The Ruins of Ashland Chemical


The Ruins of Ashland Chemical

For a moment, as I make my way down South Street, I have to marvel at the six foot tall chain link fence with white slats that follows the entire length of the road. Barbed wire lines the top of the fence to persuade anyone from trying to climb it, not that anyone would, as there’s nothing inside except an abandoned industrial complex. A relic of the old ways once stood behind this fence, until the Ancients tore it down. Ashland Chemical. Their ruins stood behind the barbed wire, chain link, white slats, until they renovated and left us behind. Now, we’re left with just a fence, just some cracked pavement and iron-wrought tubs built into the ground. The concrete remains, but has been warped and broken by years of neglect.

If you walk down the road to the point where the fence ends, looking back, you’ll notice the delicate breeze carrying a noise, like a delicate hum reverberating against the chains. If you stare for long enough, you’ll see the fence moving ever so slightly, never to break, but stretching out. You think, if only for a second, that perhaps it will break. You think, let it break and let whatever bile that’s hiding inside there be set free. You think of tribal elders performing purification rituals to cleanse the land. Cars pass you by, beeping, because you’re the asshole on the side of the narrow road who doesn’t seem to be paying attention. In truth, it feels like you’re the only one paying attention. You feel a pulse in your heart that is relative to the beat. It’s an ancestral fear, akin to when a child’s afraid of the dark. The wind whirls passed you, riding along the fence to create the hum. The fence shakes, never to break, but to breathe. It’s breathing in the air and breathing something out. The tribal elders want to purify the land, because ancient spirits have grown angry. I picture lungs polluted with tar and nicotine, breathing in smoke for generations. The smoker felt joy for those few moments; he became addicted to feeling this way. Now, we’re left with the rotted lung that for some reason continues to breathe.

My first thought is of Chernobyl… I don’t know why. I imagine an entire town abandoned


Chain link fence with white slats, our sacred protector.

because of the most devastating disaster of its time. I wonder why I’m not allowed back there and what they might be hiding. You can see from above that there’s nothing left to the site, but still there’s something. I couldn’t go inside and plant trees. I wonder if I’d come back with webbed feet! I wonder if I plant a bunch of trees how many would grow. I imagine one massive tree that managed to bulk up on chemical waste and learned to thrive. I imagine it rising high above us, above the chain link fence with white slats. Towering over us, the tree brings forth life. Birds flock to the tree, finding new homes within its gnarled bark and branches. Bugs flutter along to chew on the leaves, some glowing from either radiation or something natural that makes them essential to our ecosystem. They’ll chew through leaves and pull forth seeds and the breeze will take them away. They’ll float onward, throughout the town, taking root to grow something more. What will come of us? I wonder if the fallout will ever be clear enough for us to build some kind of park. I imagine, if only for this moment, children playing under the great and wonderful tree. The trains goes by in the background, as it does throughout the town. So does the tree now, as its seed has made its way to our greatest recesses. I imagine tables set into the concrete of the former site of ‘Ashland Chemical’. Massive tankers of God knows what used to sit in the same place as the tree. People gather around the tree of life, instead of an empty landfill of chemicals rotting into the center of our city.

It’s at least an attempt to make things better. Instead, at this moment, there’s so much noise. Most people probably wouldn’t bring their children here to play. Most people look at the ruins of this chemical compound and don’t even know it’s past, so probably couldn’t perceive its future. It’s ruins. It’s a relic of the past that stands, because either we jsdojaperupadfasdon’t know what to do with it or we don’t care. It’s a perception long since shared by many in the city and all around the world. We carry our pasts into the future, with monuments dedicated to our ancestors; things they could use, but to us, they serve no purpose. We keep them around as a comfort of a glorious time. A few still believe there’s something salvagable, as if the company will come back and the jobs will return. We hope and it keeps us in Limbo. We want something better to leave future generations. No matter how hard you hope, these ruins will do us no good.

I pass along the chain link fence with white slats, stretching down the length of the road. When it ends, you can see inside the complex. Life grows between the cracks, seeping up from the busted concrete, overflowing between shattered remains of pavement. Best wishes to the future site of the ‘Blessed Tree of Life’. A creek flows between the ruins and the railroad, which is just beyond the site. I wonder what chemicals have leaked out and are poisoning the world. Fallout. Chernobyl. It happens in places far away. We don’t have webbed feet, but still, we have something. Or maybe we have nothing.


36 thoughts on “The Ruins of Ashland Chemical

  1. I went to the website and read what was available. The information ended with actions taken in 2010. It offered another link titled Final Cleanup Status or Projection
    Final Remed Construction (RCRAInfo database code CA550) has been achieved.
    It provided a link to the information. When I clicked on the link
    This is what it said:

    “Page Not Found”
    “Website Improvements Underway”
    I will do some research…I hope you will do some follow-up too.
    We, as a civilization can not turn blind eyes to what industry does to this earth.
    While it is easy to blame ‘them’, we all need to make some tough decisions about
    what we truly need and what we can do without. If we quit wanting what ‘they’ are
    selling then they will go out of business. No one has more control over that than us.
    As for the damage already done we need to do more of what you have done with
    this article, and then we need to keep the pressure on.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, thank you! I’ve been here forever and heard nothing about this until about a week ago when I started this… it makes me worry about other parts of the world, living in ignorance with such madness all around us.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. You have a very engaging writing style, and I love hearing more about where you live. Glad you’re thinking, volunteering, and blogging about stuff that will make a difference! Blessings, Kathi

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Thank you for introducing me to your town. Such a pity that this particular site has been left to go to ruin. I wonder if it will ever be turned into something beneficial for the community.

    Thanks also for the follow on my blog. I’m following yours now, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. You are bringing this issue to the attention of those who choose to seek it out. We need more people to know and care. This town is really just the tip of the iceberg. The environment is being poisoned everywhere at such an alarming rate that I do not see a turning point, only a tipping point. When the consequences of all of these events directly affect the masses, only then will they realize the gravity and severity of these action, and how inaction allowed it to spread, like a runaway rampant disease.
    I think we secretly hope that someone, or something will save us from ourselves, as once stated so eloquently by the late Carl Sagan. Our human species needs to evolve further than we have.I don’t know if that is possible.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. There are places like that all over. Asheville created a lovely green space along the Swannanoa River. Right in the center is a large chain-link-fenced area that was once an auto junk yard. I suspect many years of leaking transmission fluid, anti-freeze, gasoline, and motor oil have rendered the land toxic.

    The movie Interstellar, while fascinating and scientifically intriguing, left me feeling guilty and ashamed…the way I feel when I take my trash to the “convenience station” and trucks drive away with my compressed sins. Out of sight is no longer out of mind for me. And no longer can I think ‘them.’ It is me. I am complicit…and powerless to make amends.

    (Lord, have mercy.)

    Liked by 1 person

  6. In the 1970’s we enacted strong environmental laws to enable cleanup of places like this. Before that, it might have become a neighborhood like Love Canal did. But the business first mentality of the GOP in Washington and in so many state houses across the country has been undermining the effectiveness of the laws and regulations. So sad.

    Thanks for the follow! Your writing is impressive!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Amazing imagery here that really resonates. The fact that many try to ignore or simply forget things like this only makes the problem worse. Sad as it is, it seems only global catastrophe will be able to really hold us accountable for our actions – since we seem to pay no heed to isolated incidents. Yet, there’s still hope here – seeping through the cracks of a wasteland in spite of the waste. I especially love the idea of a tree of life; though one has to think what kind of life it would support, drawing its essence from poisoned soil.

    Liked by 1 person

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