Innocent families live around the 327 Superfund sites at risk of storms and rising seas. Over 2 million moms, dads, children live close enough to one of these toxic sites that likely will be impacted by climate change and sea level rise. Most families are of modest or low income and don’t have the ability to move. They are the most vulnerable among us.
What is Scott Pruitt, Administrator at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or Bill Brock, Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) doing about it? EPA and FEMA are denying climate change, as Trump demanded. Today, denying climate change is like denying your pregnant as your belly swells and the baby kicks. Denial does not negate the problem.
How many innocent people are going to die? How many children will end up getting sick because of exposure to toxic chemical or lack of water and health care. How in the riches country in the world can we as people know this fact and simply ignore the inevitable?
Pruitt said that Superfund sites are his and the agency’s priority. It therefore would make logical sense that these 327 sites be the first place that he takes action. He doesn’t need to say because of climate change he could say they are vulnerable to flooding. If a site is flooded than the toxins spread costing more to clean up and increasing the human health risks significantly.
Instead, Pruitt is prioritizing Superfund sites that either have redevelopment potential or an identified responsible corporation, still in business that can pay for the cleanups. Â So, what does that mean?
We saw through news reports what happened in Puerto after hurricane Maria. By some counts over 1,000 innocent people died. Not from drowning or flying debris but from the lack of infrastructure, water and power or critical medical treatments for people who need dialysis or respirators.
News sources published pictures and reported that families were lined up at toxic waste sites to fill containers with water for their infants who were dehydrating. Depending on what was in that toxic water more deaths are surely in the forecast.
Who is the responsible party for the devastation in Puerto, Houston, New York, New Jersey, Louisiana’s Super Storms? Mother Nature and she has no money.
Where do American families fit into decisions to cleanup sites or create programs that will adequately respond to a natural disaster and especially ones that include toxic chemical waste exposures? Countries and government leaders are measured by how well they protected their people. America is failing in so many ways.
The majority of American families living near these site two million people are working poor, low-income and communities of color. They are the most vulnerable among us. Most live on little surviving day to day but have exactly the same dreams for their children and families as wealthy people. Parents want their children to succeed, go to college and break out of the cycle of poverty and poisonous environments.
From the standpoint of prevention and preparedness, I think understanding the conditions behind the destruction and deaths that occur are extremely important if we are to adequately prepare for the next disaster.
However, instead of prioritizing and preparing for the next super-storm to protect the most vulnerable communities, EPA’s priority Superfund site list is preparing for new development that helps corporations succeed. Â They are ignoring Superfund sites in vulnerable areas, with fragile populations that do not lend themselves to redevelopment.
I have been working in the field of toxic chemicals and impacts on human health for 40 years under both republican and democratic leadership. In that time I have never seen such disregard for human health and American people as this administration. I cried when I saw a father filing his jug with water from a toxic waste site for his infant and when I heard about the eight year old boy who died, suffocated, because he couldn’t get medication for his asthma.
I’m angry. Instead of retiring which was my plan last year, I am working overtime to organize people to stand up, speak out, vote and bring back the America we can all be proud of.
By Gregory Kolen II. Environmental justice is an issue that affects everyone, but those who bear the brunt of it are often the most vulnerable