Greg Roach's Berkshires Blog
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
  A Tale of Two Polluters
The Transcript provides today's lesson in irony.**

First we have the tragic plight of Leo Senecal:
Mr. Senecal, trying to save the city a few bucks back in 1998, illegally dumped three barrels containing 150 gallons of oil into an unlined landfill. He was director of public works at the time. After he was caught, he was publicly humiliated, fined $9,000 for the cleanup of 125 pounds of contaminated soil, demoted and suspended without pay for six months.

Now overzealous enforcers want to stick it to Mr. Senecal further by sticking to the letter of a 1996 law that states convicted felons must lose their municipal pensions. In Mr. Senecal's case, that would amount to $36,000 per year.
And then we have the owners of Sprague's abandoned Brown Street mills:
NORTH ADAMS — The last vestiges of the Sprague Electric Co. on Brown Street will soon be a memory — all of the large brick buildings in the former mill complex are scheduled for demolition this summer.

Great American Financial Resources — formerly known as American Annuity Group Inc., the successor of Sprague Electric — had plans to demolish the buildings after the facility was vacated by Commonwealth Sprague's Component Division in late 2001 when the manufacturing jobs moved to Mexico. The mills have remained empty for the past six years

The company has been cleaning the Brown Street property under the supervision of the state DEP for over a decade. In 1995, the company was required to clean and remove soil contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) from an old outfall channel at the plant. The ground around the plant, including an old dump on Fairgrounds Avenue and the former Avon Street, were also contaminated by trichloroethylene (TCE), a toxic chemical degreaser used at the Brown Street plant.

Exposure over time can lead to health problems such as nausea, liver, kidney or lung cancer, skin rashes, eye problems, kidney disease, heart problems, deafness and birth defects. The contamination eventually spread into the groundwater in the area surrounding the plant. The DEP is still monitoring the toxic plume, which has made its way west down to Harding Avenue.

"For the most part, the remediation is done," Gruber said. "We still have remediation issues that are being addressed with the groundwater."
OK, the company contaminated the ground, laid-off the workers, moved the jobs to Mexico and then has the gall to say:
He did not disclose the cost of the demolition, but said it was a "substantial investment."
If that quote is in proper context (and knowing Jen's work, it most likely is) I feel the need to punch someone from AFR in the nose.

So, here we have a solid working class civil servant with four decades of public service who may have his retirement years ruined by overzealous enforcement of a draconian pollution law juxtaposed against a large corporate entity that has screwed this community environmentally and financially. And their spokesperson, Mr. Gruber, calls the creation of another vacant lot sitting atop a "toxic plume" a "substantial investment."

Shakespeare once had a character joke - "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers."

Personally, I say start with the MBAs.

**By which I mean the real thing, not the Alanis Morrisette version. "Rain on your wedding day" is *not* ironic. For that matter, the majority of her examples were not ironic, which, given that the song asks the question, "Isn't it ironic?" and the answer is obviously "NO!", then, perhaps, there is some unintended irony. But enough of my parts-of-speech screed. Ms. Morrisette owes every English Teacher who taught in the '90s a big apology. (and hopefully my former teachers will forgive that egregious example of a run-on sentence!)
I don't have a lot of sympathy for either of the parties, actually. Why is someone following the law "overzealous"? Perhaps Senecal should have thought of this sort of thing when he dumped the oil? I know, I know, expecting someone to actually take personal responsibility and the legal consequences for something in North Adams is a bit naive, but still.
My problem with the Senecal affair is not the law that yanks the pension of a convicted felon, but that the original offense was charged as a felony in the first place (If Glenn's summary of the crime is accurate.) That was the "overzealous" enforcement, IMHO.

But on that same note, I am surprised that since he was, in fact, convicted of a felony, that he kept his job. Had he been fired, this would have resolved this issue almost a decade ago.

I can't imagine another scenario that the commission of a felony (justly charged or not) on the job would not lead to immediate dismissal. Hell, even Scooter Libby resigned.

That said, I am still waiting for a Sprague executive to be brought up on felony polluting charges......
"I am surprised that since he was, in fact, convicted of a felony, that he kept his job. Had he been fired, this would have resolved this issue almost a decade ago."

There you go, hitting that nail on the head again. Actually, I think you are probably hitting quite a few nails on their heads with that statement, if you know what I mean.
I've had that beef with Alanis Morrisette's song for years. "A no-smoking sign on your cigarette break" isn't irony, just bad luck. Irony would be being diagnosed with lung cancer on a cigarette break...
Here's some more on Ms. Morrissette's inability to properly determine what is and what is not ironic.

Greg - don't know if you do memes or not, but I tagged you (a challenge of sorts) to write a post about five foods you love to cook.

Let me know if I have to double dog dare you ...
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