Atlanta is the Most Toxic City in the U.S.?

According to Forbes.com, Atlanta's combination of air pollution and atmospheric chemicals makes it the most toxic city in the country. Forbes said that the city of Atlanta isn't solely to blame for its pollution — suburbs such as Sandy Springs and Marietta are major contributors to the area's toxicity. Both towns, it said, contain chemical plants, metal coaters and concrete factories.

We live 20 miles north of Atlanta – this is not good news for us.

Link: America's Most Toxic Cities

Toxic Cities ranking Metro Area Number of EPA Responses in Principal City Number of facilities releasing toxic chemicals Pounds of toxic chemicals released in area Air Quality Ranking, 2007
1 Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Marietta, GA Metro Area 58 277 41,502,855 28
2 Detroit-Warren-Livonia, MI Metro Area 68 281 42,051,308 22
3 Chicago-Naperville-Joliet, IL-IN-WI Metro Area 104 773 77,632,218 2
3 Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, TX Metro Area 50 432 88,754,384 10
5 Philadelphia-Camden-Wilmington, PA-NJ-DE-MD Metro Area 86 341 24,693,320 11
6 Cleveland-Elyria-Mentor, OH Metro Area 25 299 24,475,620 18
7 Los Angeles-Long Beach-Santa Ana, CA Metro Area 99 480 10,391,461 7
8 Jacksonville, FL Metro Area 70 73 15,164,615 37
9 Baltimore-Towson, MD Metro Area 37 99 29,793,565 24
10 Portland-Vancouver-Beaverton, OR-WA Metro Area 28 177 12,437,004 26
11 Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX Metro Area 34 332 6,605,651 15
12 Milwaukee-Waukesha-West Allis, WI Metro Area 15 243 11,442,042 29
13 Orlando-Kissimmee, FL Metro Area 19 63 15,773,627 38
14 Charlotte-Gastonia-Concord, NC-SC Metro Area 18 132 15,267,370 25
15 Kansas City, MO-KS Metro Area 24 139 10,427,215 21
16 Miami-Fort Lauderdale-Pompano Beach, FL Metro Area 42 81 2,368,807 40
16 St. Louis, MO-IL Metro Area 19 211 33,051,384 4
16 Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater, FL Metro Area 53 135 4,214,706 23
19 Cincinnati-Middletown, OH-KY-IN Metro Area 15 235 22,901,153 13
20 Pittsburgh, PA Metro Area 7 247 81,634,235 9
21 Indianapolis-Carmel, IN Metro Area 16 127 21,990,812 17
22 San Antonio, TX Metro Area 17 75 5,449,175 36
23 Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV Metro Area 33 98 17,927,627 7
24 Columbus, OH Metro Area 12 123 5,295,408 34
24 Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI Metro Area 12 259 15,543,283 6
24 San Francisco-Oakland-Fremont, CA Metro Area 10 127 6,145,119 34
27 Denver-Aurora, CO Metro Area 26 105 4,880,332 18
28 Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN Metro Area 10 99 8,530,127 31
29 Boston-Cambridge-Quincy, MA-NH Metro Area 7 278 3,106,166 20
30 Providence-New Bedford-Fall River, RI-MA Metro Area 4 179 2,898,776 30
31 New York-Northern New Jersey-Long Island, NY-NJ-PA Metro Area 2 452 9,897,930 5
31 Phoenix-Mesa-Scottsdale, AZ Metro Area 33 203 3,067,616 1
33 San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA Metro Area 17 81 417,505 33
34 Virginia Beach-Norfolk-Newport News, VA-NC Metro Area 6 63 10,157,973 32
35 San Diego-Carlsbad-San Marcos, CA Metro Area 16 77 2,425,896 27
36 Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA Metro Area 12 135 4,225,497 16
37 Austin-Round Rock, TX Metro Area 4 44 660,611 39
38 Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, CA Metro Area 11 160 2,082,462 3
39 Sacramento–Arden-Arcade–Roseville, CA Metro Area 13 55 659,865 14
40 Las Vegas-Paradise, NV Metro Area 5 50 2,075,237 11

Atlanta: Water + Development = Political Contributions

I'm often amazed at how politicians think about key issues. Atlanta is facing a water shortage in the near future and the key concern is how it will affect development and developer money for politicians. Didn't over-development play a key role in the financial crisis?

Maybe people will just drink Coke products and Coke can increase it's contributions to the politicians for eliminating water as an option for quenching thirst.

Link: Cherokee Tribune – Water Wars.

On July 17 [2009], Judge Paul Magnuson ruled that the metro area [Atlanta] is not authorized to withdraw water from Lake Lanier, because supplying water is not among the purposes established for the lake, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project. The ruling came in connection with a long-standing legal battle among the states of Georgia, Alabama and Florida with regard to use of the Chattahoochee River, which was impounded to create Lake Lanier. If the three states can't come to some agreement in three years, Magnuson's ruling calls for water withdrawals from Lanier to be cut back to 1970s levels.

That's effectively a death sentence for metropolitan Atlanta, so it's easy to see why the ruling has apparently lit a fire under the state's formerly moribund chief executive.

Practically speaking, curtailing development in Atlanta could curtail the economy of the entire state.

Politically speaking, no development in Atlanta means no Atlanta developers, or bankers, or road contractors, or other folks who profit from residential, industrial and commercial development in the metro area, writing checks to political officeholders and office-seekers in Gov. Perdue's Republican Party.

The Carrying Capacity of the Land

We live in the Atlanta area, where August’s intense heat, with no rain, has turned into beautiful blue skies and low humidity in September through November, with almost no rain. The governor has blamed environmentalists for Atlanta’s main water source drying up and has started leading prayer groups to bring rain. It’s heresy to point out that the rapid residential and commercial development throughout the area has created an insatiable thirst for water that cannot be satisfied by the current water resources.

I’ve included some excerpts on the use of resources below from writer and thinker John Michael Greer. Ignore his message if you don’t use energy or water, or, if you believe that your favored political party will save us. One of the targets of his sharp writing tool is the drought in the Southeast and Atlanta. Click on the link below to enjoy the full flavor of his commentary of the current state of our culture.

Link: The Archdruid Report: Lifeboat Time

As depletion of existing oil fields accelerates, the struggle to prop up the current production plateau promises to become a losing battle against geological reality.

Meanwhile the carbon dioxide generated by the 84 million barrels a day we’re currently pumping and burning, along with equally unimaginable volumes of coal and natural gas, drives changes in climate that only a handful of oil company flacks and free-market fundamentalists still insist aren’t happening. Worried scientists report from Greenland and West Antarctica that for the first time since measurements began, liquid water is pooling under both these huge continental glaciers – the likely precursor to an ice sheet collapse that could put sea levels up 50 to 60 feet worldwide within our lifetimes.

In related news, Atlanta may just be on the verge of edging out New Orleans as the poster child for climate catastrophe. Unless the crippling years-long drought over the southeast United States gives way to heavy rains very soon, Atlanta will run completely out of drinking water sometime in the new year. The city government has had to explain to worried citizens that they are out of options, and there aren’t enough tanker trucks in all of Dixie to meet the daily water needs of a big city. Nobody is willing to talk about what will happen once the last muddy dregs in the Georgia reservoirs are pumped dry, and the drinking fountains, toilet tanks, and fire hydrants of greater metropolitan Atlanta have nothing to fill them but dust.

As Macchiavelli commented in a different context, though, people care more about their finances than their lives, and even the Atlanta papers have seen the drought shoved off the front page now and then by the latest round of implosions in the world of high finance. For those of my readers who haven’t been keeping score, banks and financial firms around the world spent most of the last decade handing out mortgages to anybody with a pulse, packaging up the right to profit from those mortgages into what may just be the most misnamed “securities” in the history of financial markets, and selling them to investors around the world.

On this noticeably unsteady foundation rose the biggest speculative bubble in recorded history, as would-be real estate moguls borrowed dizzying sums to buy up property they were convinced could only go up in value, while investors whose passion for profit blinded them to the risk of loss snapped up a torrent of exotic financial products whose connection to any significant source of value can be safely described as imaginary. All this hallucinated wealth, though, depended on the theory that people with no income, job, or assets could and would pay their mortgage bills on time, and when this didn’t happen, the whole tower of cards began coming apart. Some of the world’s largest banks have already taken billions of dollars in losses, and nobody is even pretending that the economic carnage is over yet.

Do Real Estate Developers Dictate Environmental Policy?

Below is a letter to the editor from the 5/12/2007 edition of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Link: Saturday Talk | ajc.com

Balanced board crucial to our river

I would like to express my grave concern that the Georgia Board of Natural Resources is becoming a rubber stamp for development and destruction of our state’s rivers and streams.

I am a member of the Georgia Women Fly Fishers, a group dedicated to advancing the sport of fly fishing and promoting conservation. We fish regularly in the Chattahoochee and have first-hand knowledge that development runoff causes degradation of the river with every rain. This problem is only getting worse.

It is alarming that Gov. Sonny Perdue, despite his claimed goal of wanting to make Georgia a fishing paradise, has removed all voices from the board that oversees the Department of Natural Resources that advocate for clean water and public green space.

We must have balanced representation. Having a board dominated by big developer interests at a time when water is our most precious and declining natural resource is not only bad for tourism, it is contrary to the greater public welfare and common sense.

JOY …, Smyrna

The explosive growth of the Atlanta metropolitan area has created huge wealth for many real estate developers. Environmental regulations increase the cost and complexity of real estate development. Many elected officials from the governor down to the small town boards have been influenced by the developers and their representatives to ignore the impact of unfettered development on streams and natural areas.

Governor Perdue provides another disappointing example of a politician committing to a position to get elected and then making appointments that contradict that position. Perhaps when enough attention is focused on these elected officials, they will not sell out defenseless streams and natural areas so thoughtlessly.

When do we stop sacrificing natural resources, like clean water, that are essential to the health of future generations?