‘Light work,’ Joel thought of the man, should a physical confrontation between himself and the man occur.

While he may not have been surprised by Fiera’s knowledge of him, he didn’t like not knowing anything about her. For instance, why was she there, exactly. The others, her male ‘escort’ aside, were all persons whom he had met before, and were, mostly, public figures tied to City government. They all had vested interest in the proceedings bound to commence in a few moments, for they were either tied to the purse strings that would be able to make his plans workable, or they were the ones who would have to explain to the Big Government why they weren’t able to implement some sort of plan to bring them into compliance with ever tightening regulations.

But this woman, Fiera… An X factor, and not simply because of the scantiness of her dress and the overwhelming reek of latent coetus-to-come that she sprayed about the room and sucked the men toward her like a vacuum. As far as he was concerned, she didn’t belong there, for she served no apparent purpose that he could think of—at least nothing related to the business at hand.

He’d have to keep an eye on her. She liked that, winking at him across the room when she caught him keeping an eye on her.

The managing director brought the meeting to order and quickly summarized the reason for it, then asked for all persons to introduce themselves and their affiliations, explain their reason for being there.

Joel patiently noted the persons as they spoke, some being brief, and others detailing everything about themselves in a long drawn out litany obviously concocted to impress those others in attendance. Joel already knew most, so he saved most of his attention for the woman and her escort.

Then, it was her turn, and he perked up. She was still looking at him as she spoke.

"Good morning, ladies and gentleman. I am Fiera Coles, lead scientist of the Ancient Powers Association for Global Equilibrium, APAGE, based out of Sundry, Arizona. For those of you who do not know of us, we are an organization which focuses on the use of nascent technology to improve environmental conditions in a more holistic sense, rather than focusing on individual issues related to environmental quality."

She smiled at Joel, who, stone faced, jotted down the information. There’s be a business card swap at the conclusion and he wanted to make sure he got one from her so that he could research her company. He was well-versed in the field—some would call him an expert—yet he had never heard of them before.

Then it was the man’s turn. "Good morning. I am Gale Brees, Founder, President and CEO of APAGE, also the resident theoretical climatologist and progenitor of the holistic theory upon which our organization resolves environmental stresses."

He, too, directed his gaze, and if he didn’t know better, his salutation toward Joel. Joel understood now why they were here. They were the competition, or at the very least, would recommend an alternate plan.

A few more people introduced themselves, then it was Joel’s turn.

"Good morning. I am Joel Goldstein, Environmental Scientist and acting CEO of the RRR Environmental Consultants. Many of you know me from past exercises here in Philadelphia and I am looking forward to working with you all on this exercise at hand."

Joel preferred to refer to any situation for which his company was hired as ‘exercises.’ Something he picked up from his mentor.

With all the introductions out of the way, the floor was given to Joel. Of course, Joel didn’t actually have to move or take the floor, as the technology would do all the hard work for him

"As you are all aware, the city of Philadelphia and all major metropolitan areas with sewage conveyance systems will be required to reduce fugitive emissions from those structures approximately fifty percent in five years, seventy-five percent in ten years, and ninety percent in fifteen years. That is a very daunting task considering the age and complexity of the sewage conveyance systems that exist in this City.

"The city contains approximate sixty-five hundred linear miles of conveyance structure—or pipe—ranging in size from ten inch diameter to twenty-three feet in diameter. These structures are subdivided into three classes of structures based upon the types of material that they convey. The first is referred to as ‘sanitary’ sewage conveyance. Sanitary sewage is basically any waste that comes from the use of potable water, be it from a residential use of the water, a commercial use of the water or an industrial use of the water. The second is storm water conveyance. Storm water is water that results from atmospheric precipitation, be it rain or snow melt. The third is combined sanitary and storm water conveyance. Combined storm and sanitary water is exactly what it sounds like. Storm water commingles with sanitary wastewater in the sewage conveyance system.

"Major differences exist in the fate of the storm water only and sanitary only waste streams. Storm water only conveyance is discharged in an untreated fashion directly into a receiving stream, a receiving stream being a river, or creek, or lake. In sanitary only conveyance, the waste is transported to a full scale wastewater treatment facility. Typically, water from these systems is never released into the environment untreated. Exceptions do occur, however, and I will discuss those later. In the combined waste conveyance systems, there is a significant chance that the untreated sanitary sewage/storm water mixture will be discharged to the environment during significant rain events, and the probably depends on the rain event and on the particular system being discussed. Not all sewers can handle the same volume of rain water, as some sewers have diminished capacity as a result of larger numbers of residences, commercial facilities or industries discharging into them.
He paused and looked around the room. Most were looking at their monitors, on which everything Joel described was laid out in plain, layman’s terms. Politicians weren’t scientists and they weren’t engineers, and were mostly only interested in knowing enough not to look foolish.

"Any questions?"

He looked at the woman, and she shook her head with a smile. Her boss, whom Joel looked to next, sat stone-faced, and almost seemed offended that Joel should ask such a question while looking in his direction.

"To get to the meat of the matter, our proposal is to meet the most stringent of the requirements, ninety percent reduction, in five years. To achieve this, we will need to construct a vapor recovery system in parallel with key stretches along the sanitary and combined systems. The vapor recovered through the system can then be handled in one of several ways, depending upon the needs at the time, and or cost associated factors. For instance, the vapor can be treated by numerous methods, including scrubbing, absorption or biological treatment. The vapor can be condensed for reclamation, with the potential to be used for fuel, depending on certain conditions. The construction of the recovery system will be a capital project, with an estimated cost of 6.5 billion dollars."

Someone whistled.

The managing director’s attention was secured! "Billion. With a ‘b?’"

Cliché? With a ‘C?’

Instead, Joel said: "Yes, sir."

A few of the persons exchanged looks, some leaned toward each other to exchange verbal opinions.

Fiera Coles smiled as she saw her opening, and her boss gave her the nod.

"Of course, Doctor Goldstein’s proposal is sound based upon the engineering concepts he’s using, and the pricetag is probably just for construction. It doesn’t include maintenance, treatment costs, and myriad other factors that will no doubt cause the overall cost to double or even triple. Conservatively.

"We at APAGE have assessed the compliance situation from our holistic approach, which is to prevent the formation of the emissions from the start. By doing this, you will obviate the need for mechanical means of emissions control as well as the need for capital level projects. Quite simply, our method of preventing the formation of the individual components that we are required to control will be an initial outlay of no more than 10 million dollars, with an ‘m.’ Annualized costs for maintenance with be no more than $200,000 dollars per annum, in perpetuity, plus inflation and dollar devaluation adjustments."

Even Joel’s eyes, ballooned with surprise. Indeed, his skepticism was paramount, but when he looked at the smug, self-approving gloat that was the faces of Fiera and Gale, he suspected—feared—that they could do what they had proposed. And if they could, it would be a revolution the likes of which he could never have dreamed.

While the politicians murmured among themselves, Joel was compelled to find out more about the ‘nascent technology’ that they could use to achieve this feat at a cost that was orders of magnitude less than what his people had determined, and what was considered by many to be state of the art technology. That it could be rendered obsolete already, was stunning. If it were to be.

"That is a very impressive assertion, Ms. Cole," he said. "By what means do you hope to achieve the prevention of the formation of those vapors we need to control?"

"Naturally, Dr. Goldstein, the technology is proprietary, but it is a multistaged biological treatment."

"Microbial, no doubt."

"In part. And all the microbes that are used have been approved for biological remediation by the EPA and the FDA. They are not harmful to the environment, to the plants, animals and microbes that pre-exist in the environment, including people. It’s 100 percent safe technology.

"To elaborate further: the sewers will be seeded with our holistic remedy, and the biological systems will exist in the sewers, in the benthic slime that accumulates naturally in such systems. Our remedy will simply enhance the benthic slime, destroying those bacteria that create sulfurous compounds from reducing to atmospheric contaminants. The thin level coating in the humid headspace walls will have their own microbial fauna to react with the air in the headspace to destroy any of the target vapors that may form or be discharged into the sewer, and then there will be a fauna in the water column itself, to further act to consume materials that may act to form those things we wish to control. And all of these agents we will use are 100 percent safe, as I stated before."


Unto the Living Earth © 2007 Walter R. Milton