I can state my contention with Craig Marxsen's comments about dealing with leaking underground fuel tanks with a simple analogy (OGJ, Aug. 9, 1999, p. 21). Suppose my neighbor dumped a bucket of waste oil onto my lawn. I would tell him that I didn't appreciate it and that I expected him to clean up the mess. If my neighbor shared Dr. Marxsen's viewpoint, he might say, "Well, the best thing to do now is just leave it and let it passively bioremediate. Now if you'll excuse me I have more oil to change."
Then there is Dr. Marxsen's contention that groundwater contaminated by storage tanks "is almost always shallow groundwater that was originally not recommended for use due to susceptibility to contamination from sewers, septic fields, etc." I compare that to telling my mother, when I was fifteen, that there was really no point in cleaning up my room because it was just going to get dirty again anyway.
This attitude extends to many environmental challenges: large marine oil spills, cleaning of oiled birds, treatment of sewage, global warming. I've seen sound scientific studies indicating that a laissez-faire approach to each of these problems may be acceptable. Ethically, I have a problem with that. If we make a mess, we should put our efforts into cleaning it up, not into justifying why it's perfectly okay to leave it there. Our attempts, bumbling though they may be early on, are what drive the technology forward to the point where we can understand and effectively deal with these important challenges.
Adam La Rusic
North Vancouver, B.C.