Monday, June 29, 2015

Yorktown (6/29/2015)

So going to work on the boat we got stuck at the railroad overpass by a train with tanker cars.  The railroad is owned by CSX and serves the heavy industry in York County.  With heavy industry I am referring to our power station and what used to be the refinery.  Both are and have been changing a lot lately.

The power station is owned by Dominion, and it is my understanding that it is partially coal and partially natural gas.  From what I understand, it is or used to be one of the most polluting power stations on the east coast, and we know that!  After a few days without rain we have a (not so) nice, thin, black dusty coating on our white boats, and the only thing that could possibly contribute to that would be the power plant.  Hopefully it is not the hexavalent chromium that was found by the EPA in the waste site.  I also hope that they’ll make good on their promise and discontinue using coal.  But then they are complaining that they cannot generate enough electricity for the Peninsula and have to construct a power line over the James River, in view of historic James Town, but more importantly Kings Mill a neighborhood with million dollar homes.  Dominion is threatening rolling blackouts if they don’t get what they want.  It seems somewhat childish, but of course we the common/middle class man will be the victim.

There is one nice thing about the power station: it is a great beacon for us sailors.  If we aim for the smokestacks we know we are on our way home.  That time we sailed across the Bay it was a very clear day and we was able to see the stacks all the way from the eastern shore.

The refinery has been closed for some time, and the current owners have been retooling it as an oil storage and shipment facility.  CSX is the major transporter of heavy crude from the wells in North Dakota to the Yorktown facility.  We have heard of two major accidents in the past year.  Both of them, the one in West Virginia and the one in Lynchburg, involved CSX trains that were on their way to our sleepy county on the York River and Chesapeake Bay.   This was somewhat concerning to some of us because we had discovered some issues with a stream crossing in our county.  Finally after all the accidents, CSX fixed the problem.  The photograph above shows the railroad crossing, one of the big storage tanks, and a train on its way out of the refinery.  I assume it was empty and on its way back to North Dakota to pick up another load.  The tanker cars looked new (no graffiti), so hopefully they are the double walled type, although I am not sure if that would be any help if you roll down a cliff in the mountains. 

No real message here today, but just a record of some of the things that we saw over the weekend.  It illustrates how this little county, that we live in, is connected to the world (remember my post on the Dolly Sods?).  This interconnectedness includes the electricity that is generated in the county and its influence on the construction of power lines elsewhere, or even as far as North Dakota and exploding railroad cars in West Virginia and Lynchburg.  We are amazingly interconnected in this world and it feels like things that affect us in York County may have nationwide or maybe global impacts.  The photo below illustrates that as well.  It was taken a few weeks ago and shows the visit of the Hermione from France.  In front of it is a small cruise ship; I wonder if it’s visit was planned or if the passengers had a treat that they’ll remember for the rest of their lives, and most likely they will remember Yorktown as well.

Photo taken June 7, 2015.

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