Death Water: Superfund Toxic Waste Advocacy Project
Before the 1970’s The United States had no Environmental Protection Agency. Prior to the creation of The EPA if one owned a factory, they loaded up a tanker and then promptly dumped their toxic waste in their local canal or stream. If they had a lot of toxic waste they put it in barrels and then buried it. The whole thing sounds ridiculous until one reads the story of Love Canal or Valley of the Drums.
In particular, ‘Love Canal’ near Buffalo, New York was the site of one of the worst — at the time — toxic waste incidents in U.S. history:
“ In the mid-1970s Love Canal became the subject of national and international attention after it was revealed in the press that the site had formerly been used to bury 21,000 tons of toxic waste by Hooker Chemical (now Occidental Petroleum Corporation). Hooker Chemical sold the site to the Niagara Falls School Board in 1953 for $1, with a deed explicitly detailing the presence of the waste, and including a liability limitation clause about the contamination. The construction efforts of housing development, combined with particularly heavy rainstorms, released the chemical waste, leading to a public health emergency and an urban planning scandal. Hooker Chemical was found to be negligent in their disposal of waste, though not reckless in the sale of the land, in what became a test case for liability clauses. The dump site was discovered and investigated by the local newspaper, the Niagara Falls Gazette, from 1976 through the evacuation in 1978. Potential health problems were first raised by reporter Michael H. Brown in July 1978.”
Long story short; The New York School system knew the land was polluted. They built a school on top of the 21,000 tons of buried toxic waste, in drums, in spite of Hooker Chemical demanding the school district not do so. Eventually, after being sued for the land, Hooker Chemical relented; The company agreed to sell the land for $1 with the recommendation that the school system not build a school on the polluted land while also attempting to assign liability for the buried toxic waste to the New York school system for any damages that would arise in the event of exposure, to the students, to hazardous chemicals.
Years later, people in, and around, the school started getting sick. Local journalists furiously uncovered, and exposed, this blatant atrocity in the form of buried poison underneath a children’s playground. The U.S. government was “shocked” that all of this had occurred. As a result of Love Canal and other incidents the U.S Environmental Protection Agency was formed. Almost a decade later, the EPA Superfund was created to clean up the worst of the worst toxic waste incidents in The U.S..
“Superfund or Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act of 1980 (CERCLA) is a United States federal law designed to clean up sites contaminated with hazardous substances as well as broadly defined “pollutants or contaminants”. Superfund also gives authority to federal natural resource agencies, states and Indian tribes to recover natural resource damages caused by releases of hazardous substances, and created the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), CERCLA’s broad cleanup authority, to clean up releases or threatened releases of hazardous substances that may endanger public health or welfare or the (natural) environment was given primarily to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and states.”
For the next forty years The US EPA, seemingly, worked towards exposing, isolating, and cleaning up toxic waste sites. During those four decades they uncovered over 1,323 of these sites, to date. For perspective, if you put a hot dog stand on top of every EPA Superfund site in The United States you’d have an automatic fast food chain the size of Denny’s.
II. Correlation doesn’t equal causation
What types of chemicals are found in these sites? Hexavalent Chromium, Cadmium, Lead, Mercury, TCE, Arsenic, Dioxin, Trichloroethylene (TCE), and PCB’s are the most common offenders. Hexavalent Chromium is the same nasty substance from the movie ‘Erin Brockovich,’ which ravaged the town of Hinkley, California, along with continually rising levels of Uranium in the ground water. All of these substances have been proven to be hazardous to human health, hence the need for the Superfund project to begin with.
When we take the map of all of the cancer deaths in The US since 1980 a very visible correlation becomes apparent.
Since the subject of EPA Superfund sites is not something that is spoken about in every day circles; since most people have no idea that these sites exist in this abundance; since general practitioners and other medical professionals don’t generally keep a running tally of EPA Superfund sites in relation to the geographical location of their patients, this phenomenon of “toxic waste in your back yard” has gone relatively unexplored in the mainstream national media, and medical communities, simply because a large percentage of people seems to be unaware that any of these events have happened, so it’s really hard to say if there is any real correlation between these sites and the cancer rate, in The U.S.
Erin Brockovich, in the capacity of doing her work as an environmental advocate, runs a reporting website which assigns a “pin” to organic reports of illness, in The United States, from members of the public who believe they have been exposed to hazardous chemicals. Erin’s infographics reveal even more of those “correlations.”
Do these bits of evidences and correlations create causation? Nope.
But they prove that everywhere there are human beings there are Superfund sites, people with cancer, and people complaining that they have been exposed to volatile organic compounds.
The EPA and it’s efforts
Over the last four generations of Americans the EPA has done a lot to work towards cleaning this country up. In spite of the constant calls for the agency’s closure, or refusals to gain support for an overhaul of the system in the 1990’s, The Environmental Protection Agency has tirelessly moved forward with the clean up efforts.
As the decades passed, however, glaring organizational idiosyncrasies have started to boil to the surface of the polluted water ways of the US EPA’s marketing efforts, in the form of internet accessible public records, most of which can be found in Google results. When one starts to investigate any given EPA Superfund site, and the ways the public education campaigns have been administered, the truth become undeniably clear: all of this happened, all of it has been published, but very few people in The US know the true scope and magnitude of the ground water and soil pollution in this country.
How to locate your local Superfund site
For most people, in The United States, it’s not too hard to find your local EPA Superfund, toxic waste dump. Simply go to Google, type in the name of your town, and then the words EPA Superfund. Hit enter. You will be immediately directed to hundreds of thousands of pages of documentation written, mostly, in language only scientists can understand.
Each Superfund record contains an explanation of the site, in plain English, and a section which details the size of the public information campaigns they’ve undertaken to let the residents who live in proximity to toxic waste sites know of their exposure to toxic waste. Yet, if we pick an EPA Superfund site, and then process the numbers, we start to see that the figures associated with these marketing campaigns are so low as to render them completely ineffective.
One example is in Akron, Ohio, the site detailed out in my short film Poison in the Grapes. The neighborhood has roughly 1,000 houses, or apartments. The documentation for the site shows that only 300 mailers were sent out, “some to residents.” The local newspaper, Akron Beacon Journal, repeatedly, misreported on the subject matter while refusing to address the communities concerns, and still continues to do this to this very day.
Across the country in Los Angeles, in San Fernando Valley there were over 800,000 residential water customers were drinking Hexavalent Chromium directly out of their water faucets up until 1986. The public education campaign for over half a million effected people was 1,800 mailers sent to residents. Currently, there are ground water pump stations situated all over San Fernando Valley furiously trying to rid the ground water supply of TCE and Hexavalent Chromium. At last report The EPA determined that the current method of remediation being used is “not effective.
Update: The EPA has raised the allowable limits of human exposure to chromium in order to bring this an other sites into “compliance.” A year after the EPA did this they released a statement that chromium-6 is “potentially” hazardous to human health.
If one did manage to put the aforementioned hot dog stands at each one of these sites you’d be out of business in a week for a bitter lack of advertising. I was nothing but shocked to learn, when I outed Summit Equipment & Supplies, how many people in Castle Homes had no idea the dump was even there. I expected people to say, “Hey I remember that!” Instead, I got “How come I never heard about this?!”
If we continue this “low education” public awareness campaign for forty years, over 1,323 sites, how many people does this leave who have been exposed to toxic waste without being informed? Hundreds of thousands, if not millions, including members of the military who have been exposed at US military bases, like Camp Lejune.
What can you do to help?
At this point there is really nothing that can be done to fix this glaring national public health issue but to educate the public and hope that people will understand the risks of Superfund sites, and keep their children away from them, regardless of what The EPA says, because by their logic, they have a 100% positive track record for successful clean-ups, which is statistically and realistically impossible. The EPA will come into a community, tell them a site needs to be cleaned up for being a danger to the public health, and at the same time they will have their community relations officers tell those very same affected residents, “There is nothing to fear.”
UC Berkeley recently released a study showing that parents who have been exposed to Superfund chemicals – like TCE – have offspring that experience a 25% higher chance of experiencing genetically predisposed illnesses, which arise from random genetic anomalies, like Autism, and Lukemia. Pair this with the recent report that two thirds of all cancers occur from “random genetic anomalies,” which included no mention of the Superfund project, and you start to understand that the reality you think you live in is not the reality you actually live in, and if you demand the truth, you won’t get it.
The only real things you can do to help are to get this information out, make sure everyone knows, or start your own cause fighting to educate people to the silent monstrosity that is toxic waste.
This is a non-political issue. When Metallica’s James Hetfield wants to hunt, kill, and eat a whole bear on stage he wants it to be healthy; he wants the environment he hunts in to be free of volatile organic compounds, and the animals he hunts to be healthy. When The Daily Show’s John Stewart wants to have an intimate relationship with the forest he does not want to catch an S-Tree-D.
For once in our lives in this clusterfuck of bi-partisan madness we live in we have a found a subject we can all support. All I ask is that you share this article and be aware of what is happening in your own world.
Thank you for reading,
Alisa Walton Beacon Journal Bob Downing Brain Tumor Cancer Castle Homes chronic fatigue Corruption crohn's disease Death Water Don Plusquellic EPA Superfund fibromyalgia Garry Moneypenny Lead Lockheed Martin Love Canal Matthew Berdyck Matthew Berdyck Lies Mercury Monsanto Multiple Sclerosis National Priorities List PCB's Region 5 EPA Rick Desrosiers San Fernando Valley Serial Pooper Summit Equipment and Supplies Superfund Susan Pastor TCE