Monday, January 30, 2012

The Drone Surveillance Agents of the Amateur E.P.A.

"And the third angel poured out his vial on the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood." - Revelation 16:4

In Dallas, an amateur drone hobbyist, flying his homemade surveillance rig around the skies of Oak Cliff, recently noticed something strange about the hue of Cedar Creek, which flows into the Trinity River just upstream of the city's showcase new kayaking park.

The amateur surveillance agent submitted his photographic evidence to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, which discovered an underground pipe from a nearby pork slaughterhouse that was sloughing volumes of pig blood and other slaughterhouse wastes directly into the stream. The slaughterhouse now faces serious criminal charges while the residents of the Trinity River watershed cope with their nausea (the Trinity watershed doesn't merely encompass greater Dallas; it also empties into Galveston Bay on the outskirts of Houston, which means the shrimp I ate last month might have included a few nanograms of diluted pig blood or the various pathogens that feed on it).

I have to wonder how long this was going on: the photo above shows how egregiously bloody the stream was, and it was happening within the inner neighborhoods of a huge city. Why did it take a hobbyist's flying machine to notice that something terrible was going on in Cedar Creek? Why didn't any of the millions of gravity-bound residents of Dallas think to ask why the river was running red — or did any of them even notice?

Maybe nobody had ever thought to look at the creek before this. Maybe, running through the middle of a city of millions of people, the creek had managed to surround itself in enough urban camouflage — industrial warehouses and power lines and cyclone fencing and weed-choked empty lots — to become completely anonymous, a secret hidden in plain sight.

Maybe the camera on a flying drone and a hobbyist's enthusiasm provided the first opportunity in years for a Dallas resident to peer into Cedar Creek without disregarding it as a short-lived streak of weeds seen peripherally through the car window at 40 miles per hour.

[as seen on the Field and Stream Conservationist blog, and at]

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