Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

The Sweetly Toxic Center Of Silicon Valley

Posted by Tom Foremski - July 29, 2013

2013 07 29 15 33 59

Superfund sites, Silicon Valley on Dotspotting

Alexis Madrigal, senior editor at The Atlantic, tried to find the center of Silicon Valley and compare it to what was there before. It starts off as a whimsical tour of Silicon Valley's strip malls, and strip clubs, but then turns up a nastier side of Silicon Valley.

Not Even Silicon Valley Escapes History - Alexis C. Madrigal - The Atlantic

The precise center of Silicon Valley when it was the most important manufacturing region on Earth is now home to Super Space Self Storage…

Like most self-storage locations, the building is blocky and windowless. It's nestled in-between a massive Lowe's and Cheetah's, "a small neighborhood strip club," according to a Google Plus review. As I snapped away, a single pedestrian walked by, an Asian man in khakis and a tucked-in, short-sleeved collared shirt. Traffic came and went: a Camry, a Jeep, a Subaru, big white van. Just another part of the great California carscape, it would seem.

After many paragraphs he rediscovers Silicon Valley's toxic legacy – a huge number of Superfund sites.

Planet Granite is located on a site contaminated by Philips Semiconductor. So is Lowe's. The empty octagonal glass building is a TRW Microwave Superfund site. I'd been walking on a paved-over environmental disaster zone, colonized by whoever wanted to benefit from lower leasing prices and a lack of NIMBY opponents.

Superfund is not a VC fund -- it's a designation for the worst polluted sites where industry has created massive amounts of contamination by highly toxic chemicals -- many proven carcinogenics – and requiring immediate cleanup under EPA laws. Santa Clara has more than any other county in the US.

The cleanup continues, and it includes pumping molasses into the ground, so that bacteria will eat the pollutants along with the sweet stuff. 

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