Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Memo to Ma Nature: Don't touch that handle!

Every now and then I encounter a sign above a commode.


"Remember to flush"


I hope Mother Nature ignores this reminder.


Here's the story.


The Cargill Company has reopened a gigantic salt mine beneath Lake Erie.


The salt mine was closed about two weeks ago when scientists noticed ceilings sagging in the monstrous caverns excavated below the shallowest of the Great Lakes.


And now, they are "pretty sure" everything is okay.


So the mine has reopened.


I'm uncomfortable.


You see, the Cargill salt mine has been retrieving sodium chloride in massive amounts for over 100 years.


That's a long time.


So long that beneath Lake Erie is a huge underground city that continues to grow as additional salt is removed.


Eighteen hundred feet below ground, this mysterious saline Atlantis is hauntingly without life. 


Nothing, not even rats, can survive in this environment where nothing grows.


It features gargantuan spaces the size of several football fields over twenty feet in height.


Pillars of salt are strategically placed to support those high ceilings.


That's what worries me so much.


I'm worried because above the ceilings are layers of rock.


And just above that rock is our own Lake Erie.


So I'm sort of… terrified.


Water always finds the lowest point.


Doesn't it seem dicey to be using explosives to create the world's largest dance ballroom underneath one of the world's largest bodies of fresh water?


God forbid if this salt mining causes the rock layer above to be compromised.


How are you going to stop the lake from emptying into the mine once a leak begins?


By the way, there is a precedent for that sort of thing.


A few years ago, Lake Peigneur in Louisiana began draining into a  salt mine underneath its floor.


Huge Freighters were sucked into the whirlpool created by this bizarre disaster.


The striking video of the Lake Peigneur incident looks like floating toys being flushed down a toilet.


The behemoth mine beneath Lake Erie is much larger than the one in Louisiana.


How'd you like to be aboard the Goodtime II as you and your fellow passengers start swirling round and round?


In 2011, some wiseacre published an Internet alert describing Erie's collapse into the salt mine.


The writer predicted a completely empty lakebed by 2012.


Fortunately, this alert was only an April fool's joke.


But if you've been following this story of the temporary closing of the Cargill mine, there's enough to make you nervous.


Imagine the  Western Reserve without our great blue lady Erie.


Our teetering local economy would be decimated.


Bill Kappel, a hydrogeologist with United States Geological Survey, reviewed the Cargill mine situation and urged constant vigilance.


Then he gave a warning.


"Realize every time you make a void in the earth, Mother Nature doesn't like it."


I don't like it either.


Mother Nature, I've posted a sign for you.


"Please remember not to flush"


At least, wait until I'm on dry land.


Salt, anyone?

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