Evidence suggests that water at Mount Rushmore contaminated by fireworks displays

The U.S. Geological Survey has determined that fireworks ruined the water.

mount rushmore fireworks
Photo showing Mount Rushmore fireworks with burning embers hitting the ground. Photo: South Dakota Tourism

Between 1998 and 2009 the park Superintendents at Mount Rushmore National Memorial in South Dakota thought it would be cool to explode tons, yes, tons of fireworks over the top of the memorial around July 4. For those 12 years tens of thousands of dollars, much of it donated, and thousands of person hours were spent on this ridiculous display. Superintendents Dan Wenk and Gerard Butler promoted and encouraged the program that started numerous fires, rained down tons of debris, and now we’re finding out, poisoned the water with chemicals.

Mount Rushmore fireworks debris
Some of the debris and trash at the launch site of the fireworks at Mount Rushmore. Screen shot from the video below.

The USGS discovered that the ground and surface water at Mount Rushmore is contaminated with percholrate, a component of rocket fuels and explosives. They determined that the chemical came from the fireworks over that 12-year period.

Data from the USGS report showed that a maximum perchlorate concentration of 54 micrograms per liter was measured in a stream sample, which is about 270 times higher than that in samples collected from sites outside the memorial. The Centers for Disease Control says high levels of perchlorates can affect the thyroid gland, which in turn can alter the function of many organs in the body. The fetus and young children can be especially susceptible.

The park provides drinking water to about 3 million visitors and personnel every year. Its superintendent, Cheryl Schreier, said Monday that the park will continue to strive to provide drinking water that “meets and exceeds current standards.”

But the USGS report says perchlorate in drinking water is not currently regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

As Fire Management Officer for Mount Rushmore and six other national parks in the greater Black Hills during five of those years when fireworks were exploded over the monument, it was my job to plan for suppression of the fires that started when burning embers hit the ground. We mobilized dozens of firefighters during the busy part of the fire season and had them positioned just outside the falling-debris zone. After the aerial explosions ended, we would move in, search at night in the steep rocky terrain, and extinguish the fires.

In one of the first years, there were over a dozen that were found. They were all put out when they were small, but it was an insane concept to shoot off tons of fireworks over a Ponderosa pine forest in July. The park is not just the stone carving; it has 1,200 acres of trees and other vegetation surrounded by the Black Hills National Forest. I made my opinion known, but it carried little weight compared to the GS-15 Superintendents and other government executives.

Aside from the impractical aspects of fires, cost, and ruining the water, the esthetics of the display were disrespectful and distasteful — explosions over the faces of Presidents Washington, Roosevelt, Jefferson, and Lincoln — raining down unexploded shells, wadding, ash, pieces of the devices, paper, and poisonous chemicals; stuff than can never be completely picked up in the rugged terrain. From certain angles, it looked like the rockets were coming out of the tops of the Presidents’ heads.

The whole thing was, and still is, disgusting.

Legislation introduced in Montana to fine feds for wildfire smoke

Beaver Fire
Smoke rises from the Beaver Fire northwest of Yreka, California, August 12, 2014. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

From the Bozeman Daily Chronicle:

In recent summers, Gallatin Valley residents have sometimes had to endure poor air quality from wildfire smoke, so a Bozeman legislator wants Montana to be able to fine the federal government for that.

In a Natural Resources Committee hearing this week, Rep. Tom Burnett, R-Bozeman, presented House Bill 340, which would require the Department of Environmental Quality “to fine the federal government for fires on certain federal lands that contribute to exceedance of air quality standards.”

Burnett provided the committee a graphic of the smoke from wildfires in 2012 and the readings from the 11 DEQ monitoring stations in Montana, most of which registered unhealthy air quality on various days.
“Smoke pollution compromises public health. Under this bill, the DEQ determines whether mismanaged federal lands are responsible for any part of breaching of the air standard. If they are, the federal government is corrected in the same way an industrial polluter would be,” Burnett said at the Wednesday hearing. “Federal land managers should manage the forests so it does not cause air pollution.”…

Igniting a controlled burn with buckets of diesel

controlled burn Python Hunter, buckets of diesel
Screen grab from the National Geographic Channel video.

Apparently there is a show on the National Geographic Channel called Python HuntersI happened to run across this video from the program, which includes a controlled burn. Their objective was not to kill the large snakes, they said, but to drive them out of the brush, or underground.

If you are familiar with controlled burns or prescribed fires, you will not recognize any of the techniques in this video…. unless you prep your prescribed fires by throwing five gallon buckets of diesel onto the vegetation.

Surprisingly, a representative of the Miami-Dade Fire Department is on scene, probably to reduce the chances of the actors killing themselves. The project may have been surrounded by mostly bare ground — it’s hard to tell — so there might have been little chance of the fire escaping.

python hunter controlled burn
Screen grab from the National Geographic Channel video.

Just to be absolutely clear, definitely do not try this technique. Diesel is not as volatile or explosive as gasoline but what they did, shown in the video, is dangerous. If they had mixed gasoline with the diesel, as is usually done when fueling drip torches for a real prescribed fire, or used straight gasoline, there could have been an explosion when they ignited it, depending on the concentration.

Congressional Fire Service Caucus and the 9/11 First Responder Bill

(Scroll to the bottom to see updates)

I ran across a news article about Senator Joesph Lieberman (I-CT) accepting the nomination to serve as one of the seven or eight Co-Chairs of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, a nonpartisan group of more than 320 members of congress which:

…unites Republicans and Democrats in support of fire service legislation that benefits all first responders.

Peter King
Rep. Peter King

In perusing the Caucus’s web site, which is run by the Congressional Fire Services Institute, it turns out that Rep. Peter King (R-NY) is the Chairman of the Caucus. His name rings a bell as the off-camera Representative to which Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY) was directing his anger in the video we posted on July 30, 2010. (Here is a link to another video about that encounter.)

The heated rhetoric between the two members of congress concerned a procedural delay introduced by Rep. King which initially prevented the passage in the House of the 9/11 First Responder Health Care Bill, officially known in the Senate as “S. 1334: James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act of 2009“. Rep. King sought to delay the passage of the bill while Rep. Weiner angrily recommended passage. The bill would provide health care costs for 9/11 rescue workers, sickened after exposure to the toxic smoke and debris. Finally, the House passed the bill in September.

Recently, however, Rep. King has come out strongly in favor of the 9/11 First Responder Health Care Bill. In fact, he is one of the few Republicans to openly support it, and on December 7, 2010 wrote a letter to his Republican colleagues asking for their votes in the Senate.

There is still a chance that the bill will receive an up or down vote in the Senate before the session ends this year. Votes have been prevented previously by a Republican filibuster. If it is not passed by the Senate this year, the slate will be wiped clean and it will have to be re-introduced in both the House and the Senate next year.

But you can help get the bill passed. CALL YOUR SENATORS! Here is a list of their phone numbers.

If you are still undecided about helping firefighters, check out Jon Stewart’s position on the issue of health care for 9/11 first responders.

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UPDATE @ 4:37 p.m. MT, Dec. 20, 2010:

The Wall Street Journal has the latest news about the bill.

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UPDATE @ 9:00 p.m. MT, December 21, 2010:

This bill is gathering more attention thanks to Jon Stewart. It appears that there are enough votes now in the Senate to pass a slightly revised version. BUT. There is one Senator that says he will hold it and prevent its passage. That esteemed individual is Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK).

In an interview on Fox News Coburn said two of his reasons for killing the bill are:

1. The bill has not been through a committee yet and there have been no hearings.

WRONG. A committee that Coburn is on held hearings on the bill, but Coburn chose not to attend.

2. Coburn said: “This is a bill that has been drawn up and forced through Congress at the end of the year on a basis to solve a problem that we didn’t have time to solve and we didn’t get done.”

WRONG. The bill was introduced in the Senate June 24, 2009, and was passed by the House on September 29, 2010, but has not been voted on in the Senate.

It is incredible that an idiot like this can single-handedly prevent our 9/11 first responders, some of whom are dying from exposure to toxic shit at the 9/11 site, to receive the health care they need.

Even if the Senate does pass this bill over the insane objections of Senator Dufuss Coburn, the House will still need to vote on the revised version, since it has been changed after they passed it in September.

More information:

  • Even Fox New’s Shep Smith took on Senator Coburn today for his stance on this bill. See the 37-second video HERE.
  • Shep Smith called many Senators who refused to talk with him about the bill. “We called a lot of Republicans today who are in office at the moment,” he said Monday afternoon. “These are the ones who told us ‘no’: Senators Alexander, Barrasso, Cornyn, Crapo, DeMint, Enzi, Grassley, Kyl, McConnell, Sessions, Baucus, Gregg, and Inhofe. No response from Bunning, Coburn, Ensign, Graham, Hatch, and McCain.”
  • We first wrote about this bill on July 30, 2010.
  • And we wrote more about it on December 17, 2010. That post has two videos in which Jon Stewart takes on the issue.
  • Call your two Senators (list of phone numbers) especially if one or both of them are Republicans, most of whom plan to vote against the bill.
  • Call Senator Tom Coburn’s office at (202) 224-5754.
  • A few hours after we wrote our second article about this issue on December 17, if you searched Google for “9/11 First Responder Health Care Bill”, that Wildfire Today article was the fifth one listed on the first page. Now there has been so much publicity about the issue that Wildfire Today does not show up in the first five pages of Google results.
  • This is the sixth time we have used the tag “idiot” for an article since January, 2008.

Loyola University Prof uses Thirtymile fire as evidence women should not be firefighters

A professor at Loyola University New Orleans has written a ridiculous article published by Psychology Today that uses the tragic Thirtymile fire that killed four wildland firefighters in 2001 as evidence that women should not be firefighters and that the concept of national forests is evil and an example of “socialized land ownership”.

The Thirtymile fire, even before this idiot from Loyola spewed forth this garbage, can provoke a very emotional response from wildland firefigters. Not only did we lose four firefighters (see the names below which include two women), but for the first time a wildland firefighter was charged with felonies for the deaths of people on his crew.

The Cantwell-Hastings law that passed in 2002 was a knee-jerk reaction to these deaths. It requires that every fatality of a U.S. Forest Service employee on a fire be investigated by the Department of Agriculture’s Inspector General’s office, a group of people more comfortable investigating fraud of subsidies at chicken ranches than analyzing wildland fire behavior, tactics, and strategy. Their mission is to determine if anyone should be charged with a crime, not to help identify lessons learned or prevent future fatalities.

Ellreese Daniels, the crew boss of those four firefighters, had been initially charged with 11 felonies, including four counts of manslaughter. The charges were reduced to two counts of making false statements to which Mr. Daniels pleaded guilty on August 20, 2008. He was sentenced to three years of probation and 90 days of work release.

So the idiot Loyola prof digs into these wounds which still seem fresh to firefighters and says women have no place on the fireline:

Nowadays, with our modern dispensations, we place females in the front lines. This is no less than an abomination. Females are far more precious than males. It is not for nothing that farmers keep a few bulls and hundreds of cows. It is due to patriarchy that we owe our very existence as a species. Imagine if our cave men ancestors had sent their women out to hunt and face the lions and tigers when they came a-calling, instead of throwing themselves at these enemies, sacrificing themselves so that mankind could persist.

Spoken like a cave man.

He goes on to say that fewer firefighters would die if we had no public ownership of lands:

When a forest fire consumes private timber, there are individuals who feel it in their bank accounts; this is not the case with socialized land holdings. This means that the incentives are greater, by how much is an empirical matter, for profit making individuals to take greater precautions regarding their property than is true for their public counterparts. If we have learned anything from the fall of the Soviet economic system – and this is a highly debatable point – it is that things work better under private ownership. These four young people will have not died totally in vain if we use their deaths as a rallying cry for privatization of the forest. Perhaps if we succeed in this effort, other lives will be saved.

Thirtymile fire memorial
Thirtymile fire memorial

The four firefighters killed on the Thirtymile fire were:

Tom L. Craven, 30, Ellensburg, WA;
Karen L. Fitzpatrick, 18, Yakima, WA;
Devin A. Weaver, 21, Yakima, WA;
Jessica L. Johnson, 19, Yakima, WA.

A memorial page for the firefighters can be found here. May they rest in peace.