clear Creek run almost dry as their flows go to Denver now.


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