Ecological Compromises

FTLComm - Tisdale - Wednesday, July 24, 2002
To preface this discussion it needs to be said, that although absolutes, issues that are either black or white, right or wrong, would be much easier to deal with, the reality is that few such situations present themselves. Instead, we are almost always faced with a set of circumstances that make it necessary to compromise.

Tisdale's water supply comes from a set of wells South of town that go down into an underground aquifer Since those wells were drilled the water level in the aquifer has only dropped two feet suggesting that with normal usage, Tisdale should be all right for water despite the amazing drought we are now experiencing.

However, the town uses some common sense and realising that with just over two inches of rain in this calendar year, we need to watch our water supply very closely.

With many new houses in town with automatic night sprinkler systems it is hard to impose a ban, or even rationing, so to conserve water, the town has reduced the pressure in the system. By lowering the pressure they have automatically reduced consumption.

Just as a matter of common sense, when you drive around Tisdale you will see that people have been very sensible about watering their lawns and gardens this year. The recent rains have made the grass green, not irrigation. Most lawns are about the same colour as those open grassed areas around town and the gardens in the town are like ours, abysmal.

The question I asked is who is the town's largest user of water and it turns out to be the two large food stores, Beeland Co-op and Extra Foods. This is puzzling for these are not industrial operations, why would they be large users of water?

Perched on the top of each building are their refrigeration cooling systems and with the amount of coolers each store has, there is a huge need to bleed off the heat that their refrigeration systems remove from the coolers. To keep cost down a compromise has to be made. Large electric consumption is needed to cool down the refrigerant, but by using water electrical costs can be cut by one third.

What this means is that these two stores use tap water to cool down the refrigerant, the water is run through their system, absorbs some of the heat and is dumped into the sewer system. This means that treated water is in essence, wasted, since it is less expensive than electricity. It is shocking to think that water intended to providing us with drinking water, water to wash ourselves and our clothing, is being used once, to reduce the temperature of the liquids used in the food store's cooling systems.

This is my fine KDS monitor. It was manufactured in February of 1997 and produced a wonderful images since then. This monitor was used to compose most of the pages on this web site. Two mornings ago when I came to work the little green light on the front of it was out and it would not awake from its sleep.

Of course it is no longer covered by warrantee and up until the moment it quit working it was producing a perfect picture. The failure is in its power supply or its little circuit board. With freight I can repair it for $125 and the glass and phosphors can go on working. But a new monitor with a full warrantee is not that much more money. The decision is to buy a new monitor.

The reason that Tisdale is a thriving community with all of its stores, recreation and services is because over a hundred people make valuable and durable goods here. Products that are exported all over this country and to distant parts of United States. Northern Steel Industries is not dependent on rain or good crops, but on its good designs, high skilled workers and its ability to make a product that is economical and ecologically better than its competitors.

Today CJVR carried a news story that a complaint has been brought to town council about noise pollution and blowing sand from Northern Steel's production facilities.

Running almost around the clock and right through every other weekend, North Steel has to go all out to meet the demand of its customers. Though you see a field of finished product on its lot, the company has almost no inventory whatever as it and its workers do their best to get products out the door because what you see is already sold and awaiting shipment.

As was stated at the beginning the need to bend a little is just part of making things work. That smoke in the background from Tisdale Dehydration can be very annoying, but without that smoke, dozens of folks would not have jobs.

We all have to understand the trade offs between what is financially sustainable and ecologically appropriate have to be made.

  • Using tap water as a one use coolant needs to be thought through. If a more expensive means of cooling were used, wouldn't that cost be passed right on to us when we buy our groceries?

  • Deciding not to repair an electrical appliance that only has minor damage is just plain wasteful and a threat to the environment

  • Avoiding sandblasting and making a noise while building tanks would mean that more than a hundred pay cheques would not be cashed in this town.

Ultimately everything must come down to health and safety issues. Any one of these situations could be moved from the acceptable column to the unacceptable column when the danger or costs outweigh the benefits. In general, ecological sound practices almost always cost less than doing what is cheap and expedient, but that is in the long run. In almost every case it is environmentally more appropriate to repair than replace for the society as a whole, I should foot the bill and repair the old monitor.

The Co-op and Westfair should be looking at their technology and seeking a better less environmentally wasteful cooling system.

But when it comes to Northern Steel, they are living well within environmental conditions appropriate for their manufacturing process. Their sound production is actually less than the Dehydration plant almost a mile away. Perhaps it would be wise for them to look at their sand problem and they might discover that it could save them money to recycle that sand rather than the present one use system.

Timothy W. Shire