The Defense Department will be paying for a study to find ways to remove ammunition barrels the military dumped into Lake Superior during the Cold War. For 30 years, environmentalists have been asking the government to clean up the mess. Mike Simonson reports that the federal government is now paying for a study to find ways to remove the barrels:
The Defense Department will be paying for a study to find ways to remove ammunition
barrels the military dumped into Lake Superior during the Cold War. For 30 years,
environmentalists have been asking the government to clean up the mess. Mike
Simonson reports that the federal government is now paying for a study to find ways to
remove the barrels:
The Red Cliff band of Lake Superior Chippewa will study ways
to remove the barrels of munitions. Documents show that between 1959
and 1962, the Department of Defense had 1,437 drums dumped into Lake
Superior. It amounts to about 400 tons of munitions containing toxic chemicals such as
PCBs, mercury, lead, chromium, benzene and even uranium.
Patricia DePerry is the Red Cliff Tribal Chairwoman. She says the barrels must be
“Not only the time is of essence, it’s the not knowing what the contaminants have been
doing at the bottom of the lake.”
DePerry says not only is the ecology of the lake at risk, but the barrels of munitions lie
within a quarter mile of Duluth, Minnesota’s drinking water intake.
When we go to the movies, we expect to escape from reality. Visiting aliens, time travel, extinct animals coming back to life… that’s the dazzling stuff blockbusters are made of. But not everybody is thrilled by the way scientists look in the movies. The GLRC’s Rebecca Williams has the story of screenwriters who want to make movie scientists a little less weird:
When we go to the movies, we expect to escape from reality. Visiting
aliens, time travel, extinct animals coming back to life, that’s the dazzling
stuff blockbusters are made of. But not everybody is thrilled by the way
scientists look in the movies. The GLRC’s Rebecca Williams has the
story of screenwriters who want to make movie scientists a little less
(Theme music from “Back To The Future”)
So Dr. Frankenstein and Doc Brown from “Back to the Future” are a
little… freaky. But they’re smart… and enterprising. But those kinds of wacky
movie scientists make real life scientists hurl their popcorn.
Researcher Paula Grisafi says movie stereotypes about scientists are actually
worse than those about lawyers or politicians.
“My sense of movies about scientists is that there are maybe 10% good
guys and 90% bad guys. Or not even just bad guys but misguided, even
when they’re trying to be good, they’re usually sufficiently misguided
that what they start out to do turns out wrong.”
Paula Grisafi says there are a few oddballs in real science labs, but she says her peers are really much more normal.
Really — instead of hair frizzing out of control… they have nice haircuts. And they never, ever wear pocket protectors. Grisafi’s day job is at MIT in
Cambridge, but she’s also an aspiring screenwriter. She’s working on
scripts that she says shake up the Hollywood stereotypes.
“These sort of scientist archetypes are Frankenstein and Jekyll and Hyde.
They’re people who were loners obsessed with their work to the point of
being a danger to themselves or to others. It’s usually frowned upon in
science to experiment on yourself.”
Take Jeff Goldblum’s character Seth Brundle, in “The Fly.” When
Brundle tests his transport machine on himself, the experiment backfires.
Brundle becomes a genetic mutant, but he’s kinda proud of it.
“Am I becoming an 185 pound fly? No, I’m becoming something that
never existed before! I’m becoming Brundle-Fly! Don’t you think that’s
worth a Nobel Prize or two?”
Maybe Brundle should’ve stopped when he turned that baboon inside out.
Paula Grisafi admits there are a few movies that show scientists as
somewhat normal people. Jodie Foster’s character in “Contact” for
example. But Grisafi says there aren’t enough to balance out the weirdos.
She says at worst, distorted images of scientists might give audiences the
impression that science is more dangerous than good.
So Grisafi jumped at the chance to be part of a screenwriting workshop
for scientists in LA last summer. It was an intense crash course with
sessions called Plot and Character, and of course, Agents and Managers.
The workshop was dreamt up by Martin Gundersen. He’s an electrical
engineer who’s had a brush with fame. He added credibility to Val
Kilmer’s lasers in the film “Real Genius.”
“I’ve met people now who are young faculty members who have told me
they were influenced by that picture to think seriously about science.”
Martin Gundersen says if the scientists in movies were more appealing,
more people might want to go into the sciences. He says the Defense
Department and companies like Boeing are really concerned that fewer
people want careers in science and engineering. In fact, Gundersen
actually landed money from the Pentagon for the workshop.
But Gundersen admits he’s still testing the theory that scientists can be
“Oh it’s impossible (laughs). That’s the thing – you can’t promise that
somebody’s going to get their picture made. To me the truest cliché in
Hollywood is that everyone has a script.”
And so, can chemists and engineers possibly compete?
One box office expert says — sure. Paul Dergarabedian is president of
Exhibitor Relations Company in LA. He says scientists have as good a
chance as anyone at selling a script… as long as their stories are
“And it’s the more interesting characters who bring that scientific
element, or you have a scientist who’s not the typical nerdy scientist. He
might be more of a sophisticated kind of character in terms of lets say a ladies’
man or something like that you wouldn’t necessarily expect.”
And actually, there is a ladies’ man in one of Paula Grisafi’s scripts. Her
story features two rivals thrown together to figure out why sea life is
dying. The stars of the story are a lovely young marine ecologist and a
hotshot microbiologist from Norway. Grisafi’s been advised that playing
up the romance might help sell the story.
“I guess I was sort of writing for a PG audience. I spent eight years in
Catholic girls’ school so I’m not sure how competent I’m going to be to
write really steamy sex scenes, but I’ll make an effort.”
Grisafi says even if she never sells a script, she’ll still get up at 5 a.m. to
write, and then she’ll put in a full day at the lab.
These new screenwriters hope to prove you don’t have to be a mad
scientist or a loner in the lab to invent movies that sell tickets.
Environmental issues may slow the re-development of
some of the military bases that are scheduled to close over the next several months. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck Quirmbach reports:
Environmental issues may slow the re-development of some of the military bases that are
scheduled to close over the next several months. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chuck
The defense department says many of the military bases to be shut down may have leaking fuel
tanks, construction debris, heavy metal contamination and other problems. The department’s
office of economic adjustment works with communities to sort through the long list of legal,
financial and environmental issues. These issues must be solved before a base can be re-developed.
Spokesperson Lynn Boese promises the defense department won’t just abandon the sites.
“The federal government can’t transfer the property until it’s been remediated so that there’s no
danger to human health or the environment.”
But Boese cautions that the feds typically only pay for clean up to so-called similar use standards.
If the bases are re-used for things such as homes or day care centers more clean-up would be
needed… and those costs could be passed on to someone else.
In the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, Americans are getting mixed signals from officials about just how safe their drinking water is. The federal government is trying to calm fears that terrorists might poison public water supplies. But at the same time the government and water utilities are asking the public to help keep an eye on reservoirs and storage tanks. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports:
In the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks, Americans are getting mixed signals from officials about just how safe their drinking water is. The federal government is trying to calm fears that terrorists might poison public water supplies. But, at the same time the government and water utilities are asking the public to help keep an eye on reservoirs and storage tanks. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Lester Graham reports.
Since the attacks, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Christie Whitman, has been traveling the country, assuring groups that water supplies are safe from terrorism. Speaking recently to a group of journalists, Whitman explained that security at water utilities has been increased and that water is now tested more frequently. And she said that given the size of most reservoirs, it would take a very large amount of any chemical or biological contaminant before any such attack would have an effect.
“It would be extremely difficult for someone to perform this kind of act, taking a truckload –and that’s what it would be, a tanker truckload– up to a reservoir and dumping it in, given the heightened security we have today. And that’s a security that’s not just being provided by the water companies, which it is, but it’s also citizen heightened security, believe me. People are calling in all the time when they see things that they think they shouldn’t be seeing near water supply systems.”
But, Whitman’s view is not shared by a number of experts in the field of terrorism prevention. Jim Snyder is a professor at the University of Michigan. He was a member of a team of experts that worked with the Defense Department to determine possible threats against public water supplies.
“There are a number of contaminants, several bio-toxins and a large number of chemicals that are more or less readily available that could be put into, let’s say, a ten-million gallon reservoir which could in amounts something between a backpack and a pickup truck could achieve a lethal dose of 50-percent. That is, 50-percent of the people who drank one cup would die.”
And Snyder adds, water contamination wouldn’t have to be lethal, just contaminated enough that it caused panic and made the water unusable. Snyder also points out that the tests that production chemists run on water would not detect the kind of contaminants terrorists would use. The first clue something was wrong would be sick or dead people.
EPA Administrator Whitman concedes that there are some contaminants that would not be filtered out or killed by disinfectants used in water treatment. but she says water systems across the U-S are prepared for most kinds of attacks.
“The vast majority of contaminants about which we’re worried, we know how to treat. We know what steps to take. And those where we’re not sure of what we need to do, we’re working with the CDC to develop a protocol to respond. And we’re sharing that information as we get it with the water companies to make sure even those small ones know what to look for and how to treat it if they find it.”
Besides the Center for Disease Control, the EPA is working with the FBI and the water utilities to prepare for the worst, while telling the public that there’s little to worry about. The EPA could have helped those water systems prepare earlier. The terrorism prevention team Jim Snyder sat on drafted a manual for water system operators, outlining security measures that could be taken. The EPA buried that manual in part because the agency didn’t want to unnecessarily alarm the public.
The water utility industry is working with the EPA to try to calm any fears the consumers might have. The American Water Works Association has held joint news conferences with Administrator Whitman, echoing the statement that poisons would be diluted or that it would take a tanker of contaminants to cause a problem. Pam Krider is a spokesperson for the American Water Works Association.
“When you get into a specific discussion about types of chemicals or quantities of chemicals, whether it’s a backpack or whether it’s a tanker, I mean, those are not as useful as discussing what are the processes that a utility has in place for monitoring what is and is not in its water, ensuring that they can provide safe, clean drinking water to the consumers within their city.”
So, the American Water Works Association is encouraging water utilities to step up testing water and quietly meet with emergency planners to prepare for the worst..
“What we have been discussing is the need for every utility to work very closely with local officials, to have a crisis preparedness and response plan in place, to have back-up systems in place, and most important, to engage their local community in keeping an eye out on the different reservoirs, storage tanks and treatment facilities and reporting any kind of suspicious activity that they might see both to the utility as well as to the police department.”
Water terrorism prevention expert Jim Snyder says simple things such as locking gates and posting security guards go a long way to discourage would-be terrorists from attacking a water treatment plant, storage tanks, wells or a reservoir. However, he notes. there’s little that can be done to stop a determined terrorist from contaminating a public water supply. And it seems that’s a message the EPA and the water utilities don’t want to talk about because it might worry the public.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Lester Graham.