Spring is here which is generally a very nice time of year where people look forward to opening their windows and planting gardens. Unfortunately in many of the communities that CHEJ works in people dread spring and summer. Why, because their air is contaminated and they have been told not to plant a garden. Consequently, they look out their kitchen windows with a sad heart knowing that the barren ground that once was rich with vegetables is now too toxic for human consumption. Families also understand that the ground is likely a toxic risk for their children to play out of doors, but what choice do they have<p>.
Although it’s warm or even hot in some places parents are fearful about opening their windows to let the breeze in because they know that along with the breeze is chemicals and nasty particulates. So a lovely spring day in neighborhoods impacted by chemicals, becomes a reminder of what they’ve lost by no cause or act of their own.
Corporations have the right to pollute. There are laws and regulations that outline how much they can pollute the air and how much harm they can do (based on a cancer risk analysis) but no one in the regulatory agencies puts together what the real risks are to people when you live in an industrial zone. Each facility is allowed to release a certain amount of chemicals but when you look at those releases collectively the levels at time is staggering.
Families living in areas with a number of industries never choose or even thought one day they would be poisoned. For example just outside of Baltimore, Maryland in Wagner’s Point families lived there for generations. This area is actually a peninsula that juts out into the bay. People had small summer homes and it served as a nice place for retirees. Men and women once went to the shore a block from their home to fish, go crabbing or to have a picnic. Spring was a welcome time of year for them.
However, over time the center of the peninsula became more and more industrialized. Oil storage tanks and chemical plants began popping up. Eventually the center of the peninsula was all industry. The air was foul, truck traffic a serious problem and the crabs were no longer safe to eat. Families were told that if there was an accident at any of the facilities that they would be trapped at the end of the peninsula and could only escape if they were to jump into the water. They were assured that a boat would make its way to them to pluck them out.
The families were there first. The regulatory agency permitted each of these plants like they were located on an island with no other industries around. Wagner’s Point and a northern community also on the peninsula became unsafe for children, adults and pets. CHEH worked with families there to help them obtain relocation. They won and were able to leave but where is the fairness in that. Families were there first, they lived in a beautiful water front community until the industries took over.
Today those same families, especially the seniors are remembering when they looked forward to spring. Remembering when the stood at water’s edge and fished or picnicked. Gone are the boat rides, looking for crabs or swimming in the water. For them spring is healthier where they live now but a piece of their heart, love and family tradition is gone.
Some say spring is beautiful for the privileged. Spring is for those who can live far from industries, those who can afford the time, resources and money to fight back to protect their community. I believe spring a beautiful spring is for everyone. We all need to just keep on pushing back and we need to help those who are in need of our assistance. A happy spring should be had by all.