Silicon Valley's sweetly toxic center

Summary:The remains of the chip industry can still be found all over Silicon Valley...

Silicon Valley superfund sites


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 a company has created massive amounts of contamination by highly toxic chemicals -- many proven carcinogenics – and requiring immediate cleanup under EPA laws. Santa Clara has more Superfund sites than any 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. 

Topics: Tech Industry


In May 2004, Tom Foremski became the first journalist to leave a major newspaper, the Financial Times, to become a full-time journalist blogger. He writes the popular news blog Silicon Valley Watcher--reporting on the business of Silicon Valley. Tom arrived in San Francisco in 1984, and has covered US technology markets for leading comput... Full Bio

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