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New Internal EPA Memo & Policy Stresses Public Health
Worried Moms from Flint, Love Canal & St. Louis Decry Agency’s “Failure”
“Kids are suffering from leaded water & threatened by toxic fires”
WHAT: Press conference featuring Missouri and Michigan moms
WHEN: Tuesday, February 9, 2016 at 10 a.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST)
LOCATION: National Press Club, 529 14th St. NW, 13th Floor, Washington, DC 20045 and by phone: Dial In: 641-715-3580 PIN: 808-997
WHO: Dawn Chapman, co-founder, Just Moms STL, Karen Nickel, co-founder, Just Moms STL, Melissa Mays, Water You Fight For (by phone from Flint, MI), Lois Gibbs, Founder, Center for Health, Environment and Justice, Ed Smith, Missouri Coalition for the Environment, Gail Thackery, Franciscan Sisters of Mary
Details: A coalition of moms from Michigan and Missouri will hold a press conference to address EPA’s failure to act on what they say are serious threats to public health in both communities.
Flint, Michigan is reeling from ongoing lead and toxic chemicals in its drinking water. EPA senior managers reacted to alarms sounded by its own staff by downplaying the risks and hiding the warnings about the lead levels from the public, according to local activists.
In Bridgeton, Missouri (a suburb of St. Louis), families live near a radioactive Superfund landfill with an underground fire that is threatening to move toward the illegally dumped nuclear wastes from the Manhattan Project. The nuclear wastes are adjacent to an underground fire at a neighboring landfill. The Bridgeton/West Lake landfill site is owned by the Republic Services waste corporation, and activists say that workers there have no protection from either the radioactive wastes or the toxic emissions emitted by the landfill and chronic long term exposure is unknown.
EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy has refused for over two years to meet with the Just Moms St. Louis community group. She has released a new formal policy on “substantial health risks”.
At the press conference, leaders from both the Just Moms St. Louis and the Flint-based Water You Fighting For community groups will discuss the environmental and public health catastrophes in both communities, and EPA’s responses to date. They will also ask EPA Administrator McCarthy to meet with the Just Moms St. Louis members who traveled here to request that the EPA act on its authority under the Superfund Act to move families away from the landfill, as the agency has done previously with Love Canal and other communities.
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Community members in Colfax, Louisiana are dealing with an unconventional form of potential environmental contamination – outfall from the open air burning of hazardous explosive waste. The town of Colfax is the site of a commercial facility called Clean Harbors, which stores and treats energetic/reactive waste, whether it is solid, sludge or liquid. From fireworks to bulk high explosives to rocket motors, the facility is a storehouse for potentially explosive material.
This burning is, in fact, permitted by the US EPA, under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which governs disposal and treatment of hazardous waste. There is a permit modification pending, which would increase the current threshold for open-air burning of explosives-contaminated waste from 480,000 pounds to over 2 million pounds per year. The permit is for dealing with waste that cannot be handled in any other manner.
Truth-out.org reported last month on a similar issue at Camp Minden, Louisiana. The Camp Minden military facility, which was storing, in addition to other materials, 42,000 pounds of a propellant used for firing heavy artillery, experienced an explosion in 2012 that resulted in “a 7,000-foot mushroom cloud” and damage to nearby homes and buildings. In this scenario, burning is seen as an emergency plan to prevent future explosions, but the outdated burning process is raising concerns of environmental pollution from munitions burning.
A coalition of twenty-nine organizations has formed in response to the issue, ranging from coast to coast and including groups in thirteen states. The groups are objecting to both the current operations at the Clean Harbors facility, and to the expansion of the facility’s permit to allow greater amounts of waste to be burned.
According to the coalition, Colfax is only one of many communities – about 100 total – that are facing this issue. Truth-out.org also reports that munitions burning is far from just a Louisiana issue. In the early 1990s, community activists halted a plan to burn military waste in Merrimac, Wisconsin. The breadth of the coalition behind the Cease Fire campaign speaks to the universality of this problem.
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