Franklin County welcomes ash

July 04, 2002|by TIM ROWLAND

This has to be one of the most heartwarming stories of the year. It seems that in 1986, 14,000 tons of ash generated by a Philadelphia incinerator left Pennsylvania on a ship called the Khian Sea, along with the professor and Mary Ann, for a three-hour tour.

It was to be dumped in the Caribbean, but when environmentalists warned that the ash might contain some nasty toxins, foreign countries began turning the Khian Sea away at their ports.

The ship went from island to island, and was greeted with the same response. Ixnay on the ashtray.

The Khian Sea became such a persona non grata that the captain did what any rational, right-minded individual intent on doing the honorable thing would do: He changed the name of the ship.

The Associated Press didn't say what he changed the name too, but presumable it was something like the "U.S.S. Allsafe" or the "H.M.S. No Dangerous Cargo On This Vessel So Just Relax."


It's like Philip Morris, which felt as if its cigarette peddling name stirred negative vibes, so it announced last November it was changing its name to the "Altria Group." Personally, as an MO shareholder, I thought they didn't go far enough. I would have named it the "Long and Healthy Life Corp." but maybe that's just my dividends talking.

So anyhoo, the captain steamed the newly christened S.S. Happyload to Haiti, where he told the local government it was "fertilizer" and dumped part of it on a beach, where the Associated Press stated "it sat in the hot sun for years."

I get the cap'n's thinking on this. Like, this is HAITI, who's gonna notice? Or care? A little toxic waste might even be an improvement.

But he still had half a hold left, so he sailed off in the S.S. Nutriheap, where the story says "he was ordered to dump the remaining ash into the Atlantic and Indian oceans while journeying to Singapore and then to Yugoslavia."

Again, the thought being, maybe, that the Indian Ocean would soon be so radioactive that a little toxic ash would be the least of their worries.

Meanwhile though, officials in Haiti were wising up. Some bureaucrat must have said "Heeeeeyy, this isn't Miracle-Gro," and the government hatched a plan with the U.S. government and Waste Management Inc. (raise your hand if you hadn't already figured out that Waste Management would work its way into the story somehow) to haul the stuff back to the states.

But landfill doors in Florida, Georgia and Louisiana slammed in their faces. I know what you're thinking: Why didn't they try Alabama? Well they didn't is all I know. I guess they figured if they couldn't fool Port-au-Prince they couldn't fool Montgomery, but I'm not so sure about that.

But by this time you know who did take it: Good old Franklin County. Seeing as how it came from Philly, I suppose they felt it was sort of a family tradition.

Sort of a regional tradition, really. Washington County treats everyone else's industrial waste, and we saw what happened in Berkeley County - Bret Michael Edmunds, a transient wanted for questioning in the case of a Salt Lake City kidnapping, washed up at City Hospital in Martinsburg.

If I were City Hospital, I would use him in an ad - sort of a testimonial.

"Hi, I'm Mike Edmunds. And when I'm the subject of a nationwide manhunt and need to be treated for an undisclosed illness, I choose City Hospital in Martinsburg, W.Va. But bring your Visa card 'cause they'll take suspicious drifters, but they don't take American Express. Or the Khian Sea."

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