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Dow Chemical “Contributions” to the Tittabawassee

Dow Chemical “Contributions” to the Tittabawassee

I grew up in mid-Michigan, in a suburb of Saginaw. We had lakes and rivers nearby for fishing, and large wooded areas for seasonal hunting. The climate is much cooler than here in Arizona. In the winter, it was common to cross the Saginaw, Tittabawassee and other regional rivers on snowmobiles. It was also common for vehicles to drive out on Saginaw Bay of Lake Huron, and drill fishing holes in the ice. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, that freezing began to occur less frequently. It became common for the Saginaw River to remain unfrozen during the winter. As a child, I did not recognize it as a change.

More astute adults and scientists noticed this metamorphosis, and began to investigate why. What they found was a significant change in the chemicals dissolved in the water. Many miles up the river from Saginaw is Midland, Michigan: the home of Dow Chemical.

For nearly a century, Dow Chemical had been releasing dioxins from its manufacturing process into the Tittabawassee River and the atmosphere. These dioxins included polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFs), polychlorinateddibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs), 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin equivalents (TEQs), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and others (Seston, 2011). Dioxins are toxic chemicals so dangerous that they are measured in trillionths of a gram, and these take years to work through the environment and living organisms. These bioaccumulated dioxins pose various health risks from cancer to birth defects.

The pollution became significant enough for EPA to warn people not to eat the fish from the rivers. Additional evaluations of the environment around the Midland Dow Chemical facility showed elevated levels of these dioxins in the soil. This prompted further warnings against the consumption of plants and wild game, such as white-tailed deer and wild turkeys. Studies by University of Michigan and other scientific leaders found significant accumulation of those dioxins in blue heron, kingfisher, great horned owl, mink, and squirrels.  (Hedgeman, 2009)

A report by Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety studied the accumulation of PCDD/DF and TEQ in the great blue heron. The great blue heron is labeled a receptor species, because it feeds on other fish which increases its concentration of contaminants: bioaccumulation. This breed of fish showed a multifold increase in the TEQs. “PCDD/DFs were normalized to TEQ, and fold differences in the [average daily dose], increased, being 150- to 190-fold greater along the [Tittabawassee River] and 36-fold greater along the [Saginaw River] than they were in the [reference area]” (Seston, 2011).

Studies published in 2008 exposed significant concentrations of lung and breast cancer in areas surrounding the Tittabawassee River. “Results of the study suggest that geographic locations in close proximity to the river are associated with high risk of breast cancer, while the spatial clusters of lung cancer were detected in locations that are in close proximity to point source pollution” (Guajardo, 2008).

Various investigations by state and federal agencies discovered Dow Chemical knew of the effects on the population, wildlife, and environment. The company invested in advertising, campaigning, and falsifying data to conceal its knowledge and actions. Dow Chemical attempted to hide information that demonstrated the dioxin in Agent Orange caused liver damage, nervous disorders, birth defects, and other health problems. Part of Agent Orange was later used in herbicides for food source plants. They were aware of these ill effects as early as 1965, during the Vietnam War, where Agent Orange was used and impacted American servicemen and populations in Vietnam. In the mid 1980s, investigations into environmental impact were conducted by the EPA. It came to light that Dow Chemical had gained access to those EPA reports and modified them prior to submission to public record. (Shabecoff, 1983)

In the late 1990s and more in the 2000s, Dow Chemical has begun cleanup efforts in the Tittabawassee and Saginaw Rivers, as well as other affected areas, including Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron. There is a lot of work that needs to be done, but the rivers show improvement. Saginaw River has begun to freeze in winter. Despite the warnings to avoid consuming the freshwater fish, many Michiganders have begun to indulge in the regionally loved staple.

Works Cited

Guajardo, Olga A. “A critical assessment of geographic clusters of breast and lung cancer incidences among residents living near the Tittabawassee River, Michigan.” Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, ProQuest Dissertations Publishing, 2008. 1456947. Accessed 25 September 2016. Web address: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2798568/&gt;.

Hedgeman, Elizabeth et al. “The University of Michigan Dioxin Exposure Study: Population Survey Results and Serum Concentrations for Polychlorinated Dioxins, Furans, and Biphenyls.” Environmental Health Perspectives 117.5 (2009): 811–817. PMC. Accessed 25 September 2016. Web address: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2685846/&gt;.

Seston, Rita, et al. “Dietary exposure of great blue heron (Ardea herodias) to PCDD/DFs in the Tittabawassee River floodplain, MI, USA.” Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety. March 2011: 74.3; 494-503. Accessed 25 September 2016. Web address: <http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoenv.2010.10.024&gt;.

Shabecoff, Philip. “Schemer says E.P.A. aide let Dow delete dioxin tie in draft report.” New York Times. 16 March 1983. Accessed 25 September 2016. Web address: <http://www.nytimes.com/1983/03/16/us/scheuer-says-epa-aide-let-dow-delete-dioxin-tie-in-draft-report.html&gt;.

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2016 in Class Writing, Entrepreneurship

 

Takeaways from Handling a Panel Interview

In my Principles of Technical Communication course, we reviewed articles that relate to our studies. For the final week, I read an article about handling panel interviews.

Reading Takeaways

In my career, I have had numerous interviews. They have ranged from interviews with one to three senior staff in an office environment; to one very informal interview, where the interviewer and I met in a cafeteria, dressed in casual attire, and had a light conversation.

However, my most unnerving interview was structured as a panel interview. The panel was comprised of four interviewers, ranging from owner to technology contractor. A record-keeper documented the questions and responses, and ensured a structured process. I did not do well in that interview. Based on that experience, I thought it would be valuable to the class (and me) to share this article about how to handle panel interviews.

Here are some key takeaways from Martin’s article.

  • Take each interviewer and their questions as one-on-one. Make eye contact and comfortably address them professionally and politely by name. Do not ignore the other panel members; make visual contact with the others.
  • Understand each interviewer’s role within the organization. This will allow you to understand the goal of the question.
  • Offer examples from your résumé or portfolio that relate to the question asked. When fitting, include other experiences that relate to the question.
  • Be prepared. Ahead of the interview, practice interviewing, review the organization and position, and carry any relevant material, such as references and résumé, with you.

Document Reviewed

Martin, Carole, and Kathryn Troutman. “Tactics for Handling a Panel Interview.” Monster.com. Web 25 April 2015. <http://career-advice.monster.com/job-interview/interview-preparation/handling-panel-interviews/article.aspx>

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2015 in Class Writing, Writing

 

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Takeaways from Overcoming Writer’s Block

In my Principles of Technical Communication course, we reviewed various guiding articles. One of the articles discussed in week six dealt with writer’s block.

Reading Takeaways

When I saw this article about Writer’s Block, it reminded me of a paper I wrote in my First Year Composition course. I had been struggling throughout the course to find topics to write about, and came up with the idea of writing about finding something to write about. In my research, I came across the article “written” by Upper; it was a blank page.

In the Overcoming Writer’s Block, the author offers many similar observations and recommendations.

  • Writer’s block comes in all sizes, and it feeds on itself.
  • Writer’s block can be instantiated by a self-imposed perception that all our writing will be enlightening, and not simply another boring collegiate paper.
  • We tend to ignore the simple ideas under a precept that it would not meet our own self-imposed, lofty goals.
  • Defeat these barriers by accepting the simple ideas. Also, be prepared with scratchpad and pen to jot down ideas as they come to mind.

Documents Reviewed

Leiner, B. “Just Another Writer’s Block In The Wall.” N0Dak Bud’s Blog. 27 April 2010. <https://n0dakbud.wordpress.com/2010/05/24/just-another-writer’s-block-in-the-wall/>

Upper, Dennis. “The Unsuccessful Self-Treatment Of Writer’s Block.” Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis 7.3 (1974): 497. Accessed 22 April 2015. <http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1901/jaba.1974.7-497a/abstract>

Overcoming Writer’s Block. Capital Community College Foundation. Web 22 April 2015. <http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/composition/brainstorm_block.htm>

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2015 in Class Writing, Writing

 

Takeaways from Edit for The Web

In my Principles of Technical Communication course, we reviewed related articles. In this fourth week assignment, I focused on clarity in Web design.

Reading Takeaways

  • Credibility: As described about documentation, a Webpage that has numerous errors suggest a lack of quality. That shortcoming reflects on the company the Webpage represents.
  • Consistent Design and Style: Following what has been taught throughout this course, Lieb emphasizes “coherent, consistent style from page to page” is critical to maintain unity across a document style, or in this case, Website design.
  • Graphics: The webpages should be slim and simple; they should be void of elements that over-indulge and distract the reader. However, these graphics and design needs to catch the readers’ attention.
  • Unique: These webpages should demonstrate some individuality. A designer should start from scratch to assemble the pieces in a way that is symbolic of the company.

Documents Reviewed

Lieb, Thom. “Editing for The Web: Appropriate Design.” Editing for Clear Communication, 2001. Web 8 April 2015. <http://pages.towson.edu/lieb/editing/design.html>

 
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Posted by on May 3, 2015 in Class Writing, Writing

 

Mighty Mac Comparison To Tacoma Narrows Bridge

A good comparison can be made between the engineering successes and failures witnessed in the construction of two bridges; Mackinac Straits Suspension Bridge (also known as the “Mighty Mac”), and the Tacoma Narrows Bridge (also known as “Galloping Gertie” or TNB).

At the time of its construction in 1940, TNB was the third longest suspension bridge in the world [1, pg xviii]. The construction of TNB was to alleviate the use of ferry fleet to cross the Puyallup River at the mouth of Pugent Sound. The bridge reduced the commute time to cross the river. The sound crossed by TNB often witnessed heavy winds, in some cases in the upper 70 mph range. Record temperatures range from 107ºF to -2ºF. On the day of its collapse, winds at Tacoma Narrows were recorded at 42 mph, [2, pg. 69]. The largest span between pillars on TNB is 2,800 feet.

The Mighty Mac spans a distance of five miles and uses only two support pillars. At the time of its construction, 1957, it was the largest of its kind in the world — nearly 60 years later it is still the largest in the Western hemisphere. When considering the enormity of this undertaking at Mackinac Straits, we must also be aware of the environment. In that area, record temperatures range from 115ºF to -35ºF, winds reach 78 mph, and as much as six feet of ice accumulates on the water beneath it. The two support pillars for the Mighty Mac are 3,800 feet apart. In the planning of he y Mac, engineers reviewed and took lessons-learned from similar construction, such as TNB, San Francisco-Oakland Bay bridge, and Golden Gate bridge.

The engineers’ attention to detail was a key factor in the success or failure of these grand projects. In the case of TNB, engineers witnessed unusual motion during construction. Quoting [Wake, pp. 46–47], “during the final stages of work, an unusual rhythmic vertical motion began to grip the main span in only moderate winds….” This torsional oscillation causing a positive feedback loop.

TNB construction placed stiffening girders to a shallower depth than its predecessors, only eight feet deep [2, pg. 69]. This reduced the dampening effect of its weight on aerodynamic lift. The reduced weight combined with the aerodynamic effects of the wind, setup an unexpected change. “… the extreme flexibility, slenderness, and lightness of the TNB allowed these oscillations to grow until they destroyed it. [3, pg 901].” [3] goes on to demonstrate mathematically how the resonance occurred and eventually collapsed TNB. In part, this was also attributed to the depth of the girders.

In contrast, construction of the Mighty Mac gave greater attention to natural forces including the rock underneath and the atmospheric effects. Steinman’s [4] explains how they investigated the geology beneath the piers. The rock in some areas of Mackinac strait is composed of Mackinac Breccia, a breccia formed by collapsed caverns [5, pg 246]. This potential for collapse necessitated thorough research of the rock. After diligent inspection and scientific work, including 51 borings and extensive data analysis [4, pp. 4-5], the geologists determined the rock had no caverns and significant enough strength to support the bridge in its environment. This exhaustive investigation ensured proper placement and depth of the foundations for the pillars.

Steinman also took into consideration aerodynamics. Prior to work on Mighty Mac, he had suggested “critical wind velocity” as a contributing factor that induced oscillations in TNB [6, 760]. The design of Mighty Mac allowed air to pass through a grate in the center two lanes. This eliminated the aerodynamic lift.

The final contrast is evident in human witness. Tacoma Narrows Bridge succumbed to natural forces after only four months. Mackinac Straits Bridge has withstood fifty-eight years of high-winds, subzero temperatures with ice flows pounding at its pillars, and, as of 2009, 150 million vehicles has crossed the Mighty Mac.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

[1] Scott, Richard. “In the Wake of Tacoma.” ASCE Press, Reston, VA, 2001.

[2] Steinman, David B. “Bridges” in Scientific American, vol. 191, no. 5, pp 60-71, Nov, 1954.

[3] Arioli, Gianni, and Filippo Gazzola. “Applied Mathematical Modelling: A New Mathematical Explanation of what Triggered the Catastrophic Torsional Mode of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge,” Elsevier, vol. 39, pp 901-915, Jan. 2015.

[4] D. B. Steinman, “Mackinac Bridge Final Geological Report,” St. Ignace, MI, Geology Report, Apr, 1956.

[5] J. Monroe, and R. Wicander, (2014). “Engineering and Geology,” in The Changing Earth: Exploring Geology and Evolution, 7th ed. Stanford: Cengage, 2014, ch 10,  sec. 10.1, pp 246-247.

[6] Robert C. Post, “The Bridge At Mackinac Straits: Another Fiftieth Anniversary”. Technology and Culture, vol. 49, no. 3, July, 2008, pp. 752-763.

 
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Posted by on February 12, 2015 in Class Writing, Critical Inquiry

 

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Sustainability Brief Overview of Solar Utilization Network

Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship: Solar Utilization Network (IGERT-SUN)

The IGERT-SUN program is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. The faculty includes: Willem (Wim) Vermaas, DSc, Program Director; Cesar I. Torres, PhD; Jenefer Husman, PhD; David Guston, PhD; and, Ana Moore, PhD. A key goal of the program is to enlist PhD students from a wide range of disciplines to examine how to advance solar energy science and usage, focusing on three approaches: photovoltaics, solar thermal, and photosynthesis driven bioenergy. IGERT-SUN is designed to seek transitioning our current fossil-fuel based economy to these various forms of solar energy. The variety of participants includes students pursuing doctorates in Engineering, Biochemistry, Environmental Engineering, and Sustainability Engineering; one member is identified as “Human and Social Dimensions of Science and Technology” doctoral student.

The IGERT-SUN project highlights video on Vimeo demonstrates the faculty’s and the students’ vigor in pursuit of advancing these alternate energy resources. Miles Brungage, a student in the program, described how he appreciates the opportunity to work with colleagues of different studies but working a similar goal, sustainability. And Joseph Laureanti highlighted how this program offers him the opportunity to connect with people within alternative energies fields, and glean from them real purpose in the program. In some abstracts, I read a program focus on attracting “underrepresented groups, particularly Hispanics and Native American” candidates to the program. Although an admirable goal, if carried to excess, the achievement of that goal may result in reducing the diversity of the participants, or even narrowing the breadth of knowledge the program sought to nurture.

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2014 in Class Writing, Sustainability

 

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Sustainability Essay

In our Introduction to Sustainability coursework, I have identified four areas for me to change: water usage, fossil fuel usage, red-meat consumption, and pesticide usage.

Last year, I purchased a new home with low-flow shower heads, low-flow toilets, new water-efficient appliances, xeriscaped yard, and no pool. My previous home used approximately 10,000 to 15,000 gallons of water per month. My new home reduced water usage to less than 4,000 gallons per month. I plan to continue to pursue reductions in my water use with methods described in Infographic 17.7 (Karr, p. 308).

From the new home, my commute increased from 40 miles to 80 miles round-trip. As described in our textbook, the “extra carbon causes problems such as global climate change, acidification of oceans, and alternations of communities worldwide” (Karr, p. 121). To reduce my impact, I telecommute one day per week. I did consider an electric vehicle. However, Mitchell Ng points out “alternative energy vehicles are cost-inefficient when compared to fossil-fuel based ones” (Ng, p. 56). Instead, on restricted income, I am pursuing the purchase of an Elio; it will triple my fuel economy from 18 MPG to an estimated 65 MPG (Resource Week, p. 159).

Graham Hill also pointed out “eating a mere hamburger a day can increase my risk of dying by a third” (Hill, 0:40). In our textbook, Karr explained, “Replacing some red meat with fish, poultry, or non-meat sources of protein decreased risk [of dying] by 7%–19%” (Karr, p. 368). I am very health, but by reducing my red meat intake and increasing the vegetables and fruits, my good health can be extended even further.

My home has frequent visits from desert wildlife and insects. Rather than using chemical pesticides, I believe I can use some organic pesticides to remove or restrict them, but with less environmental impact than chemicals. Using Karr’s recommended resource, SafeLawns.org (Karr, p. 327), I can help reduce impact on our water supply and deter those creatures from entering my home.

Works Cited:

Karr, Susan, et al. (2014) Scientific American Environmental Science for a Changing World Extended. 1st Ed. New York, NY: W. H. Freeman.

Ng, Mitchel. (2011). Short and long-term cost efficiency analysis of fossil fuel versus alternative energy vehicles. Journal of Business Studies Quarterly, 3(2), 45-56. Retrieved from http://jbsq.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/12/Dec_2011_4.pdf.

Hill, Graham. (2010, February). Graham Hill: Why I’m a weekday vegetarian [Video file]. Retrieved from: http://www.ted.com/talks/graham_hill_weekday_vegetarian/.

Resource Week. (2014, March 23). Elio Motors Inc. Displays Enclosed 3-Wheeled Vehicle At Valley of the Sun Clean Cities Coalition Legislative Breakfast. 159.

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2014 in Class Writing, Sustainability