Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Spilled Oil, and Oil Spills

Me (Chris P) with my 1940 LaSalle in 1981. I was 13.

When I was a kid back in the 1970s, my dad and I used to buy and sell vintage cars. By vintage I mean cars like a '29 Studebaker, a '31 Willies-Knight, a 1940 LaSalle and numerous Cadillacs and other tanks from the '50s and '60s. We changed a lot of oil in those cars, and a occasionally some transmission fluid. Back then, there were no "recycling" places to bring the used oil. So it either went into the trash, or in most cases, it went into a hole in the ground next to a tree at the back of our yard.

I'd say we probably dumped about 250 quarts of 10W-40 into the ground over the span of about 20 years. Nobody cared back then. Even the hippies didn't think anything of it. It's just what you did...after all, oil came from the ground, so Mother Earth would find a way to reclaim it.

Sometime in the mid 1980s we got a notice that they were shutting down several of the community wells that served out neighborhood. It so happens that once the EPA got the authority to start testing the quality of the drinking water, they found extremely high levels of contaminants, including mercury and lead, in the underground stream from which we got our water. They weren't sure how the contaminants got there, but mainly blamed it on fact that New Jersey was basically a toxic waste dump for years. They also said that some of the contaminants probably came from motor oil and anitfreeze seeping into the ground over the years.

So we stopped dumping oil into the ground. We collected it up in the old oil bottles and dropped it off at a gas station that had started recycling it. We stopped letting antifreeze drain off into the ground, and made sure no more transmission fluid leaked down. I've been doing that for almost 20 years now.

Then BP went and dumped a couple of bizillion gallons into the water. Dammit.

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  1. Chris, since we lived so close as teenagers I would probably have to blame you if one of my kids was born with 3 eyes or 12 toes (which thank God did not happen!)

  2. It's a wonder we ALL didn't wind up with whacked-out body parts after living in that toxic waste dump they call Jersey!