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From: klaatu 
Subject: Re: Depends which way the wind blows...
Date: 05 Nov 1999 00:00:00 GMT
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I don't know about anyone else, but I was extremely alarmed after reading the _Post_'s expose of dangerous conditions at the District's Blue Plains water chlorination center.

People don't pause to think about what chlorine does to people, one of the best reminders is an old poem, "Dulce et Decorum Est" by one Wilfred Owen, about a battlefield in France -- and ask yourself if you want to see this here, because the District government doesn't care about public safety:

Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep.  Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod.  All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.

GAS! GAS! Quick, boys! -- An ecstacy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And flound'ring like a man in fire or lime ...
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil's sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gurgling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues, --
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.
(Latin - "dulce est decorum est pro patria mori" == "it is sweet and fitting to die for one's country".)

In this poem, these men were soldiers at war, and most of them had the equipment to survive the german chlorine bombs.

According to the _Post_, chlorine releases at Blue Plains are rather common, yet lockers labelled for the use of emergency masks contain no such masks.

This addresses only the safety of those who knowingly place themselves at risk to ensure the safety of the District's water supply, and does not address the thousands of District residents, and residents right across the nearby Maryland border in Prince-George's County. They are right in the path of any major release.

The Federal government has publically stated that of course Washington DC is right in the cross-hairs of any terrorists wishing to do major damage. The Washington Post has, with this article, simultaneously pointed out grave public danger due to willful disregard of District officials to warnings repeatedly given that Blue Plains is an accident waiting to happen; and also the Post has pointed out exactly where any terrorist wishing to strike can most easily cause the greatest damage with the least effort... but who needs terrorists when you have District Government incompetence. There are, in fact, ways to generate chlorine _on demand_ instead of parking railroad tank cars full of poison right in the middle of a megalopolis that just happens to be the Nation's Capital.

Will someone soon be forced to re-write Owen's great poem, to castigate the concept of Home Rule in a city that can indeed keep the water safe, only at the risk of making the air toxic?

Think about it. We could see a recurrence of the 1994 August 15 incident where a pressure regulator snapped off of a nearly-empty tank car, hospitalizing four men _fishing in the middle of the Potomac River_. That's the way the wind was blowing on that day. But which way will the wind be blowing when DC incompetence, or a terrorist's shoulder-launched rocket, blows open a _full tank car_ of chlorine?

what will be the imagery in that poem, probably written by one of the scores of military EMT who will have to clean out the houses of the deceased who were minding their own business miles away, when suddenly they became only another one of the thousands who died drowning on dry land due to the fact that people in the District government cared more about their ability to ignore warning voices, than they cared about the lives of thousands of innocents.

                    "We look through a glass but darkly:
                 What we see is more colored by our beliefs, 
               than what we believe is colored by what we see."