I Wanna Know

PW exposes the tricks, scams and truth about the powers that be.

By Sammy Mack
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Mar. 10, 2004

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Q: How many light bulbs are there at the Sunoco refinery?

A: "It's impossible to know for sure," says Sunoco spokesperson John McCann. There's no easy way to keep track of the bulbs on all that outdoor scaffolding. "Some are incandescent. Some are fluorescent. There's sodium vapor and mercury vapor lighting--whatever happened to be in style when they installed the lighting," he says. Burn-outs get replaced as needed. It does help to know that the Philadelphia refinery recycles 1,000 pounds of bulbs each year. And that's just the fluorescent lights. Sunoco sends its old bulbs to Clean Harbors Inc., which specializes in hazardous waste management. "The white powder inside is actually a mercury-based powder," says McCann. "They have a way of extracting the elemental mercury," he adds. The recycler also reclaims the glass and metal found in the thousands of burned-out bulbs the refinery replaces each year.

Q: I noticed that Boathouse Row is looking pretty shabby these days. Who's responsible for maintaining the exterior lights on each boathouse?

A: Fairmount Park is responsible for the lighting on Boathouse Row. The bulbs that line the historic riverfront buildings are a high-maintenance decoration. "We relamp twice a year," says Clete Graham, commodore of the Schuylkill Navy. The Navy is an umbrella organization for the row's 10 boating clubs. In a count that took close to two weeks, the group determined that nearly 5,000 light bulbs fringe the boathouses. The fixtures are due for another relamping soon, hence the current number of burn-outs. It's just a matter of waiting for the weather to ease up to ensure the Navy gets the longest life out of the replacements, which are still of the standard incandescent variety. The Navy is now considering plans to switch bulb types to bring down the cost of relamping. "They're called LEDs. They last, I'm told, 30 years," says Graham. The organization is working with manufacturers to design an LED that would fit in the existing sockets. The energy-efficient bulbs could even have a computer-controlled color system, allowing them to shine pink for breast-cancer-awareness month or green for Eagles games.

What do you wanna know? Send queries and complaints to Sammy Mack at smack@philadelphiaweekly.com

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