by Whit Gibbons

July 11, 2010

The following questions, received in the last two months, offer two wildly different perspectives on environmental interest. The first question took some time and thought to answer. The second did not.

Q: Our city council here in Eddystone, Pa., voted to allow a junk yard to move into our town. We are a small town with a river and not such great air quality. We have tried to educate the council on environmental issues and health risks, but they still allowed the permit to pass. We have involved senators, state representatives and the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency]. What would you recommend we do next, and what concerns with junk yards should be addressed?

A: Your question about a junk yard, by which I assume you mean landfill or recycling center, has several aspects to consider. First, the council has given permission with a vote, even with input from other elected officials who are not on the council. Thus, it sounds like the municipal decision has been made if the majority vote of the elected officials on the council has legal standing. Of course, such decisions can be overturned later through the election process.

A second issue, no matter how a city council might want to vote, is the federal regulatory guidelines that govern any process or facility that affects air and water quality. Since you have engaged the EPA, you need to be persistent and thorough in presenting your concerns to them about how you think the facility will adversely affect environmental health and safety. Likewise, it helps to have several people in the community join you in a complaint or inquiry. If the EPA does find violations, make sure you find out how they intend to enforce the rules.

Any location where household wastes are deposited can be a health hazard, so consideration must be given to groundwater and other mechanisms of waste or pollutant dispersal. If such issues were not addressed when the city did an environmental impact assessment, then make sure the EPA and your state environmental health department are made aware of it and take some action.

Finally, as is often the case with projects that are thrust on to a community, exposing them to the light of public scrutiny can reveal flaws in logic, influence of special interests or downright illegal activities. I have no idea if any of these problems exist in your town with the junk yard issue, but whatever the situation, a series of articles by your local newspaper would be an excellent way to provide public scrutiny.

Q: I have three questions related to Lizard Man, the creature reported from a South Carolina swamp in 1988. Do you think the Lizard Man is another race of humanoid lizard people or a new species? Why do you think all the sightings have been in South Carolina? Does it eat the animals it kills?

A: I think that Lizard Man is about as real as Big Foot, the Abominable Snowman or Godzilla. He is the figment of fantasy, imagination and gullibility, as well as a source of amusement for many. Lizard Man has been reported from South Carolina because that is where the fantasy began. Such a tale could have been made up anywhere and eventually will probably be extended to surrounding states during periods when national and local news are at a lull. As far as what a fictitious creature eats, it cannot be disputed if I say that it would definitely eat any animal it killed. Of course, the first step is for Lizard Man to actually kill something. So far there is no evidence that anything has ever fallen victim to it--except perhaps the credibility of the people who appear to believe it is real and have given such precise and accurate descriptions of something they never saw.

Questions continue next week: is feeding possums and other wild animals legal; are red wolves in the Southeast; and what is the name of the parasitic plant that looks like a tangle of vines?

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