ENVIRONMENT, SPACED CITY
Too Much Pavement
Houston's strip malls increase heat, pollution
By Richard Connelly
You used to hate Houston's ever-growing amount of pavement for increasing flooding and general ugliness. Now you can hate it for making you sweat and breathe bad air.
A major new study of the Houston area says "the proliferation of strip malls, subdivisions, and other paved areas may interfere with breezes needed to clear away smog and other pollution."
The study, by an international team led by the National Center for Atmospheric Research, used atmospheric data and computer modeling to show how we're screwed.
They found that, because pavement soaks up heat and keeps land areas relatively warm overnight, the contrast between land and sea temperatures is reduced during the summer. This in turn causes a reduction in nighttime winds.
In addition, built structures interfere with local winds and contribute to relatively stagnant afternoon weather conditions.
"The developed area of Houston has a major impact on local air pollution," says NCAR scientist Fei Chen. "If the city continues to expand, it's going to make the winds even weaker in the summertime, and that will make air pollution much worse."
Here's how the study fetchingly describes our beautiful town: "Houston, known for its mix of petrochemical facilities, sprawling suburbs, and traffic jams that stretch for miles, has some of the highest levels of ground-level ozone and other air pollutants in the United States."
The study suggests more parks and green areas.
"If you made the city greener and created lakes and ponds, then you probably would have less air pollution even if emissions stayed the same," Chen explains. "The nighttime temperatures over the city would be lower and winds would become stronger, blowing the pollution out to the Gulf of Mexico."
But where would all the strip malls go?
Fetuses Dumped in Landfills
By Craig Malisow
We all know that the souls of aborted babies go to live with Jesus, but what of their earthly remains? Well, in Texas, they legally can't be disposed of in landfills — which is exactly where the remains from two abortion clinics have been going, according to Texas Commission on Environmental Quality investigations.
Responding to complaints filed last March by pro-life group Operation Rescue, the TCEQ investigated Whole Women's Health clinics in Austin and McAllen, and determined that the clinics, and a waste disposal company, were violating a really icky state law mandating that "treated recognizable human body parts, tissues, fetuses, organs, and the products of human abortions, spontaneous or induced, shall not be disposed of in a municipal solid waste landfill."
"Okay, Hair Balls," you say, "but what I'm really dying to know is: How exactly were the clinics disposing of the fetuses? Did the TCEQ by chance go into the kind of detail that might give us night terrors, or at least greatly irritate our stomach lining?"
We're glad you asked, because the answer is a resounding "hell, yeah!"
Here's a bit from the Austin clinic report: "Each fetus resulting from an abortion is placed into a hard plastic container and then into a red biohazard bag. The bag is then placed into a freezer where it is stored. When Stericycle [a medical waste disposal company] arrives to transport the medical waste, the individual fetuses are removed from the freezer and placed into another large red biohazard bag. The red biohazard bag containing the fetuses is placed into the medical waste box along with other medical waste generated at the facility that requires treatment." (Three bags per fetus? Seems like overkill.)
So far, so good — standard operating fetus-chunking procedure. The problem was that, while Stericycle's policy is to incinerate the fetuses, the investigation revealed that the remains were instead "being sent for steam disinfection at the Stericycle Austin Autoclave along with other medical waste generated at the facility."
Confusingly, you can bury steam-cleaned fetuses in Texas, but just not in a municipal solid waste landfill, according to the TCEQ report. No wonder everyone got confused about what to do with the fetuses. We just hope the clinics and disposal company get back on track and stop dirtying up our landfills with their gross baby parts.
Doing It Daily Theres tons of stuff each day on the Houston Press blogs; youre only getting a taste of it here in the print edition. Head to blogs.houstonpress.com/hairballs (or /rocks or /eating or /artattack).
For Flag Day, we looked at the ten worst national flags and the ten worst state flags; it's not every country that has an AK-47 on its flag, but Mozambique does. We offered warnings about five very bad Father's Day gifts, which involved a TV ad that has the most unlikely reaction ever from a fiancé about his wife getting a bunch of vibrators as gifts. And with the U.S. Army phasing out the beret, we looked at nine people who actually managed to look good in one.
President Obama actually has a job-approval rating over 50 percent among likely Texas voters, although it doesn't mean they'll vote for him, a new poll says. Rick Perry went on Fox News and called himself a "prophet," sorta. And Texas Monthly's always-anticipated list of Best & Worst Legislators was relatively Houston-free this go-round. What, no Dan Patrick?
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