Death Water: Superfund Toxic Waste Advocacy Project

Filmmaker. Activist. Musician. US Travel Expert

Death Water: Superfund Toxic Waste Advocacy Project

July 20, 2015 Toxic Waste Uncategorized 14

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

Death Water Google
In the often bizarre cases of government conspiracies it almost seems like people are looking for a cover up.  We, as Americans, in this sad state of affairs we live in, expect our government to lie to us, to the point that even if The Fed tells the truth, no one believes them.  Some people expect to find genocide, or population control, in vapor trails, and evil in 9/11 conspiracy lore, false flags in domestic terrorism incidents; Alex Jones makes millions of dollars from this these theories.  In this case there is no invisible conspiracy.  There is no doubt The EPA has published most of this Superfund information.  No person, ever, could claim the things I am reporting on are a cover up, yet at the same time, if you travel the country like I have, speaking to Americans about the Superfund, you’ll find that most people have no clue that this multi-trillion dollar industry exists. 

 

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.

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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,
Matthew Berdyck

 

14 Responses

  1. Barbara Jackson says:

    This so much like the PGand E site in California and the Massachusetts and New Jersey sites where there were Cancer clusters. I Omaha Nebraska there are yards where the lead content is so high from contamination a few miles away. Who knows what else. I had a two nieces and a nephew who grew up a block apart and although they are all highly intelligent (one has a PhD), they struggled with ADHD which has made their lives difficult. There is no real blood relationship between them but they have grown up in a area where there was lead in the air deposited in the soil from a plant using lead (and who knows what else).

    • mberdyck says:

      One of the things that moved me to do this project was because I have so many people who are close to my life that have brain tumors. I also lost someone very special to me in March of 2013, to cancer, which is what ultimately motivated me to follow through with doing all of this. Thankfully, most of these sites we are speaking of have been moderately contained. The problem is that they cleaned these sites up under the auspices of protecting the public health but then later refuse to admit that these sites could be responsible for causing illnesses. I can’t see how any of that makes sense. Then, we have people, like your friends, who struggle in life without ever really getting any answers as to why. Thank you for your comments. I really appreciate the support!!

      • My friend’s family had 3 brothers with brain tumors and the parents died of cancer. My friend’s husband and one brother have died from brain tumors the third brother is getting treatment. They grew up on well water down the hill from the Concord Naval Weapons Station in CA in the ’60’s. Most of the neighbors around them were in newer homes on city water. [redacted]

        Editor’s note: Corrected at the request of the user to reflect that IS an EPA Superfund site at Concord Naval Weapons Station

  2. Wendy Forrest says:

    I have a cabin in Daniel Boone National Forrest between Irwin and Beattyville. That area looks really red on the map. How do I find out what exactly and who is poisoning our area?

  3. Elaine Irwin says:

    I and my family were raised on a Air Force Base, Castle Air Force Base in Atwater, CA. Four out of five of us have system wide auto immune disease that they can’t completely figure out. Myself being the worst out of the bunch, as I was 6 weeks old to 5 years to lived there. I ave since discovered there was an Superfund site stil Castle which one area of the base housing bring affected. Well we lived right there in the middle of it. I want to find out more. Without having a lot of spare time to investigate I sure would like to know the best place to start. Erin B. website maybe??

    • mberdyck says:

      Hi Elaine,

      From the EPA website:

      Groundwater in the shallow and sub-shallow aquifers in the Main Base is contaminated with trichloroethylene (TCE). Additionally, groundwater underlying a residential housing area located adjacent to the southwest portion of the Base is contaminated with cis-1,2-dichloroethylene (DCE). There are currently institutional controls to prevent the use of the groundwater until the groundwater is treated to drinking water standards. The site also has two landfills with institutional controls to prevent exposure to the landfill contents.

      TCE, basically, rises up through the soil and rises into the air. Exposure to low levels of TCE are happening all over the country. One instance would be the Moffett Field EPA Superfund site, of which a whole community, NASA, and parts of Google, are situated on top of these very same TCE polluted aquifers you guys had in Atwater. In the effected neighborhoods, in Mountain View, the houses are required to be built with a special filtration system built into the foundation to prevent TCE from gathering inside the houses. Google, NASA, and effected residents have spent millions of dollars to protect themselves from the chemicals that floating in the aquifer under their homes and workplaces. It’s very apparent from these very reputable organizations expenditures, and actions, that TCE exposure is hazardous to human health.

      Probably, the best thing you cold do would be to compile all of this information, print out the information form the EPA records, and then sit down and prepare a short 1,000 word essay of your family’s story. Have it prepared for professional presentation. You can then try to seek out a doctor who is willing to consider doing a forensic medical investigation, or can help you understand how, and if, this exposure could have effected your family. If you can prove your residence during the incident you could approach a law firm to seek out damages.

  4. Robin C. says:

    My family and I had lived on Carnegie Ave. in Akron for 8 yrs. My children suffer from ADHD and other mood disorders, one severely. I never thought of the possibility of Toxic waste in the area we lived they played. Would it be possible that these disorders would be caused by this? Is there any documentation of this?

    • mberdyck says:

      Those things are possible. I have dyslexia, ADHD, and other mood disorders as well, like sever depression, from having half of my adult life destroyed by explained physical illness. Robin, if you contact me privately, and send me the address where you lived, and the range of dates, I can hand you whatever relevant information I can find from the EPA, records, and tell you if you lived in the effected area. If you did, you might be the first person who would have a legitimate lawsuit.

      There are actually many members of Castle Homes, who lived in Castle Apartments, from the day it was built until 1996 that are owed damages. I’m still looking into how to obtain housing records for that area. As this project builds momentum more and more will happen.

      I bet your kids, no matter what they are dealing with are tough, and amazing. Tell them I said no matter what anyone tells them they they can be anything they want, to never get down on themselves for being different. My heart goes out to you and your family. Thank you for your comments!!

      Other people from Castle Homes. Tell your stories here in these comments!

  5. Loretta Odabashian says:

    I grew up on a farm near Newman Ca. I have Chrons disease and depression at times since I was in my early 20’s. I am now 65. Is or was there any sites near there. Stanislaus Co.. Also how do I find out about if there are any near where I live now. Shingle Springs Ca. ??
    Thank you for all your work and research. People just don’t relalize the serious of it.

  6. JJ says:

    I live in Texas where future superfund sites are being created everyday. I drive the I35 corridor between San Antonio and Austin quite often. There are dozens of limestone quarries with clinker (the active chemical in concrete) extraction facilities complementing them. The process requires intense heat which is supplied by coal, and recently they’ve started burning used tires to supply heat
    I have no idea how this became acceptable, but I grew up with the understanding that burning tires produces deadly poisons. Yet, in Texas we’re burning tires in reactors that vent openly to heavily populated areas and watersheds. I can’t even imagine what’s in those fast-growing containment ponds.

  7. Lisa Cummings says:

    Mr. Berdyck, can you provide us with any scientific evidence of the correlation between the toxic waste sites and the physical ailments you mentioned? Can you please tell us what your background and education are in Environmental sciences? The stories you are presenting, your own included are tragic, but fail to make any solid connection to your claims. Your theory very well may be true. Without scientific research from credible sources, all you have is anecdotal evidence and speculation.

    • mberdyck says:

      Erin Brockovich had no “special training,’ when she went to battle over Hinkley. She has no special training now and runs a scientific consulting company.

      As far as claims of certain chemical causing cancer, or this illness or that illness, TCE was banned in the 1970’s for causing cancer; public record. Recently, the EPA stated that chromium-6 also causes cancer; public record. Mercury and lead, cancer; public record.

      One does not need a degree in anything in particular to re-print public record supported facts. If this were true, every journalist on the planet would have to get a degree for each new article they write.

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