Municipal Composting, Ecological Inventory, Chlorine Cancer Risk, and other News Bits

A municipal composting program in Fergus Falls, MN, an ecological inventory of coastal areas by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and research on a possible chlorine cancer risk were among the news bits the magazine reported on early in 1981.

| January/February 1981

067 Municipal Composting - Fotolia - imageegami

Fergus Falls, MN implemented a municipal composting program in which they collected yard waste from residents every fall and allowed residents to collect the resulting mulch every spring.


MUNICIPAL COMPOSTING: Each autumn the residents of Fergus Falls, Minnesota (population 18,800) are encouraged to rake up their leaves and deposit them alongside their curbs, where a city-owned vacuum picks the foliage up. The town then places all of the tree sheddings on city property, in one gigantic compost pile. In the spring, townspeople stop by and reclaim their fall gleanings in the form of ready-to-use garden compost.

ECOLOGICAL INVENTORY: Help for environmental groups and other organizations concerned about burgeoning development and energy projects in ecologically delicate coastal zones, is available in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's "Atlantic Coast Ecological Inventory." A similar comprehensive survey—and series of fish and wildlife species maps—is being compiled for the Pacific Coast. 

CHLORINE CANCER RISK? The U.S. Council on Environmental Quality has issued a study stating that chlorine—which is added to municipal water supplies to kill bacteria—may cause lower gastrointestinal cancer in humans. The chlorine reacts with organic substances in water to form compounds called trihalomethanes, one of which—chloroform—has been shown to be a carcinogen in research with laboratory animals.

LOGS, CHINKING, AND PCP: Residents of several log homes in Kentucky have been found to have elevated levels of the chemical pentachlorophenol (a substance suspected of being harmful to the reproductive systems of some animals) in their blood and urinary systems. The Center for Disease Control said that the timbers used in construction of the houses were dipped in a 50% solution of PCP to control sap stains on the wood.

STERILIZATION LAWSUIT: Five female employees of American Cyanamid in Willow Island, West Virginia—who were sterilized to conform to a company policy requiring women working in the now-defunct lead pigment section of the plant to present proof of nonfertility—have been transferred to other departments, with loss of seniority and reduced pay. The women, who would not have had to be sterilized to work in their new jobs, are being represented by the ACLU in a suit against the company.

GOOD NEWS (AT LAST!) ABOUT PCB'S has been released by Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. Goodyear scientists claim to have found a quick, inexpensive way to convert polychlorinated biphenyls (toxic carcinogens) into harmless sludge. The company plans to share the process—at no charge—with others. It's thought that the method may also be useful in detoxifying hazardous materials chemically related to PCB's, such as DDT and other insecticides and herbicides.

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