With so much hoopla going on right now surrounding Geocaching’s 10th Anniversary events and Geowoodstock VIII, it is easy to forget the April is also CITO month. The 8th Annual “Cache In Trash Out Events” are scheduled for April 24th & 25th, which is the first weekend following Earth Day.
When I first learned about geocaching one of the things that galvanized it in my being was the fact that “Cache In Trash Out” was part of it’s philosophy. This year will be the first year since I started geocaching that I will not be working on a CITO weekend. I’m really looking forward to being able to attend my first CITO event. Along the Cache In Trash Out lines, a couple of news stories have recently caught my eye and raised my concerns about geocacher saftey during CITO events this year.
The first one was a story in the “Tacoma News Tribune” by John Dodge entitled Beach cleanup April 17 – watch for bad pesticide canisters. Expended 1-liter aluminum canisters containing Aluminum Phosphide, a fumigant used on ships to kill insects and pests in the cargo holds, are washing ashore along the Washington coastline. So far, all of the canisters found have had the the caps on. When a cap is removed and the contents exposed to air, the result is Toxic Phosphide Gas. The gas has a strong garlic odor. I’m not sure which bothers me more: the fact that closed canisters are arriving on shore, or that, open ones, may be sunk just offshore. Either way, anyone doing cleanup along the coast should know about the dangers involved. Make sure to read the news article “here” for information on what to do if you find one of these canisters and who to contact when you do.The second story and the one that really got me thinking about geocachers saftey during CITO events is this one: With Cars as Meth Labs, Evidence Litters Roads by Susan Saulny published April 14, in the New York Times. The story is about “Trash Labs”, as they are coming to be called, in Elkhart County, Indiana. But these rolling methamphetamine labs are everywhere. And so is the toxic trash they create.
The latest and increasingly popular way to make meth requires little space, common household ingredients, a few plastic water or soda bottles, some tubing, duct tape and just a few tablets of pseudoephedrine found in cold and allergy medications. Everything fits nicely into a little cooler to make them easily transportable, usually riding around in the car with the user. These little mobil labs can make about 8 grams of meth in a shot. Not a lot, but enough to make this method of “cooking” viable for the meth user. When the process is complete, the toxic chemical waste product leftovers are simply wrapped in a plastic bag and tossed out the car window. More often than not landing on a roadside near you and me.
These little mobile labs can also easily be set up on public lands and in large woodland parks. The toxic waste products are just left to contaminate the soil and groundwater and become a serious danger to animal and human alike. If and when they are found, a Hazmat team must be called to “clean” the site.
The “trash labs” trash, blends in well with the “normal” carelessly discarded items and it is easy to mistake a soda bottle full of toxic chemicals for old discarded bottles of soda. The difference is the the explosion factor.
In Saulny’s NY Times article, Paul G. Matyas, the undersherriff in Kalamazoo County, Michigan states: “Well, that’s not pop. You pick it up, and it could explode. Acid could spill and burn you. At one of the sites about a week ago, we found a dead deer, and I know exactly what happened.”
So make sure you know what it is that you are picking up this CITO season. If you are unsure what you are looking at, err on the side of caution. If you find anything suspicious, please contact your local authorities to have the items removed and disposed of properly. We don’t want to see anyone get hurt and at the same time, we want to make sure that soda bottles full of toxic chemicals don’t accidentaly end up in the recycling or trash bins.
It’s hard to believe that 40 years have passed since my first Earth Day. I was 5 at the time and my kindergarten teacher made sure it was a memorable event for all of us. (Thank you for that Ms. Jenkins!) I remember to this day being so excited to think that I, as a child, could help make the world a better place! It was my first CITO really, even though it was just picking up liter around the school campus, I felt like I was part of something bigger that was happening in the world for the very first time. I’ve never lost that feeling. It changed me.
Now 40 years later, I am still part of something bigger. Only the number of bigger things has changed; Earth Day, Geocaching and CITO. From 1970 to 2010 I can see that the world is indeed a much cleaner and healthier place. We have gotten smarter about our envirnoment and our impact on it. And while I am still picking up other peoples trash 40 years later, some of it much more dangerous than the gum wrappers from you childhood days, I can see a difference. So I’ll keep going. Doing what I can, where I can, and as smartly as I can this CITO season. At the end of the day I’ll feel good about what was accomplished and my part in it. I hope you will too.
Note: If you have any other warning or information on things to watch for during cleanups, please post in here in the comments section. Thanks~
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