Whitman County Gazette - Serving Whitman County since 1877

Letters: June 27, 2019


June 27, 2019

Pretty good overview

Skepticism underlies all critical thinking, especially in science. Frank Watson’s May 30 column on climate change illustrates this well.

He begins by observing, “Winters…are not as severe as they were when I was a kid.” Then he adds, “I believe the published scientific data are true and accurate,” evidence that supports his subjective observation. Yet he’s still cautious. Though he respects “expert opinions,” he also observes, “I have known expert scientists to be wrong.” He cites several examples of how the “we-used-to-think-but-now-we-know…” syndrome permeates scientific thought.

Haven’t we all known experts to be wrong? A favorite adage of mine states, “The results of good science often show yesterday’s good science wasn’t quite so good after all.” Watson makes his point: Although climate has been changing forever, experts agree “this time it is different. Man has changed the face of the Earth.”

I can relate to his descriptions of plastic waste, polluted streams, and the darker clouds over Beijing. When I lived there, westerly March winds regularly carried dust from the Gobi Desert through the city, over the Pacific, and sometimes even past Seattle to the western foothills of the Rockies.

But his main point is critical. While questioning the relationship between fossil fuels and a warming planet, experts notwithstanding, he admits: “I don’t know.” Not knowing, and admitting it, is the first step toward knowing.

Watson’s conclusion is classic critical thinking: “There are too many unanswered questions, but I think it is best if we err on the side of safety and do what we can to reduce carbon emissions.” If experts are wrong about climate change, “we would do no real harm” by reducing emissions.

But if they are right, he concludes, “and we do nothing, the consequences will be dire.” That comment, in my view, is an understatement.

In any case, I would invite Col. Watson, or anyone else, to check out local initiatives that deal with climate change. One such group, and there are others, is the Palouse Chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby (CCL). CCL operates internationally to encourage bipartisan legislation in Congress and supports similar appropriate efforts at other governmental levels, specifically to reduce carbon emissions.

We can learn more at https://citizensclimatelobby.org/. The Palouse website is at http://cclpalouse.org/.

Pete Haug,



The history of humanity seems to be a chronology of using waterways for sewers. Let's break the cycle and maybe make a bit of money while doing it.

According to the World Health Organization, in the last decade, traces of pharmaceuticals, typically at levels in the nano-grams to low micro grams per liter range, have been reported in the water cycle, including surface waters, wastewater, groundwater and, to a lesser extent, drinking water. Modern day wastewater contains nicotine, caffeine, and metabolic by-products of statins, opiates, meth, cocaine, and any number of new and upcoming drugs.

This begs the question of how to convert our wastewater to clean water in a cost-effective way.

How about doing bio-remediation on the discharge? Specifically having bio-remediation marshlands at the output of treatment plants?

What if we were to install cattail marshes? Or hemp marshes?

Thirty-five acres of cattails could treat five million gallons of secondary sewage and get arsenic down to something like 0.05 mg/l, which is clean water. Also, it's capable of removing estrogenic chemicals as well as nutrients and even heavy metals from discharge water.

I don't think a cattail marsh would be very costly (just shallow clay lined troughs). Organizations like the Water Keepers might even be willing to provide funding for an area demonstration project to show the area/state what clean looks like.

Effective June 1, 2018, state requires all local government subdivisions of the state, to the extent determined practicable by the rules adopted by the Department of Commerce, to fuel publicly owned vessels, vehicles, and construction equipment with the help of biofuels or electricity.

Blume Distillation LLC would like to use the biomass from municipal bio-remediation marshlands to make alcohol for fuel. They've been at this for over 30 years.

Tom Harvey of Blume told me David Blume helped design the first bio-remediation marshland treatment plant in Humboldt, Calif., over 30 years ago.

Since then there have been more than 500 of this type of plant built in the US and Blume's book, "Alcohol Can Be A Gas," provides significant detail into the use and practicality of those systems.

They consult with municipalities around the world regarding energy, food, and clean water production and their biorefinery systems play an integral role in making solutions work. They design systems that will use the marsh crop input to produce alcohol-based end products as well as process co-products that include, but are not limited to, commercial grade CO2, methane, hi-nutrient livestock feed, organic soil amendments and distilled "clean water."

With the recent EPA approval of the sale of E15 gasoline year round, the demand for alcohol is going to skyrocket.

It should also be possible to extract cellulose from the cattails (or hemp). So, apart from alcohol production, it may be possible to sell the cattails grown in a waste-water remediate marsh to someone like Columbia Pulp to be used in paper production.

If the cellulose is saleable, then the cattails could be harvested and turned into a revenue stream for the city.

Chuck Petras,



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