toxic tacoma

Today I want to write about the cavalier attitudes of industry and their advocates.
Cavalier: showing a lack of proper concern; offhand.

I think that a lot of the folks who advocate for industry probably think that they are being responsible producers/distributors/refiners. How do they know?

I decided I wanted to look more closely at what kinds of industries are on the port. If you are like me, finding out what is going on down there can be very eye-opening. We took a drive down on the Thea Foss side a week or so ago. I grew very concerned about how much I don’t know about the activities on the port. I was disturbed when I remembered that none of these industries are reporting emissions in real time. Even more disturbing, knowing that there is no evaluation of emissions CUMULATIVELY on the port. Emissions are reported, by mathematical calculation, but there is no cumulative measurement taking account of what the overall impact is. I am sorry for being redundant about that – but it needs to be repeated until we come to terms with it and address it courageously and intelligently.

What we see as we drive by on Marine View Drive or 509 completely misses everything else that gets produced, refined, distributed and transported at the port. This morning I had the occasion to drive by the port on my way to a doctor’s appointment and was amazed at the amount of semi trucks lined up on the port properties. All sitting there, running, waiting to be loaded or off-loaded. Those emissions are also not being measured and this should be a great concern to everyone!  It represents the wicked problems we face. Our neighbors who work down there are exposed to these emissions and I know many of us are standing up with them in mind.

“Diesel engine exhaust also includes toxic unregulated pollutants, such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like benzene and formaldehyde and polycyclic aromatic hydro-carbons (PAHs) like benzo(a)pyrene. Unregulated pollutants also include ozone precursors and bioaccumulative and toxic compounds. Information pertaining to these emissions in diesel engine exhaust is much less complete than that for the regulated pollutants.”

We are told that the liquefied fracked gas is going to be so much better for the quality of air on the port. Yet no one is talking about what is going on with the diesel emissions from the trucks. Everyone is turning a blind eye to the emissions that we don’t know about because they aren’t being measured. And there is a fierce rush to expand fossil fuels, while ignoring the emissions that will take place from the plant as it sits.

Here are a few images of what lives on the Thea Foss side of the Port.

Thea Foss
Some of the industries on the Thea Foss side

I didn’t know that Solo Cup had a factory here. I also didn’t know that there was a mattress company or a flooring company down on the port.

Solo Cup
Near the Puyallup River. Mattress Makers closer to the Puyallup.

It is eye-opening to view the port from this viewpoint. I am now more aware of the different tank-farms.


There are businesses on the Port I had never heard of. A lot of the recent focus has been only a couple of industries. We need to remember that there are a plethora of industries located on the port, emitting any number of chemicals and toxins.

US Oil and Olin Chlor Alkali

Pacific Fluids is another company living on the port next to US Oil.

There is a purpose and reason for industry. Our modern lives are dependent on them. I am not opposed to industry, as long as industry is responsible. As long as they choose to not behave so cavalierly toward their responsibility to their neighbors, fellow citizens and the environment.

gypsum and superlon
Gypsum and Superlon

Some of these industries probably think that they are doing the right thing, complying with the laws, as they are written. I don’t know if they realize that we are missing the mark in our responsibilities to future generations, and to human and environmental health, because of the lack of a cumulative measurement of the impacts that industry is having on our air, land and water.

As we move closer to NE Tacoma, we find ourselves contemplating the effects of the folks we typically talk about. Schnitzer Steel, Targa, Superlon, Occidental Chemical and, of course, our Australian friends PSE. But it can be easy to forget the industries who are on the hill side, like JCI Jones Chemicals.


Here is what we normally find ourselves talking about when it comes to NE Tacoma.

hylebos macmillan paper

Here is a close up of the tide flat area right outside the terminals. This is what I stand up to protect. This is why I call out those who have a cavalier attitude about their responsibility to human and environmental health.


When we aren’t measuring the cumulative effects of emissions and waste, we are guilty of  showing a lack of proper concern, which is the definition of being cavalier.

We are beyond the tipping point for climate disaster. We must be responsible and not allow more out of control development. Now is the time for us to come together to solve the wicked problems we face. Instead of pretending that there isn’t a problem, let’s measure how bad things are and work on getting that cleaned up! It won’t be easy, but it’s the right thing to do! It won’t happen overnight, but every minute we put toward making better decisions as consumers/producers, is a minute added to the quality of life for future generations!


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