Author Topic: Local lessons from the explosion in Beruit  (Read 2240 times)

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Tom Rubillo

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Local lessons from the explosion in Beruit
« on: August 05, 2020, 01:45:53 PM »
A few years ago I posted an "Open Letter" on this website about the Port of Georgetown.  It advocated incorporation of port property into the city limits of the City of Georgetown and detailed a bunch of reasons supporting the idea.  Those who are interested can still access it on this website.  It is now on he second or third page.  While on the first page there were over 7,000 "views" of it.  In any event, the basic idea underlying the annexation recommendation was to create some local control over the use of the property.  Annexed into the city, local officials could zone the property and restrict its future use, preventing, for example, storage of hazardous, toxic or explosive materials there.  As things stand now, neither the city nor the county have any control over how port property is used.

Around the time I assumed public responsibilities in 1990, my predecessor in office, H. E. "Tez" Bonnoitt told me about an event about the port that occurred while he was in office.  He had received a call from a citizen complaining that Highmarket Street had been closed off west of town by the police.  The caller demanded to know why.  Tez didn't know, so he called then Chief of Police Jim Elders (a retired Army MP officer) to ask why.  He was told that a shipment of arms and explosives was being transported through the city to the port so those arms could be shipped to Central America.  Putting two and two together (and, given both the timing of the event and the generally known fact that LTC Oliver North has a vacation home at a local beach and used to broadcast his radio program from Rod Stalvey's radio station while staying here), I have logically concluded that the arms shipment was to the Contras in Nicaragua.  A "break bulk" port and not a container port, ships routinely carried cargo to Central and South America (also "break bulk" ports and not container ports) during the years that the Port of Georgetown was active.  It was easy to identify which types of ports the ships were servicing.  "Break bulk" ships have their own cranes on deck and separate cargo "holds" below decks.  Container ships do not, but are just big, open hulls.

My point is this.  More than 75 people were killed by a giant blast in the city of Beriut -- a seaport -- yesterday.  Thousands more were injured, many quite seriously.  Local hospitals were reportedly so overwhelmed by casualties that they had to turn some of the injured away.  Only those with serious, life threatening injuries were taken care of by medical staff.  The selection process is called "triage."  Reports coming in now are suggesting that the huge explosion was caused by highly explosive materials being stored (for years they say) by the local ports authority at their facility inside the city limits.  Port officials are now reportedly under house arrest pending a further investigation of this tragedy.

The residents of the City of Georgetown and the surrounding communities deserve to have some say in how local port property is used.  They need assurance that absentee officials whose homes, businesses and lives are not at risk do not have the final say-so about the use of port property.  Instead, those at risk -- local residents and business operators -- should.  That's one of the very important results that annexation of the property into the city limits would have.  Local zoning laws could restrict uses to non-hazardous ones.  Local building and fire codes could serve as the basis for periodic inspections to ensure that everything was okay.  Right now everybody just has to take the word of port officials and rely on their word that there's nothing to worry about, just like the residents of Beriut had to do.  Are you really willing to continue to do that?

Read the "Open Letter" again.  Lean on local elected officials about it.  You life and those of your loved ones may be at stake.  Learn from history.  For as Mark Twain famously said, history may not repeat itself, but at times it rhymes. 

Tom Rubillo

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Re: Local lessons from the explosion in Beruit
« Reply #1 on: August 05, 2020, 07:29:16 PM »
Much more important than the fate of Ron Charlton's County Council seat, so I'm moving it back to the top of the list.

Marty Tennant

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Re: Local lessons from the explosion in Beruit
« Reply #2 on: August 06, 2020, 09:05:27 AM »
What a story. Iran-Contra, Rod Stalvey, Oliver North and Beirut all together in one thread.

Thanks Tom.

Notice:  All posts made by me are my OPINION.  I am not responsible for any comments by others!  The Citizens' Report is provided as a public service to the citizens of Georgetown County for them to report and comment on the news.

thewizard

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Re: Local lessons from the explosion in Beruit
« Reply #3 on: August 06, 2020, 09:10:11 AM »
Mr Rubillo I think you are right that the port is more important than Ron Charlatan's sour grapes over being beat in a election. But for other reasons than you stated. The port has to be under state control to keep the local corrupt leadership from screwing it up. A good example as you remember was when Jack Scovile tried to put a oil refinery at our port. Can you imagine the potential polution a oil refinery could cause to our city? And Jack was just trying to put money in him and his buddies pockets. A more timely thought about your port point is why has the local press not driven down to the airport industrial park to report on the nitrite storage facility near the fireworks plant? Yep we have a fireworks plant located near a ferterlizer facility at the airport. Just like the explosion in the middle east this week we could have the same thing here in Georgetown. But we cannot count on the Georgetown Times to report that news can we?

Tom Rubillo

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Re: Local lessons from the explosion in Beruit
« Reply #4 on: August 06, 2020, 11:56:34 AM »
Holy crap, Wizard.  What you are reporting is an enormous story worthy of being widely carried by the national news media.  Fertilizer next to a fireworks warehouse near an airport used by rich people as a base for their private planes and where aviation fuel is stored!!!  That's a disaster waiting for a smoldering Havana cigar tossed carelessly aside by some fat cat on the way to his McMansion in a nearby gated community.  (Forgive the hyperbole, but I couldn't resist the impulse.).   Which local TV news channel has the "Investigative I Team"?  It's your scoop, so you call or text them.  If you don't want to, respond by a post on this website or my e-mail at Thrubillo@gmail.com and I'll tip them off.        On the issue of annexation, it would not put local elected officials in charge of anything except enactment of ordinances limiting use and prohibiting storage of dangerous materials.   All it would do is enable the city council to put restrictions on use in place and the building and fire officials authority to enter the premises, inspect and find violations.  It would then be up to the city attorney to drag violators into court for abatement, injunctions, fines and related enforcement.  Right now, to the extent that there is local control over the airport industrial park, I think that's up to the county government, not the city.  It is (or at least was so far as I know, the county's responsibility.  It was when I was with the city.)  I haven't checked the county's zoning ordinance yet, but I'm putting in a call to Boyd Johnson with the county to let him know what you've posted about fireworks and fertilizer at the airport industrial park.  Boyd knows the county's zoning ordinance like the back of his hand.  I worked with him when we were both at city hall.  He is an intelligent and decent guy.    I'll post what I learn here.

Tom Rubillo

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Re: Local lessons from the explosion in Beruit
« Reply #5 on: August 06, 2020, 02:44:31 PM »
I have been able to confirm that there is a fireworks facility at the county's industrial park at the airport.  I still am uncertain about the fertilizer, but have no reason to doubt what Wizard reports. 

In further response to Wizard's post, there were two separate attempts to build an oil refinery in Georgetown that I'm familiar with.  The first was in the early 1980s.  Those proposing it first wanted to locate it at Easterville Plantation, but the late Dr. Lumpkin told them to take a hike.  He owned that very beautiful stretch of bay front property and was devoted to its preservation.  The company then changed sites, proposing to locate it on the Maryville side of the Sampit River directly across from IP's mill.  To be able to do that they had to run a pipeline from the Ports Authority's property under the river and the old Sampit River bridge to their proposed refinery.  To do that they needed the permission of the Army Corps of Engineers.  Led by the late Jimmy Chandler and his Environmental Law Project and SC House member Linwood Altman, great resistance was placed on the Corps.  The area Commanding General, a guy named Gay, refused to grant the permit, classifying the Winyah Bay Estuary as an "important national treasure" because it is one of the very few salt marsh estuaries in the world that remained unspoiled at the time.  (Ironically, as this was occurring, IP was dumping large amounts of dioxin into the Sampit which was contaminating the bay.  That all came to light a little later.  That's a whole separate and very interesting chapter in Georgetown's relatively recent history that awaits another day to be told.) 

The second time the proposal to put a "refinery" in the heart of town came about 10 years or so later.  By that point Jack Scoville had been appointed to the Ports Authority board by the Governor who brought legalized gambling and joker-poker to South Carolina (both later banned by the state Supreme Court).   The Governor's name escapes me right now.  In any event, that proposal, as I recall it, was to use Port Authority property for an operation that boiled down crude oil to make tar.  For anyone who has been around refineries in Northern New Jersey, Philadelphia and elsewhere, these places are god awful.  They not only smell bad, but they generate a thick and tar laden haze that covers the entire area.  Emissions from these sorts of places make the combined output of the paper mill and the steel mill at their historical absolute worst seem like a walk in the woods.     Anyway, once again, if memory serves, the combined efforts of the late Jimmy Chandler and his Environmental Law Project and Rep. Linwood Altman killed this proposal.  Jimmy was ready to sue until the cows came home.  Rep. Altman used his very considerable influence and credibility to stop things before they got out of hand.

The reason for telling this part of the story is to clarify a little bit of what Wizard said in the preceding posting..  He is correct that Jack Scoville was involved in and advocated in favor of a proposal to put a "refinery" to boil down crude oil to make tar on the Port Authority's property in the middle of the City of Georgetown.  Fortunately that hair-brained scheme was unsuccessful.  But it is incorrect to suggest that he was acting as a local official representing either the City of Georgetown or the County of Georgetown.  At that point he was a representative of the SC Ports Authority, the very group of absentee landlords that presently neglect the appearance of the property that we must now all also rely on to look out to protect local residents from danger.  (How'd that sort of thing work out in Lebanon?)   As memory serves me, the opposition to the tar making did not originate in Columbia or Charleston.  It came from the Georgetown community -- from city residents, some city council members, and the then sitting State Representative and local environmentalists.  In short, there were local voices raised and heard, not those of outsiders.

I understand Wizard's concern about "corruption."  Georgetown certainly has its history of it.  One need look no further than the decades long continued operation of the infamous Sunset Lodge for evidence.  It was both patronized and protected by Georgetown's most prominent white citizens and elected officials--local, state and national-- during its entire lifetime.  But times are changing.  Local control doesn't have to mean control by the corrupt.  People like Wizard and many, many others who live in this community are there to keep a watchful eye on things.  There's no place like Sunset Lodge where dirty little secrets are made and kept and "understandings" to not speak up against keepers of secrets (mostly elected officials, some with the power of arrest and prosecution) come about with a wink and a smile.  Its not a pimpocracy any longer.  It is a democracy, sort of as Ben Franklin famously said "as long as you can keep it."

If for no other reason than the failed proposal for the tar refinery on Ports Authority property that was put on the table by the Port's Authority's Board of Directors, I, for one, wouldn't trust those absentee landlords to not try to do something stupid again.  That's why I propose local control.  Annexation is the most effective way to do that.  While my earlier detailed "Open Letter" on the subject was more tactful in its tone, the real reason behind the proposal is simply this:  We can all keep a much closer eye on everything if decisions about the use of property in the heart of the city are being made locally rather than the smoked filled Boardrooms in Columbia and Charleston.  (Another irresistible Cuban cigar reference.)

I await Wizard's response about making a call to the newsroom of TV stations in Charleston and Myrtle Beach to express concern.  A little more detail would be helpful if I were to do that.  Specifically, I'd like Wizard to tell me the name of the place on any sign on the building where (1) fertilizer and (2) fireworks are stored or directions to exactly where those places are located so I can give them to the news editors.  They can do the rest, I'm sure. 

This is a useful website, not for gossip and carping about people and politicians, but for sharing facts and information.  Factual reporting is important.  Gossip, name calling, ruminating old gripes and the like are, to be candid, quite boring and a little childish.  We're all adults here.  Let's act like it.   

Marty Tennant

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Re: Local lessons from the explosion in Beruit
« Reply #6 on: August 06, 2020, 03:57:18 PM »
PIMPOCRACY!  HOW APT!!!
Notice:  All posts made by me are my OPINION.  I am not responsible for any comments by others!  The Citizens' Report is provided as a public service to the citizens of Georgetown County for them to report and comment on the news.

Tom Rubillo

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Re: Local lessons from the explosion in Beruit
« Reply #7 on: August 07, 2020, 01:37:04 PM »
Yep, Marty, a Pimpocracy thanks to Sunset Lodge, the place where the dirty little secrets of wealthy, elected and/or connected white men were made and, with a wink and a nod, kept (or not) from their wives at the discretion of the sheriff.  This form of government derives its unjust powers from the indiscretions of the governed -- something of a government of pimps, by hookers, for johns, all held together by a Sicilian super glue   called omerta. 

PBSIAT

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Re: Local lessons from the explosion in Beruit
« Reply #8 on: August 07, 2020, 04:34:19 PM »
Not sure if the wizard is talking about the fertilizer stored across the street from the fireworks plant on the airport property or the big piles of fertilizer at the building up the street. Either way I don't think either one is like the explosion in Beruit. But it is a good catch either way. You sure don't read that in the local rag. Maybe GAB can go down with his camera and show the sites?

thewizard

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Re: Local lessons from the explosion in Beruit
« Reply #9 on: August 07, 2020, 07:18:18 PM »
Mr Rubbilo Iím not sure if you were serious or not. Jack Scovile was the county attorney when he was on the port board. So he may not have been officially representing the city or county but he sure as hell was a local official and should have looked out for us instead of trying to line his and his buddies pockets with oil profits. And yes there are multiple nitrate storage locations near the fireworks factory. And no I will not be wasting any of my time contacting the media. A couple of us in Maryville pointed this out years ago when the places were allowed there. But no one cares.

Tom Rubillo

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Re: Local lessons from the explosion in Beruit
« Reply #10 on: August 07, 2020, 08:46:05 PM »
Wizard.  As you may already be aware, I'm not a fan of Jack Scoville.  I wasn't defending him.  I was pointing out who had control over the property at the time, namely the Ports Authority.  They still have the same.  There was no local control back then and there is none now.  While Scoville and the other members of what was sometimes referred to back then as the "Screven Street Mob" may have placed their own interests ahead of their public responsibilities, times are somewhat different now.  Brendon Barber is the mayor.  Dr. Yudice is the City Administrator.  The rosters of the City Council and County Council have changed.  There is a new Chairman of the County Council.  The County has a new Executive hired from outside.  The people holding the reins of responsibility are different.  What that all means is there is an opportunity to restore a reasonably honest democracy (republic, really) in Georgetown if area residents step up to the plate and participate.  In a free society, politics -- and, in particular, local politics -- is not controlled by spectators.  And it is a contact sport like football, not a gentile game of shuffleboard.  Outcomes are determined by how well each side plays.  If one side doesn't take the field, it forfeist the game to the other.  If one side is timid, it loses to the more aggressive side.  If one team is weak, it loses. 

I've confirmed the existence of the fireworks facility by speaking with a local official.  Based on that and your assurances that fertilizer is stored nearby, I'll call the newsroom and speak to reporters or editors of some of the local media outlets (but not that second rate Chamber of Commerce propaganda rag, the Georgetown Times) and suggest that they look into the whole affair.  We'll see what, if anything, comes from it all.  Meanwhile, Mr. Wizard, I suggest that you give some thought to stepping up to the plate and run for office yourself.  You are clearly interested in public affairs.  You don't like corruption, self-dealing or malfeasance.  Those are traits of character that are needed in everyone or anyone vested with public responsibilities.  It is, after all, the responsibilities of public office that are important, not the individual egos of those who happen to occupy public office.  They ain't important people.  It is the job that's important.  Besides, in a democracy (republic really) we all end up with the sort of government that we, the voters, deserve.  Like you, I think we deserve a whole lot better that what our predecessors suffered through during the days of Georgetown's pimpocracy.     

solo

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Re: Local lessons from the explosion in Beruit
« Reply #11 on: August 07, 2020, 11:28:59 PM »
Well.  Ya'll do know that they produce PURE OXYGEN right beside the furnaces at the Steel Mill.  That could light things up nicely.

Tom Rubillo

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Re: Local lessons from the explosion in Beruit
« Reply #12 on: August 09, 2020, 11:27:33 AM »
E-mails about Wizard's report of fertilizer stored at the industrial park sent to GAB News, Channel 2 and Channel 15.  We'll see what they check into, do or say, if anything.