The continued existence of toxic lead concentrations in many older urban neighborhoods is one of the really tragic aspects of American life. The evidence is overwhelming that lead is a serious public health hazard with quite severe social consequences down the road. But cleaning lead up is mildly expensive. Under the circumstances, almost anything we can do to either clean it up more cheaply or increase funding commitments to getting rid of it is very good. So it’s very exciting to read that the EPA thinks they may have found a better way to get this done by using meal from the ground-up bones of inexpensive fish:
But now it is also coming to residential neighborhoods like South Prescott in Oakland, which this month became the first in the country where fishbone meal is being mixed into the soil for lead control under a project organized by the Environmental Protection Agency.
“It’s fair to say, looking forward, that just about every urban residential area probably has a lead problem and we just can’t afford economically and socially to move that amount of dirt any more,” said Steve Calanog, the E.P.A. official in the San Francisco office that is overseeing the project. “Topsoil is a precious resource, and we don’t have enough topsoil to replace it.”
Although the agency does not record its spending by individual contaminants, it is safe to say it has spent millions of dollars on lead cleanup. If the new techniques of neutralizing toxic metals catch on the money would go further by replacing the method of digging up and disposing of hundreds of thousands of tons of soil that has been used for more than two decades.
Always nice to get a reminder that politics isn’t just depressing stories and people acting crazy.