.Join our American Neighbours in fighting Trump cuts to programs that keep chemical poisons out of our Great Lakes

Trump and his anti-EPA lap dog – Scott Pruitt – would gut a ‘Superfund’ program that helped bring the Niagara River and Lake Ontario back from the brink

An Introductory Message from NAL publisher Doug Draper, followed by a Call to Action from veteran U.S. environmentalist Lois Gibbs

Posted July 24th, 2017 on Niagara At Large

To fully understand the outrage of Trump and his anti-Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt moving to gut programs key to keeping hazardous chemicals out of our Great Lakes, it is important to recall a little history from the not-to-distant past.

Lois Gibbs during a Christmas at Love Canal during the late 1970s, where buried chemicals destroyed her Niagara Falls, N.Y. nieghbourhood and spread onward to the waters of the Niagara River and Lake Ontario.

That history stretches back to the late 1970s and early 1980s, when citizens on both sides of the Niagara River learned, to their horror, that some of the most lethal chemicals created by modern science – chemicals like dioxin (an ingredient in the Vietnam War-era defoliant Agent Orange), mirex and a witch’s brew of cancer-causing chlorinated benzenes – were bleeding their way into the waters of the river and Lake Ontario from industrial waste dumps dotting the American side of the river.

 Most of the attention focused, and quite understandably given the monster size of the dumps and the lethality of the tens of thousands of chemicals buried in them, on four sites in Niagara County, New York – Love Canal, Hyde Park, S-Area and the 102nd Street dumps, all sitting on highly fractured bedrock and located within a short walking of the Niagara River or creeks flowing into it.

The hemorrhaging of the dumps’ poisons into the shared waters of the river and Lake Ontario motivated citizens and some of the braver Environment Canada and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency scientists and field workers on both sides of the border to advocate for government action to address the pollution that was already threatening drinking water and multi-billion-dollar fisheries for millions of people downstream.

Lois Gibbs with then U.S. President Jimmy Carter who approved emergency assistance for residents in the Love Canal neighbourhood and who ultimately set up the Superfund program for cleaning up hazardous waste sites like Love Canal. Now Trump is moving to slash the program.

Among the those who raised a voice was one of the most courageous and charismatic citizen activists I ever met, Lois Gibbs, who at the time was head of the Love Canal Homeowners Association, a resident group that fought for and finally won assistance from the administration of then President Jimmy Carter to evacuate their homes around the leaking Love Canal dumpsite.

Gibbs was also among the leading forces in the country to convince Carter to establish what would become a Superfund, paid into by toxic waste polluters, for cleaning up dumps like Love Canal, Hyde Park and others hazardous sites in the Great Lakes and other regions of the country.

Now Trump is perched to drastically cut the Superfund program as part of an overall move to slash resources for the Environmental Protection Agency and eliminate or weaken regulations aimed at protecting our waters, lands and air from harmful pollution.

Trump’s anti-environmental protection agenda should alarm citizens on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border where, for those of us living along or near the shores of the Niagara River and Lake Ontario alone, tens-of-thousands of tons of highly toxic chemicals remain buried in the groups at the Love Canal, Hyde Park and other dumps where systems put in place to keep them from leaking will have to be maintained for generations to come.

If they are not – if something like a Superfund is not there to keep these systems in place and working properly – we could one day find ourselves back where we were 40 years ago with growing concentrations of poisons showing up in water, in fish and other living organisms, including humans.

Lois Gibbs, not executive director of the Virginia-based Center for Health, Environment & Justice, returns to Niagara Falls, New York six years ago where she looks through a chain-link fence where homes and an elementary school in the neighbourhood she once lived in are now gone. Gibbs is now known by many as “the mother of the Superfund.” Photo by Doug Draper

That is why a recent call by Lois Gibbs for as many people as possible to speak out against Trump’s move to slash the Superfund and other environmental safeguards is so important.

Here is the recently call-out from her that I urge all of Niagara At Large’s American readers to answer. I also urge our readers in Niagara, Ontario and other regions of the province and country to read Lois Gibbs’ call-out and to contact their federal and provincial members of parliament, urging them to make our concerns known to their counterparts on the American side of the border.

Here is Lois Gibbs’ Note –

The People’s Task Force

  • Recommendations for the Future of Superfund
  • Voices from Contaminated Communities Across the Country

The Trump Administration and newly-appointed EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt claim a desire to return Superfund clean-ups “to their rightful place at the center of the EPA’s core mission”, however their actions speak differently.

Their proposed budget includes a 30% cut in funding to the Superfund.

Last month, he (Pruitt) assembled a Task Force to provide recommendations for the future of Superfund.  However his memo raises major concerns about decreasing clean-up oversight, privileging corporate interests over public health, and a lack of community involvement.

We aren’t going to let him get away with this. We will not allow our voices to be drowned out by corporate interests.

Superfund Organizers from sites around the country have come together to create the People’s Task Force to advocate our recommendations on the future of Superfund, based on our years of on-the-ground experience.

View our Task Force here:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Ey0mItZvvmAcN4uxlWZEyp1JYutKZ82yq34QPXc57X4/edit?usp=sharing

We are seeking signatures from environmental and political organizations and local superfund advocacy groups. Are you a member of a group which would like to show your support for our efforts?

 Sign on to the People’s Task Force here:

https://goo.gl/forms/FwoCMUBlDoRg0spT2

Thanks for your support, Lois Gibbs, Center for Health, Environment & Justice

To learn more about the U.S. Superfund program, click on – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superfund .

NIAGARA AT LARGE encourages you to join the conversation by sharing your views on this post in the space below the Bernie quote.

A reminder that we only post comments by individuals who also share their first and last names.

For more news and commentary from Niagara At Large – an independent, alternative voice for our greater bi-national Niagara region – become a regular visitor and subscriber to NAL at www.niagaraatlarge.com .

 “A politician thinks of the next election. A leader thinks of the next generation.” – Bernie Sanders

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