Big business rules: I was not surprised by the way the EPA responded to the findings regarding the hazards of sludge for humans and animals ["Wretched Excess," by Josh Harkinson, March 31]. Our government cares for only the "have mores," and big businesses like Synagro rule our government with their big money. I'm ashamed of where our country's priorities are.
However, I printed out the article and mailed it to the EPA in Washington, D.C., and wrote on it "EPA, you should be ashamed!" Not that it will help, but it made me feel better.
Name withheld by request
A heroic effort: Well, that did it. Josh Harkinson has officially become my new hero. What an incredible (and nauseatingly disgusting and frightening) story. I am forwarding the link to this article to everyone I know across the United States, encouraging them to read it and then take it to their local media, politicians, community leaders, church leaders, farmers, health care providers, community activists, friends, relatives and loved ones.
This Human Poop For Money scheme is an abomination. What has this country come to? What is wrong with our fellow Americans?
I've long treasured the Houston Press for continuing to have the cojones to be the Lone Voice in the Wilderness down here in Houston Chronicle, GWB and Tom DeLay Land.
May you always prevail. And if you ever have to go to paid subscription, I will be the first in line.
Canadian contamination: Excellent article! A few points of difference: You stated that the cost of land-filling sludge was more than the cost of spreading it on farmland. This ain't necessarily so! Here in Ottawa, Canada, the city would save $1.1 million annually by mixing it with garbage and burying it in the city-owned dump. The landfill has a 200-year plastic liner with a soon-to-be-built on-site leachate control system, so the toxins and pathogens can be safely contained at a point source for centuries, rather than spread all over the countryside.
Cities produce about one-fourth as much treated sewage as garbage, and this mix is ideal for compacting and aiding the ferment of the garbage to produce methane gas. The gas is collected under a cover and used to generate electricity.
Unfortunately, Ottawa councilors and staff have been lobbied so effectively by the sewage spreaders that they are refusing to put any sewage sludge in the city dump, and instead will shell out the extra million dollars per year to compost it and spread it on farm fields.
The number of farmers actually benefiting from this "fertilizer" subsidy own only 5 percent or less of the farmland. Yet their fodder and food crops are mixed into the food chain without any way of identifying them, so that all food products are potentially contaminated. Clearly the true beneficiaries are the sludge-spreading corporations, who are making their fortunes producing fodder and food grown in pathogenic and toxic sewage and industrial wastes, while the government refuses to look for harmful effects on human health or the environment.
Thank you for the excellent summary of sludge issues. I have forwarded the article to Ottawa City Council.
Jim Poushinsky, chair
Ottawa Citizens Against Pollution by Sewage
All this and flooding, too: I read your article about Synagro, and I think you did a great job. The Synagro permit in Lissie, Texas, that you refer to in the article is located on property owned by the same family that owns the land immediately north of my family's land in Colorado County.
My situation is a little different from that of the Gertsons, in that our land is on the east bank of the Colorado River in an area with severe documented flooding activity. My other concern is a 100-acre lake on our property that is fewer than 50 feet from the permit site. Because of the serious flooding, the road between the lake and the permit site has been raised and drainage pipes were inserted through the road to alleviate floodwater pressure on the road. This field drains into our property from rain alone, let alone a Colorado River flood.
I have no doubt that these pipes will carry sludge into the lake and onto our property. You would think that this info would have been a fatal flaw in the permit and TCEQ would have denied the permit when presented with this information, but no, we will have to waste serious taxpayer dollars and go through the Texas administrative law system for at least another year to receive a decision.
La Baring the Soul
Lay off the dancers: I am a loyal and avid Houston Press reader. Your typical negatively slanted journalism does not usually incite me enough to respond, and this will be only my second letter in the last seven years.
In the March 31 issue, your biased articles (journalistic ethics, anyone?) and pictures of La Bare dancers in Hair Balls ["Glory Days," March 24, and "What's Three Feet Between Friends?" March 31] are even lower than your usual curb-high standards.
I submit that La Bare's customer treatment is second to none. I have watched the management, waitstaff and entertainers interact with customers in such a way that makes each person, whether 18 or 80, feel special. They give the same amount of attention and encouragement/compliments to all their guests, no matter if they are cheerleaders or obese, young hotties or elderly grandparents. I know of at least ten instances over the last two years where ladies have begun workout programs and dropped significant amounts of weight thanks to the encouragement of La Bare employees.
And the workers' charitable efforts over last Halloween enabled them to make a $500 donation to the Burned and Crippled Children's Fund.
As patrons leave La Bare, they feel better about themselves than when they entered. What other establishment of any type can say that?
Are all the staff writers and editors at the Houston Press overweight, repressed or slovenly? One must assume that jealousy of the young dancers is the only reason for the continued biased reporting toward La Bare.
If you are going to hold yourselves out to the public as unbiased reporters, then write like unbiased reporters, instead of controversy sycophants.
Silencing the Bams
No ulterior motive: I realize that Hair Balls likes to have fun with rhetorical questions, but it's sad to see your publication come up so woefully short of a common-sense answer to the easy question posed in the March 31 issue ["A Quiet Neighborhood"], to wit: "...is there ever a reason for a private citizen to own a silencer for anything but suspicious purposes?" Leaving aside the sloppiness displayed by calling them silencers (almost nothing can silence a firearm; these devices are more properly called "suppressors"), Hair Balls commits the unforgivable sin of failing to ridicule the two law enforcement wonks quoted spouting their transparent ignorance of the subject.
Just FYI, shooting guns is fun, but the noise can cause hearing damage and piss off the neighbors. Beyond the collections of history buffs, most new suppressors are merely basic safety equipment and a way to be polite to those around you. In countries where suppressors are common, hunters and target shooters routinely use them to save their hearing; shooting ranges encourage their use so neighbors won't complain about the noise. Unfortunately, in the United States, earplugs and muffs (which can be less effective and wholly impractical while hunting) are the only alternatives most shooters are allowed by a government that has decided suppressors exist only to generate tax revenue and provide employment for wannabe cowboys who get off on the power trip of flashing badges and enforcing silly regulations.
Those of us who understand the usefulness of suppressors pay big bucks for them. And sloppy journalists, having no experience with them, can actually be hornswoggled by lying or ignorant law enforcement mouthpieces into wrongly concluding that suppressor owners are a suspicious lot.
Tsk, tsk. I expect that kind of naïveté from the Chron, not the Press.
Name withheld by request
The price of being hip: I really devoured the article about Urban Outfitters in this week's Nightfly column ["Monsters of Hip," by Brian McManus, April 7]. Speaking as someone who worked at the Rice Village location for close to three years, it really struck a chord with me. Despite the camaraderie of a few really great friends I made there, and the two or three good CDs that I got handed down by the store, I had a hard time dealing with the banality of this company.
It seems that all I see on television these days is Urban clothes. Hell, MTV is practically a commercial for the place! I just wish people could see through the ridiculous trends this store tries to claim it originates, and the outrageous prices it places on this stuff. When are people going to realize that they are paying upward of 30 bucks for a company-bought thrift-store rag? I guess it all boils down to having your stuff seen on the "right" people at the "right" times.
And who among us doesn't want to look like the cast of The Real World?
I didn't want this letter to sound like the ramblings of a disgruntled employee, but I still have friends doing time at Urban and I know they feel the same way. Oddly enough, they happen to be artists and musicians. Imagine that.
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Man, whoever started that "I hate Starbucks" Web site might be on to something.
Name withheld by request
In the feature story "Mixing It Up" (March 10), Robb Walsh's interview with Ferran Adria should have been attributed to a Q&A with Adria on egullet.org rather than "an electronic interview." The Web site also supplied the translations. The Houston Press regrets the oversight.