Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Chicken Guts and Other Headlines

So much news, so little time.

Poultry Parts
It wasn’t the subdivision moratorium that brought things to a halt around Sylva today. No, it was a "truckload of chicken guts" as WLOS termed it so delicately during their dinner hour installment of infotainment this evening. I can’t understand why they didn’t have John Le cover the story. Seems like "chicken guts" would be right up his alley. I figure John Le must cover the chicken guts beat for WLOS, so why wasn’t he out here?

The toppled cargo blocked the westbound lanes of Highway 74 sending traffic on a detour through downtown for most of the day.

Now that I think about it, isn’t "chicken guts" an oxymoron?

I’d avoid the local sports bar "Wings Specials" for a few days if I were you.

[While we're on the subject, here's an award winning poem inspired by a similar incident:

Ode to Chicken Guts
By Mary Bailey
Written to commemorate the occasion, in June 1995, when we drove through some nasty chicken by-products, inadvertently spilled on an Ohio highway by a farm truck -
Near a town by the name of Shallot
Where our tires hit a stinky, slick spot
On that hot day in JuneJust a little past noon
'Twas chicken guts, starting to rot!
As we started to slip and to slide
Losing what was left of our pride
We caught the strong scent
But didn't know what it meant
Then, "It's chicken guts!" somebody cried....
Click for full text ]

Benzene, Ether and Ethanol
We finally saw the story get into print this week when the Sylva Herald reported on contaminated drinking water at several homes near Highway 74 just east of Sylva. The homes are downhill from the site of a former gas station with above-ground storage tanks. (On the south side of the Highway 74. The old garage was torn down recently and replaced by hideously ugly new metal storage units and mini-warehouses.)

It’s troubling, of course, that the families consumed tainted water and that there’s no good solution for providing clean water to their homes. And the situation raises other questions.

I’ve looked back through records of the groundwater division of the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources and find incident # 8910 occurring July 24, 1992 at the former Hoyle’s Exxon on Highway 74. It was noted at the time that the owner was "…FINANCIALLY UNABLE TO ASSESS OR REMEDIATE THE SITE. THE CONTAMINATED WATER SUPPLY WELL HAS BEEN REPLACED."

The questions?

What sort of ongoing monitoring of groundwater is required after an incident like this?

What disclosures are required when the affected property and neighboring properties change hands after an incident like this?

And more importantly, were buyers of those properties in the past 15 years (if any) actually notified about the contamination of the groundwater that occurred in 1992? Did the sellers and realtors disclose that information or not?

Just wondering. That would be a hell of a thing to sweep under the rug.

Fine’s Not Fine with BMP
When I saw the heading on the email "Balsam Mountain Preserve Appeal Hearing Cancelled" I breathed a sigh of relief.

"Well," I thought, "those scoundrels finally took their medicine and paid up the $300,000 they owe us. That’s a wise move."

But once again, I gave the self-proclaimed mountain preservers too much credit. They haven’t paid up at all.

The body of the email revealed that Attorney General Roy Cooper wanted to usurp the county’s move to slap BMP on the wrist…and wanted the fine paid to the state rather than the county.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources has intervened to hold an administrative hearing and could send the case back to the county.

That's the explanation I've heard.

Some day Balsam Mountain Preserve might pay some fine in connection with the death of Scott’s Creek.

Or they might not.

Lady Bird and Franz
As I had anticipated, Lynn Hotaling at the Sylva Herald ran a nice story on Lady Bird Johnson’s visit to Jackson County of some 40 years ago. You may remember a photo used in last week’s rumination on Lady Bird’s passing. It showed a young school teacher administering a haircut while the First Lady looked on.

That young teacher was Franz Whitmire, who went on to be a principal and commissioner here in Jackson County.

The sad news and odd coincidence is that Mr. Whitmire died on July 11, 2007…the very same day as Lady Bird Johnson's death.

I Feel Like an Idiot
That was the headline for the Village of Penland article appearing in today’s Wall Street Journal. The story we’ve been following over at Penland Watch has finally hit the big time:

While a harpist played, real-estate developer Tony Porter talked up a plan he promised could bring big financial payoffs to the isolated community and anyone who invested in it. At the party and in subsequent sessions, Mr. Porter and others at his company, Peerless Real Estate Services Inc., described his vision for a 2,000-lot residential and retail development called the Village of Penland.

According to the article, Mr. Porter is at an undisclosed location in North Carolina, although I’ve heard that he’s skipped the country. Much, much more to report in the days ahead.

Tradio Revisited
Local radio station WRGC made it to the New York Times via the July 15, 2007 article by Dan Barry, A Community Swap Meet on Your AM Radio Station, "For 15 minutes every weekday afternoon in western North Carolina, people talk, listen and connect, all through a kind of radio-wave eBay called Tradio."

It probably IS the highlight of the local broadcast day, hearing Dennis talk about his kitty-cats and asking his callers if they can help him spell "chihuahua."

You can call in your stuff for sale (or wanted to buy) any afternoon from 12:45 to 1:00. Just be sure to turn down your radio, please.

Safe Cracker
This hasn't made headlines yet, but I hope some enterprising reporter will crack the case soon. A large safe has shown up near the old site of the Jackson County Courthouse in WEBSTER.

The contents of the safe have not been revealed yet, and at least one suspicious individual was observed trying (unsuccessfully) to move the safe from its current location. The lack of any serious investigation makes you wonder who's trying to hide what.

But ain't that always the way it is?

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