Industrial Zone

Breathing in the chemicals (Aaaaaaah!)

Breathing in the chemicals (Aaaaaaah!)

picture dayIt’s the start of my weekend, perhaps your humpday… but whatever Wednesday is to you, it’s definitely time for another photo or two carefully removed from the thin, crappy protective covers in The Nest’s torn and tattered Picture Day album of shitty photography.

Let’s take a look at my hometown today.  If you’re imagining some Rockwellian scenes of classic Americana or the mundane, sterile repetitiveness of suburbia right now…. well, your eyes and your nose are going to be in for a big surprise…

I'll bet this would make for some fine skiing in the winter...

I’ll bet this would make for some fine skiing in the winter…

That is the local coke plant, about a mile from where I grew up and maybe two miles from where I sit and type this post today.  No, they don’t make pop soda there… coke is a fuel made from coal and is used to power blast furnaces for the steel industry that is Granite City’s chief industry (At least when the plants haven’t laid everyone off).  You have not lived until you’ve seen the sky light up bright orange in the middle of the night when a red hot load of slag has been dumped.  This, the constant tremors from all of that machinery, and the steel flake snow showers that are common year-round and turn everything outside glittery are some of the things I grew up with… and having lived my entire life here, can’t possibly imagine anything else being the norm.

No thanks, I don't really want to know what toxic, doomsday material is kept in that tank.

No thanks, I don’t really want to know what toxic, doomsday material is kept in that tank.

If the gritty, sooty coke and steel industry doesn’t quite grab you, then let me introduce you to my longtime neighbor Air Products, a chemical plant that specializes in turning those ordinary gases we enjoy breathing in our atmosphere into drinkable liquids at temperatures just shy of absolute zero.  I lived directly across the street from this oversized laboratory for 31 years, and even having been in my new neighborhood for seven years now, it still seems strange to look out my window and not see big white smoking towers and huge tanks storing God-only-knows what.  Nothing will quite top the Saturday morning I came home from work in 2007 and found the building that is just out of the right frame of this photo on fire…. with no firefighting crew or anyone on the scene yet.  It’s the first and hopefully last time in my life I was ever part of an evacuation!

Everyone please place your heads firmly between your legs and kiss your asses goodbye!

Everyone please place your heads firmly between your legs and kiss your asses goodbye!

Thankfully, the fire was contained and nothing blew to kingdom come as we’d long feared would eventually happen.  And of course since this incident made the news, all of the spokespeople for the company said there was never any danger, and that they don’t manufacture anything explosive…



Well, since I’m still alive and here to tell about it, I guess I’ll spin another photo-inspired story next Wednesday….


About evilsquirrel13

Bored former 30-something who has nothing better to do with his life than draw cartoon squirrels.
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24 Responses to Industrial Zone

  1. and I thought I live in a special area with a nuke in a nature reserve… if you ever need to run, we have a guest bed…

    • LOL, it might turn you into a superhero on day! We have a lot of nuclear reactors here in Illinois, but none in my immediate area that I’m aware of. Of course, if one of them melted down, I’d probably become aware of it anyway….

  2. I live where Eastman Kodak used to make film for cameras. Sadly, no more. Everything is digital now. Growing up, Rochester smelled like chemicals and plastic ALL the time.

    • We have a very distinct smell here as well that visitors will immediately notice, but I’d have to leave town for a while to be able to “appreciate.” I’m not sure if it’s better or worse than the constant gas refinery smell that plagues the towns 10 miles to the north of me. Pick your kind of preferred air pollution, and we probably have it near where I live!

  3. franhunne4u says:

    Somehow I feel very smug with Germany and its ecology-laws!

  4. That first photograph is amazing. I know we’re supposed to shudder at the pollution levels but my first thought was about the perfection of that shot…then I got to the suddders over what they’re doing to us in the name of energy.

    At 50, I’m only just taking an interest in conservation and the social impact of industry. It seems to be more in-your-face these days, until recently it was easier to turn a blind eye…or I was just preoccupied with some other aspect of life.

    • The first photo was just a teaser that I’d found for use in an old post that I reused here… but it’s not unlike what a shot of the skyline would look like around here. You’d have to drive far away from here to not be able to see a billowing smoke tower…

  5. Trisha says:

    It sounds like teenagers in your town don’t need to sniff markers or huff stuff out of cans to feel a little funky – they just need to take a deep breath!

    The toxic cloud of fabric softener and the occasional wafting of manure from the valley below are the only things in the air here. Well, aside from all the car exhaust.

    • Rest assured that our noxious air has never kept the thrill seeking youth from seeking out the more traditional methods of getting high… including huffing freon out of air conditioners, which freaked me out when I first heard about it when someone tried to take off with my unit once.

  6. In the town I grew up in (Steel City of the West), we also had a steel mill with coke furnaces belching chemicals in the air. Homes living nearby never had to fertilize their yards, the grass was eerily green all the time. Makes you wonder just what all was in that atmosphere?! And we wonder why asthma is so prevalent? Hmmm…

    • We might have had that lush green grass as well if most of our yards weren’t also contaminated with lead from an early 20th century industry that they only began to clean up after in the 90’s. If you ever wonder why I seem to be a little off, this post probably sheds some light on that!

  7. ody & biskit…….we hope ta cod yur dadz never ina evac again either…. ♥♥♥

  8. Touching and SO very American. That’s what this valley looked like 100 years ago, but dirtier. All that has to happen to get it back to a pastoral paradise is for all your industry to leave for some other part of the world. Then, you can clean up the water, air, the trees come back and you can learn to farm. See? Life can get better 🙂

    • If it ever came back to farming to survive, I’d become the fertilizer before long. We’re one of those towns that would dry up like a sponge in the sun without the industry. The steel industry must be pretty good right now given how our sales at Mecca have largely been up this year, though that could always change in a heartbeat…

  9. Quirky Girl says:

    Wow. It sounds so…picturesque! 😛

  10. draliman says:

    Looks idyllic 🙂
    I love how every Wednesday you rub in the fact that it’s your weekend…

  11. Ladybuggz says:

    And ” The Trump” doesn’t believe in global warming and wants to make more pollution! I say Yay!!! ( I’m being sarcastic in case you didn’t notice) !
    Anything around here smells like smoke and it makes front page news!!( we’re not even allowed to burn anything in our yards!! and all wood stoves have to be certified!)! Glad your OK and you live till at least 78!! lol…T.

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