How I Feel
The police leave a burden of questions and concerns I hadn’t imagined I would have when I woke up today. Before I breach the subject, however, Remy breaks the silence, “Did you know they store plutonium waste in kitty litter?”
Not knowing what to say, I blink, “Rem, the police think you killed Daryl and left him in a ditch! I had all I could do, not to fall apart when they told us! I feel like I’m having a fucking heart attack!”
“They’re bozos, they don’t know what they’re doing if they’re coming here.” Visibly containing himself, he continues, “Seriously Steph, they store nuclear waste 2000 feet below the surface in drums of kitty litter!” Manically swiping pages on his phone, he adds, “A couple of years ago they used the wrong kind of litter, and a drum exploded, blowing waste containing plutonium through the WIPP ventilation system to the surface. That happened here in New Mexico. Seventeen workers were exposed to radioactive material. That’s how they deal with nuclear waste. Is that fucked up or what?”
Frozen in place, I don’t know how or what to reply. Actually, his question is rhetorical. “Remy, are you listening to me? A man is dead and you’re suspect! Maybe the prime suspect!”
Rising out of his chair he kisses me on the forehead, “We have bigger fish to fry.”
Dumbfounded I sit down as he walks back upstairs. Looking out the window, the doves are gone, the feeder is empty and so am I. Soter places his paw on my thigh. “Hey buddy,” he turns his beautiful face sideways in an attempt to communicate and I understand his reality entirely.
My vibrating phone, a welcome distraction, draws my attention; Hey your website’s down, FYI. Jessica from Colorado texts me.
“Great.” Soter and I amble back upstairs led by a roar of Remy rehearsing for his next lecture. How can he turn situations on and off so quickly? I walk past his door, our realities are becoming irretrievably different, his voice interrupts my concern, “How can anyone think adding radioactive isotopes to a regularly ingestible product so they can track it seed to sale is within conscionable mandate for regulation? It’s time to start asking ourselves, not why but who? Who is behind these absurd regulations and how do we terminate their interference or at the very least unify for containment?”
Closing my door, pretending everything’s ok, the word terminate, echoes in my head. Where was Remy last night? Going anywhere but down that road, I type in our web address that registers a redirect message from Gomommy;
This site has been removed.
This can’t be good. Dialing the 800 number as fast as my fingers can move, I wait for the inevitable. Since we’ve been hacked before, I prepare myself for the worse. A young friendly man answers the phone, he’s perfectly polite and concerned as he places me on hold. Eighteen minutes later, he’s back on the line, “Mrs. Beroe, thank you for holding. I can’t see your website or your account. Do you mind if I place you on hold again?
“No, go ahead.”
The rumble of Remy’s voice like a harbor bell infiltrates, “Class 7 materials, when transported are tracked by satellite but have less regulations than cannabis in most legal states!” How is it that we can transport more radioactive material required to annihilate an entire metropolis with less oversight and safety than a couple of pounds of pot?”
Kitty litter? That’s just absurd. Quickly looking online thousands of articles appear instantly as a contrite pre-recorded infomercial interrupts and begins looping in my earbud. The first article I click on is an E-magazine from a week ago;
The WIPP (Waste Isolation Pilot Plant), outside of Carlsbad New Mexico received its first shipment of TRU (Transuranic) radioactive waste for permanent storage in 1999. According to the Department of Energy, the definition of transuranic waste consists of manmade, low-grade radioactive elements that are a by-product of the commission of nuclear weaponry or from reprocessing spent fuel cells. But that definition has been altered through the years, allowing storage of low, intermediate, and high-level radioactive material to be stored in rivers, oceans, and above ground tanks.
The original intent for the facility was to store the nuclear waste for ten thousand years in one of the world’s largest salt mines contained in giant low- ceilinged storage rooms 2500 feet below the surface since salt has a natural ability to absorb radiation, these mines would eventually collapse, entombing the waste for all eternity. Causing yet another issue, how to ensure our descendants understand the danger of the materials. If this isn’t macabre enough, there is a plan to create repulsive monuments of warnings in a variety of languages, pictographs, and imagery, including Edvard munch’s painting The Scream, to caution descendants of mankind 10,000 years from now to not dig, disturb or god forbid, trespass.
With a staggering 171,000 containers of waste (enough to fill a football field 56 times), the site is scheduled to receive an additional 250,000 drums. It’s inconceivable until you consider that uranium fuel cells are used up every eighteen months; spent rods are moved to deep pools of circulating water on reactor sites to cool down for ten years before they’re considered safe enough for transportation but, they remain dangerously radioactive for at least 10,000 years. Since nuclear power plants run almost all the time, the industry generates a total of about 2,300 metric tons of spent fuel per year and only this one facility in New Mexico functions as permanent storage.
Habistram Industries the sole federal contractor for waste transportation and storage has proposed an application for permanent high-level radioactive materials located within the same Permian Basin –in South Eastern New Mexico, just 35 miles from the Carlsbad WIPP facility. Nuclear watchdogs and former EPA research scientists warn that storing a concentration of the most dangerous substances on the planet, is not a solution to our federal nuclear waste issue. The casks presently used for storage and transport are tested for safety, but they never contain radioactive material at the time of testing and are based on simulations and theory. Numerous close calls to date have not been publicly discussed.
Plutonium, americium, neptunium, or other transuranic waste is packed in kitty litter within metal casks. In 2014 an explosion occurred when engineers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory were preparing a drum with kitty litter and decided to substitute an organic material for a mineral one. The new material caused a complex chemical reaction that blew the lid off a drum stored at the WIPP site, sending mounds of white, radioactive foam into the air and contaminating thirty-five percent of the underground area. The dump’s filtration system failed. No workers were in the shafts at the time but, workers on the surface were exposed to low doses of radiation. Habistram Industries will receive $640 million additional funds for the drum incident cleanup alone.
The tragic explosion of a transport tanker last month in Phoenix sheds a whole new light on a contaminated public. Due to the blast radius, anyone within thirty- miles at the time of the explosion has been exposed to dangerous levels of radiation. Safety questions are being realized when you consider the following: transport packages as they’re called are highly flammable, and will easily ignite by heat, sparks or flames.
In this case, the exterior casing of the metal transport container was penetrated by the explosion, toxic vapors from the waste caused explosive mixtures with the air, creating continual enormous, uncontrollable flashbacks. These vapors spread along the ground, collecting in low confined areas like sewers and residential basements, causing more explosions and direct contaminations. Runoff water and containment foam also leaked into the sewers and may continue to create a series of radioactive explosions that may not be immediate, causing large areas to be permanently evacuated. This particular container reached a heat beyond 3500 degrees Fahrenheit, melting not only the solid metal casing but the ground and rocks in the immediate vicinity. First responders unaware of the contents of the package, were affected directly by liquids released from the package that are lighter than water, that mixed with the fire, producing corrosive, toxic gas that caused dizziness, suffocation, and death upon contact. Because all equipment used when handling class 7 materials must be grounded, it took hours to cover the affected area with dry earth before they could even walk near the site, prolonging exposure to the surrounding areas and public. Regulators are now seeing why any type of large storage facility of concentrated radioactive matter is cause for great concern. The cost for this tragic event will cost the taxpayers trillions and an estimate death toll in the thousands.
Holy shit!
“Thank you, Mrs. Beroe,” the cool even voice interrupts the horror before me, “I don’t know why but, it seems your site has been taken down by the oversight department, and they’ve removed your account history.”
Ok. “What does that mean exactly?”
“I don’t know, I’ve never seen this before.”
I have. Shaking off the article, waiting for a supervisor; I unplug my headset pacing. Habistram. Kitty litter. Terrorists. I fully understand Remy’s frustration with cannabis over-regulation now but I also see another unsettling connection; the nuclear industry is a group of fat cats, and I know one of them. The fucking bastard!
Interrupted by a human muttering in my ear, his voice thin and pointed he begins, “This is Mr. Rinaldo, I am the Chief Intendant for Word Pressed oversight. Mrs. Beroe, we can no longer host your site. You, sell marijuana.” He states like I should be shocked.
“No, we don’t.”
“I see pages and pages of coffee and tea products that contain cannabis on your website.”
“Yes, we have an informative website about products that we license to manufacturers and distributors. But we DON’T actually sell them.”
No response.
“Please look at our shopping cart, the only products we sell are t-shirts, cups, and hats; branded merchandise.” Out of breath now, I’m clinging to control. We need our website. We’ve spent thousands of dollars getting it to this point.
“Yes, well your t-shirts and hats have marijuana leaves on them.”
“Yes, it’s our policy.”
“What policy would that be? It’s not against the law to sell products with marijuana leaves on them. You’ve been hosting our website for over a decade. You host thousands of websites that are ancillary.”
“An what? They’re what?”
Jesus Christ! “Ancillary! We service the cannabis industry. We don’t sell or grow or touch the product! You know what, just forward me to your supervisor!”
“I will escalate this. Would you hold a moment?”
Do I have a fucking choice? “Sure.” Captive in the window of my office, once again wondering why we’re always bending over backward? We’re not hurting anyone. We’re not selling weapons of mass destruction. We’re not selling products that question the safety of our community, we’re trying to heal people for Christ’s sake!
“Mrs. Beroe thank you for holding, I’m Mr. Hunks” his slow Texas accent careens through the Atmos, “Mr. Rinaldo filled me in on your situation.”
“Yes. He told me your site sells marijuana products.”
Are you kidding me? “Just hold on a moment? We DON’T sell marijuana! We don’t own a store. We don’t sell it online! Look at my site! There are no links to purchase our drink products! Just information about the products. All of our links take you to a phone number or email to contact someone within that state to purchase it legally! It tells you how you can purchase the products!” A flash of movement out of the corner of my eye, confirms Remy leaning in my doorway, his arms crossed.
“You have products that have marijuana leaves on them.”
“Yes, we do!”
“Is it against the law to sell products with marijuana leaves on them?”
More silence.
“Look I can send you contracts that prove we don’t handle or sell anything with marijuana in it. But there are no laws restricting information about, or printed materials with cannabis leaves on them. That would be an amendment issue. Are you challenging my right to freedom of expression?”
“No mam. I think I understand now.”
“Good, because I can paint you a crystal-clear picture if you don’t.” I look over to Remy wide-eyed.
“I’m going to override the suspension. Your website will be back up and fully functional within seventy-two hours.”
“Thank you.”
“Is there anything else I can help you with today?”
“No, thanks.” You’ve done enough.
Without a response, Remy turns around and heads back into his office. Laying across the yoga ball I use as a desk chair on my tummy, I exhale, out with the bad, in with the good. This is it, the glamorous life of cannabis in a fucking nutshell!
Righting myself, I’m well aware I have till day’s end to proof all the new packaging for our CBD line of products, that should have gone to print two months ago. Having gone from two products that we initially launched to test the market, to eleven; I have my work cut out for me. Our layout guy has been a real doll, with the FDA and USDA now becoming involved in CBD manufacturing, compliance verbiage has been a real rollercoaster. The last two and a half months have been a barrage of changes for him and it’s not over yet.
I want this off my plate before we leave for California and Arizona tomorrow, who knows what will happen out there. Not only that but, we’ve been sitting on these blend start-up costs for six months, we need to turn these products into income as our operating funds are growing thin until our next round of reorders, of which we have no control over the timing. Almost feeling like we’re moving forward at least in one direction, I attempt to invigorate a sense of accomplishment; glad to be moving near the end of this one burgeoning task. As if on cue, my phone rings, Francoise our CBD partner, defying niceties rattles off, “Stephanie, we have some problems.” His deep, French laced accent purrs in my ear but my heart sinks, “Francoise, what’s up?”
“You know we’re all waiting for the FDA to release the regulations for CBD products they’ve been promising for the last year? Well while that’s happening the manufacturer of Epidiolet patented isolate.”
“Yes, I know.”
“That means, that although the CBD industry has been using isolate as an infusion powder for products for decades, the FDA will now look at isolate as a pharmaceutical drug since they granted a patent for a drug product made with it.”
“And, my people that are sitting in at the highest levels on this, are telling me the FDA will mandate only patients with prescriptions from a doctor will be able to purchase products with isolate.”
“So, because this company patented a product using a method that the entire industry uses, now no one can use isolate?”
“Not if they want to sell to the public. New York, Massachusetts, Washington state, and Florida have already banned any ingestible with isolate preemptively.” He pauses, “You have to change your infusion process.” The finite eloquence of his statement is absolutely annoying.
“We just spent the last six months modifying and testing isolate!”
“I know but, look at it this way, all of the distributors we’ve lined up for big-box sales would have dumped your products or returned them. At least we didn’t release a product that no one wants.”
I feel better already. “Anything else?”
As I hang up, Remy returns. “What was that all about?”
“Francoise said we can’t use isolate for infusion.”
“Yeah, I figured that would happen, once Epidiolet was given the patent.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
“You know how things are, one step forward two steps back, it was just something in the back of my head.”
“So, what do we do with the thousands of grams of isolate we purchased for this initial launch?” I ask, knowing full well, all our money is tied up in this. We literally can’t buy anything else.
“We sell it to someone that doesn’t know, for a discount.”
“You did not just say that.”
“Steph, this is business. Besides, it can still be used in the medical field – I’ll find a buyer.” With that, he turns around and heads back across the stairs landing to his office with a click of his door.
Mantling the yoga ball, Remy would never have suggested that six months ago. Confused and still frightened from that article, I search to see how far away Carlsbad New Mexico is from us, Jesus, it’s less than three hundred miles. With a real feeling of doom, I open the proofs of the CBD packaging files, copying them to a bullet list of things to change for our layout guy, and try not to notice the file name is labeled version thirty-two.
An email from Remy slides across my screen, We’ll use broad-spectrum distillate for the CBD product infusion.
Within seconds I receive a second email from Danielle, I have attached the lab results and Certificates of analysis for the broad spectrum you will be using for the infusion of CBD products. Please be sure to upload these to the master QR code folder for each product.
Yes mam! Anything you say! Questioning whether I’m being kept in the loop or out of it, I’m now distracted by a text from Galax, Need to talk to you in person. Urgent.
A second email from Danielle arrives, our train itinerary for tomorrow; I notice we leave at one in the afternoon, so I text Galax back, I’m a little booked today, can you come here?
Her response is rapid and short as I insert my earbuds, No. It’s best if you come here.
Looking at the time on my computer screen, it’s two o’clock, I can be there a little after five.
Three hours later my legs are stiff as Remy returns, carrying a platter and a pot of tea with two cups. Setting everything down on the kidney-shaped cocktail table in my office, he takes a seat on the couch without a word. My stomach deceivingly draws me to him but my brows and forehead pucker in solidarity. The baby blue platter before me is an array of white-water crackers with slices of cheese and chunks of canned salmon stacked on top, they look like a smattering of islands lost at sea.
“I thought you might be hungry.”
I say nothing, placing the napkin he stashed in his back pocket on my lap.
“Danielle ran an errand. Is there anything she can help you with today?”
Again nothing.
“Ok. I’m not going to talk to you until you lower your eyebrows.”
I laugh, caught off guard.
“What’s goin on Steph?”
“Where do you want me to start?”
His beautiful face in profile to the window behind him is silent and troubled as he noticeably grasps for something in the room to hold onto. For a moment, I think he’s going to get up and leave but then he looks at me with gathered resolve, “You need to trust me.”
Excerpt from Class 7 a cannabis chronicle thriller by JA St Thomas
Projected release 2022