Fair trade: Amargosa Valley bovine waste for nuclear waste

They say milk does a body good. Especially when it's washed down with a donut.

Unfortunately, I don't think I'll be drinking as much milk if the feds decide Yucca Mountain will be the official host for the nation's nuclear waste.

Until last week I wasn't aware that 25 percent of Nevada's milk comes from a dairy located just 12 miles from Yucca Mountain. A photograph of the Ponderosa Dairy in Amargosa Valley showed 5,000 black and white milk cows, each with her own private pen, lined up in rows just beyond the shadow of Yucca Mountain range in Southern Nevada.

For the record, I like milk more than I like nuclear waste. I'll admit that straight off the top, just so you know I'm not exactly objective in this debate. Not that I've ever tasted nuclear waste, mind you. I don't need to shove nuclear waste into my piehole to know it's not as good as milk. I've seen photos of people who have consumed too much nuclear waste and they didn't look nearly as healthy as milk drinkers. They seemed much greener and there were little bubbles coming from their noses.

U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham visited Yucca Mountain on Monday in preparation for making a recommendation as to its suitability for a nuclear dump site. That's good. A fellow ought to at least visit a place before nuking it.

It's unlikely, however, that he stopped at the Ponderosa Dairy on his way to the proposed dump site. He'll sure smell it, though. Five thousand cows not only produce several thousand gallons of milk per day, they also generate a mountain of their own waste. It's non-nuclear, but can make your eyes water if you're not used to the smell.

When I was younger I used to shovel the cow waste in a milk barn just an hour after the "last call" in most California bars. I got room, board and rubber knee-boots. It's a wonder I still drink milk at all after slipping and slopping around in that barn at 3 a.m. each and every day of the week. Cows don't even have the decency to take the Sabbath off.

It got to the point where I hated cows almost more than I hate chickens. I've seen what chickens eat and I wouldn't care one bit if someone gave them a good dose of nuclear radiation.

The general manager of the Ponderosa Dairy, some fellow named Ed, told a Vegas newspaper he was concerned about the nuclear waste contaminating the water system and eventually his cows. Ed knows a thing or two about waste and its effect on water systems. His dairy was accused of dumping more than 1.7 million gallons of cow poop that made its way into the Amargosa River in 1998. It made a whole bunch of Californians, where the Amargosa eventually runs, just want to vomit.

Ed would argue that cow waste is not nearly as bad for you as nuclear waste, which is not something I want to taste test.

I'm sure the nuclear waste fans could produce scientific evidence to show that a little nuclear waste is actually good for cows and milk. Give those guys enough time and money and they could probably prove that Elvis is alive.

But I'm with Ed. He knows bull dung when he smells it. When you're out in the barn up to your knees in cow poop while 99.9 percent of humanity is asleep, you have a lot of time to think. I imagine Ed doing just that one early morning while Bessie was being relieved of her donut juice.

"I don't know about this nuclear waste dump site," Ed probably told Bessie. "What happens if that stuff gets into your water?"

"Don't worry, Ed," Bessie probably answered. (Cows really do talk when you're alone with them at 3 a.m.) "I don't really drink much water, myself. I'm basically a milk cow."

"Still," said Ed, shoving one poop pile into another. "I don't like the idea of these city folk dragging all this nuclear waste past my babies."

"That's sweet of you, Ed," Bessie replied. "But don't just sit there feeling sorry for yourself. Why don't you return the favor?"

And that's pretty much how a million gallons of original Amargosa Dairy waste will make its way to our nation's capital next week. Under Ed's proposed agreement, Yucca will receive one ton of nuclear waste for every 1 million gallons of cow poop Ed ships to Washington, D.C. It's called the GREAT WEST WASTE SWAP AGREEMENT. We'll store their waste and they'll store Ed's.

I hope Ed and Bessie were able to flag down Secretary Abraham's caravan on its way to Yucca Mountain, so they could get an official handshake deal.

It does a body good to see that kind of cooperation.

Jeff Ackerman is publisher and editor of the Nevada Appeal.


Use the comment form below to begin a discussion about this content.

Sign in to comment