Thursday, November 26, 2009

Holey Bucket Brigade

November 25th, 2009
‘Holey Bucket Brigade’
After three sessions with Denny Larson from San Francisco, many of us will be covering the countryside in Union County collecting air samples to establish a baseline for use in the event Hyperion should decide to do something stupid like building a refinery in Union County. We were taught how to put together the ‘bucket’ to collect air samples that will measure the amount of toxic chemicals that is in the air. This baseline will be used to ensure that if there is a violation by the refinery, it will be properly recorded and forwarded to the appropriate agencies to take action to have it stopped.
It is amazing to see the steps that are taken to ensure that the samples collected don’t get contaminated by any outside agency to spoil the sample or have the sample declared invalid because it may have been handled improperly along the way.
The samples will be sent by FedEx next day air to a processing company in California to test the sample and post the results. It will cost several hundred dollars to collect each sample, so it is not going to be an inexpensive process, but will be extensively complicated process to ensure our credibility is never jeopardized or compromised. Every effort will be made to follow these procedures, because we never want to put ourselves into a position for Hyperion to say this is not valid. The EPA hasn’t approved the ‘bucket’ collection process, but do say that this is a legitimate collection process.
There is a method to our madness. It is our intent to protect the citizens in this area from harmful pollution from the refinery. Plain and Simple! That last comment will draw considerable responses from pro Hyperion folks, but it is the truth. We don’t want to see anyone suffer from having to breathe contaminated air, and if we can alert the proper authorities that there is a dangerous situation here and it helps save just one life, we will have accomplished what we set out to do. Bear in mind, that the people doing this are volunteering their time and money to ensure that this community remains safe and sound. Granted we would rather not have to do this at all, but if it is going to be done, we want to be the ones who start this. We will be contacting all the surrounding communities hoping that this will spread throughout the country to make sure that if there is a discrepancy it will be noted. This also puts Hyperion on alert that we are continually watching for hazards that are dangerous to everyone in the area.
Just to give you an idea of the difference in the collection procedures used by the ‘bucket brigade’ versus the collection system by the state DENR, try to imagine shooting a bb through a straw from just 10 feet away. That is what is happening with the DENR monitoring system. They have permanent locations supposedly upwind and downwind from the refinery to collect air samples 24/7 but what if the wind is blowing the plume away from all the stations? That is where we come in. we randomly select areas to monitor that may or may not be in a close proximity to the refinery to ensure that there will always be a circle around the refinery. We are monitoring for more gasses than the DENR and these gasses are more dangerous than those considered in the permit by Hyperion. Just one of these gasses is benzene.
Here is how the ‘bucket’ works. The bucket is a little bit larger than a 5 gallon pail. 2 holes are drilled in the lid, directly opposite from each other. The holes are fitted with stainless steel fittings that have hoses fitted to them. One end is a pump which sucks the air out of the pail and creates a vacuum. When you want to take a sample, all you do is open a valve and the air is sucked into the pail which has a ‘tedlar’ bag inside which traps the air. When the bag is full, merely take the sealed bag out of the pail, put it into a FedEx mailer and it is sent off to California. It is that simple. From the time the bag is marked for sampling, it is never left unattended, even for a minute, to ensure it cannot be tampered with. There is a log sheet that you sign when you take the sample. The next person who receives the container is logged on the sheet. When it gets to FedEx, it is logged. When it gets to the destination, it is logged. This method of sampling has been successful in 19 countries and 22 states. This is the first one in South Dakota.
If and when things start happening with Hyperion, the ‘bucket brigade’ will be waiting for them. It is always better to be pro active than reactive. Happy Thanksgiving, and Happy Bucketing!


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