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Toxic plume 

For more than two decades, the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board (whew, that's a mouthful, amirite?) has known about a toxic plume of chemical-infested water near Buckley Road and the San Luis Obispo County Regional Airport.

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Area residents have been pulling water out of wells contaminated by something called trichloroethylene (yep, that's another mouthful)—aka TCE—a chemical solvent that's linked to cancer. And they are pissed! I am pissed!

The water board started an investigation in 1998 because TCE showed up in a well at 13 times higher than what the government considered to be safe! Staffers zeroed in on a culprit: The neighbor! Said neighbor, in a very unneighborly fashion, refused to cooperate, risking fines of up to $1,000 a day.

Water board staffers promptly responded, in very uncharacteristic fashion, by dropping the ball completely. Do you even know how rich the water board could be? That usually nitpicky government agency could be $7.7 million wealthier by now, and counting.

In 2013, according to Greg Bishop—who's in charge of the water board's site cleanup program and most definitely has not dropped the ball (Yet. I'm counting on you, Greg, my boy)—high levels of TCE showed up in a public water agency's well, reopening the investigation.

Residents with contaminated wells? Deal with it, folks! A water agency? We can't have that!

And would you believe it? Six years later, the water board zeroed in on the same exact freaking culprit: Noll Inc. First of all, six years! The wheels of government bureaucracy at work, folks! It's a pace that's hard to keep up with, I know.

Bishop, by the way, said he has no idea why water board staffers dropped the ball. Those dudes have all retired. All he said was: "It appears that the letter was misfiled, and no follow-up occurred." Lucky Noll.

Although Noll Inc. is a manufacturing company that definitely could have used TCE-based solvents in the past when TCE was widely used (it was phased out in the 1970s), John Noll insists that his company doesn't use, nor has it ever used, TCE. This is mind-boggling considering that the level of TCE found in the water beneath his property is almost 157 times the safe limit—that's 157 times, people!

So, how'd it get there? It's a conspiracy. It's. Got. To. Be.

Meanwhile, Noll Inc. is once again doing everything it can to not cooperate. Noll's lawyer, David A. Ossentjuk, has earned whatever Noll's paying him by raising several alternatives.

But really, who's going to foot the bill for cleanup? The water board could if it had followed through on all of those fines in 1998. But that didn't happen.

Can the water board compel Noll Inc. to spend money on cleanup? Or will it misfile all of the TCE paperwork again?

I'm guessing it's going to be me and you, baby! Taxpayers, this is your money hard at work. When no one fesses up to industrial-sized environmental disasters, it's us who get to take care of shit. When you are a giant corporation that goes out of business and leaves a little mess behind, we got your back! We love getting screwed over by capitalists. That's why we live in America, baby!

Bankrupt oil company? Don't worry, California legislators are happy to have the state foot the bill to decommission your economic disaster of an oil operation, Rincon Island Limited Partnership. State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson is happy to write up a little bill that would commit the state's taxpayers to spend more than $50 million to prevent your oily mess from destroying our coastline for decades to come.

Bishop said if Noll can't pay, there are always grants. Sigh.

Speaking of sighs—Mayor Heidi Harmon is pissed at a constituent who doesn't think that San Luis Obispo City Council members deserve a pay raise! Really, nobody wants to give elected officials more money because everyone hates them, amirite?

"Your lens is based on white supremacy," Harmon replied in an email back to the complaining constituent who said: "If you can't afford to serve on the council, give us a chance. We don't whine like you all do!"

At first glance, WTF Heidi? This person is aggressively pissed off about the city spending more of her tax dollars, and you basically call her a white supremacist! Whew. That's a bit much.

At second glance, and with a little more explanation from the Head-Rose-Wearer in Chief, I get it. Serving as a City Council member can be a part-time, if not full-time, job. It's one that's traditionally been reserved for older, richer, whiter constituents. Simply because those of us who have to work for a living can't afford not to.

But still. Calling this constituent a racist for not seeing that doesn't actually further your cause. "White supremacy" is a term that's full of disdain and politics. It's not something that should be tossed out there for funsies, although "influencers" (cue, eye roll) seem to throw it around like unicorn poop. Certain liberals like to lob it at certain non-liberals as a way to stoke the fires of division—sorry, not sorry, I literally just could not help myself!

Seriously, though, it's a term that causes people who don't agree with you to deliberately ignore what you have to say. No matter how correct you are. Δ

The Shredder is always correct. Always. Send comments to


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