Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Societies can be sunk by the weight of buried ugliness.

Soil compression is an interesting thing. When you have a piece of property, full of rotting debris and loosely packed materials, you might just want to accumulate a very large pile of dirt to help compact the soil. That is exactly what is going on at the new administration site.

Under that very large pile of dirt is what remains of an active landfill from the 60s and 70s and all of the debris that was shoved into that hole when they built Interstate 5. Sure, to the casual observer it may just look like dirt, but the weight of all that soil will compress the dirt in the vicinity and possibly discourage future subsidence.

The correct (and rather expensive) approach would be to excavate the area and export the debris. But if you did that and hit the inevitable patch of contaminated materials, you would have to pack up your crew and roll out a team of environmental consultants. A flurry of monitoring and significant delays in construction would lead to additional cost to the project - and further evidence of poor decisions by district management.

So the "solution" selected by our public servants is to bury the problem with the power of compressed dirt. It sounds like the same approach they take in dealing with disgruntled staff - bury them under a pile of waste and hope the intense pressure silences them forever.

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