by Leslee Kulba
Wild West blogger
You remember the CTS scare? Sure you do. I was the only nimnut that wasn’t convinced CTS was guilty of pouring gobs and oodles of trichloroethylene into the soil to percolate into wells of drinking water. The whole thing came on like a flim-flam, and people started attributing any incidence of cancer in the area, which wasn’t higher than in your typical neighborhood, to the leaking chemicals. Concentrations kept growing even though the company had abandoned the site long ago. Politicians couldn’t afford to be wrong in a cancer scare, no matter how much taxpayer money had to be spent. One guy offered as proof pages of numbers.
Today, we read about a couple UNCA science professors getting onboard and taking their students to the site to learn about pollution. Lawyers for CTS thought that was too meddlesome, and so after two requests that they keep away, they issued a cease and desist order, claiming the profs did not have the creds to hang out in a remediation easement. That is supposed to make us think there is an evil cover-up, and there may be; but in ten years’ teaching experience, at the secondary and college levels, I got to see lots of folks doing things like repeating experiments until they got the numbers they wanted, fudging to give me the answers they thought I wanted, using bad lab technique, etc. We weren’t radical enough back then for anybody to pour a vial of TCE in their samples. Apparent sabotage of others’ samples didn’t come into play until getting a real-world lab job.
In the end, the moral of the story is, I understand this is the way of the world, but I remain creeped out by political science.