Sunday, September 28, 2008

Foster City: Landfill of the Free!

I recently visited Foster City; a 'planned' city, member to California's Bay Area, and built atop the bounty of San Francisco's refuse. Foster City (pictured to the right) floats upon the mountainous excretions of the 21st century; otherwise known as a landfill. In all fairness, I do not know if Foster City's under belly was necessarily authored by the waste bins of soley (if at all) San Franciscans. But it may be safe to assume that folks from the Bay Area more generally (and most generously) contributed to the foundations of this ironically affluent town.

A Case Fit for Brokovich?
I stumbled upon this rather alarming sign while biking around Foster City's picturesque lagoon:
This Area Contains Chemicals Known To The State of California To Cause Cancer and Birth Defects Or Other Reproductive Harm.
More Information on Specific Exposures Has Been Provided To Tenants And Is Available At

I am not stating that Foster City's 'trashy' reputation is connected to nor disconnected from the chemicals known to cause cancer and birth defects. I am surely suspicious, however.

Expert Advice?
I spoke with an environmental consultant from the Bay Area about the sign and what kind of threat such chemicals realistically posed to residents of Foster City. He suggested that it is unlikely that Foster City presents any chemical threat greater than what is present in other cities: burn-off from fossil fuels, chemicals used for cleaning, and other harmful and possibly carcinogenic substances used to manage urban life. He also suggested that such signs are simply more common in a state that is as progressive as California, as compared with other parts of America.

Despite the consultant's reassuring demeanor, I still opted to drink bottled water while in Foster City. Would you suggest that I was behaving ridiculously? Was I on the money or at least smart in the short-run?

*images have been captured by myself


Anonymous said...

:S be aware. be very aware!!

Air said...

A bit late to the party, but this page has google relevancy so might as well:

Foster City is not built on trash. The term "landfill" back in the 1960's actually implied the use of clay and stone to "fill in" either swampy or hilly land, to make it suitable for modern planned construction and roads. "Landfill" only became synonymous with garbage heaps some years later -- and this is because modern garbage heaps (since the mid-70's, roughly) now employ the use of landfill (clay and stone!) to help stabilize the trash pile. Amusingly, the common meaning of landfill thus changed from "clay and stone" to "heaps of refuse."

(for the record, most public parks around the bay are former garbage heaps -- landfilled garbage piles are suitable for parkland but still not suitable for construction).

Anyway, Foster City was not a garbage heap. It was dredged and levee'd marsh lands, used for salting and later milk cattle. The two operations had left the land so decimated that it was insuitable for almost any purpose, and the cost involved in destroying the levees to let the bay "reclaim" it was (at that time) not an especially vogue idea. So Foster & Co. filled it in and turned it into a modern suburban joy (or nightmare, depending).

Air said...

Oh, and I can explain the sign too: they're pretty much everywhere in California. Check out the prop65 pamphlet to see how worthless it is (url on the img you posted). Things that mandate the sign:

* use of most electrical components.
* use of most pest and weed poisons
* Second hand cigarette smoke (no joke)
* most furnishings and building/roofing materials.
* brass keys
* use of common spot and stain lifters
* swimming pools and hot tubs, or anything else with bromine in the water.
* use of gas-powered lawn mowers in residential areas.
* gas stoves, fireplaces, and barbecue grills.

... and I'm dead serious about every one of those.

As according to Prop65, any business employing 10 or more people and in posession of property that has one or more of the things listed above, must post the sign accordingly.

Hence, the sign is pretty much everywhere. Residential homes usually don't have it since they're not businesses, but the condos do (along with just about every other business in CA).

Most people who live here a while just end up ignoring the signs.