How a suburb of San Francisco used cottage cheese to un-poison poisoned land

Read the full story at Slate.

In 2004, Emeryville, an industrial suburb of San Francisco, sent an environmental remediation crew to inject 15,000 gallons of cottage cheese into groundwater below an abandoned factory. The factory manufactured car bumpers from 1951 to 1967, and the hexavalent chromium it left behind had since traveled into the groundwater. Hexavalent chromium gives humans cancer, trivalent chromium doesn’t, and cottage cheese converts the former to the latter.

Emeryville’s city manager of several decades tells me the cottage cheese story with obvious delight. I’m asking how Emeryville went from an industrial wasteland in 1975 to the tidy business suburb it is today. His answer is that cleaning up a century’s worth of toxic waste is not straightforward, and that the process of environmental remediation can be strange and labyrinthine. So strange that in certain moments and from certain angles, like a team spraying cottage cheese into the ground in 2004, the science looks like it’s descending into witchcraft.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.