The Alliance For A Clean Environment
Summary of 2002 Accomplishments
ACE Website - Developed April, 2002
• People can learn more about ACE goals, activities, and efforts to protect our environment and the health of people in our community.
• People can also learn more about environmental issues which affect their everyday lives.
• Updates, action alerts, and campaigns are listed regularly.
• ACE has had wonderful comments and feedback on information that people have benefited from on our website. It has been visited by vast numbers of people.
ACE did an extensive investigation on emergency preparedness in response to regional concern of many residents, due to their close proximity to the Limerick Nuclear plant and Occidental Chemical in Pottstown.
• Using the information from our investigation, as well as disaster information from the vast experiences with hazardous events from Linda King of the Environmental Health Network, we prepared two ACE Reports which appeared on local cable for 8 weeks. These shows contained useful information on evacuation, sheltering in place, legal issues, and suggestions on places to obtain needed supplies.
• With the help of Linda King, we prepared a comprehensive emergency preparedness list. Hundreds of people asked for these lists. We e-mailed, faxed, and mailed copies of our emergency preparedness list to them.
• Bill Smedley prepared copies of our two Emergency Preparedness ACE Report videos, which we distributed to interested individuals.
• This led to a feature on Philadelphia television featuring ACE officers on emergency preparedness. We had many more requests for our information.
ACE developed an environmental Candidates Questionnaire in en effort to get candidates to understand and discuss the environmental threats. 20 Yes/No questions went to 17 candidates who were informed that results would be reported in our newsletter going to over 1,000 people, and would also be announced on The ACE Report, our local weekly cable TV show, with a viewing audience of 50,000. Candidates called with questions and several met with ACE. Issues included:
• The Right to Know Laws and denying public access.
• Linguistic detoxification to deceive the public about hazardous wastes - such as toxic sewage sludge (Biosolids), hazardous landfill gas (Biomass), contaminated soils (Safe Fill), hazardous waste (Residual Waste), and beneficial use (reusing hazardous wastes).
• Working to prohibit land application of sewage sludge.
• Loopholes and PA Act 2 lowered health standards for Brownfields.
• Release, re-use, recycling of radioactive wastes and dumping of radioactive wastes in PA landfills.
• Eliminating Emissions Trading.
• Eliminating Toxic Mold in schools.
• Local landfill and pipeline issues.
In January, 1998, the Montgomery County Health Department reported their cancer investigation around the Pottstown Landfill. The director tried to hide a double leukemia compared to the state, and dismiss 33% higher lung and cervical cancers compared to the tri county area. Through Linda King, Dr. Doris Rapp, Dr. Janette Sherman and others making presentations in our community, ACE was able to get the public to understand what was really going on, in spite of our state senator and representative attempting to cover up those findings.
In July, 2002, our state senator and representative announced that they had secured $290,000 from the state general fund to do their own cancer study. This appeared to be a political campaign tactic to make people believe they were doing something about the cancer problem. Historically, such cancer studies have been used to benefit polluters and work against people in toxic damaged communities. With the help of Linda King, ACE was able to get the truth told. A psychologist, (not epidemiologist) and a nurse (the representative) planned this for several years, with no objectives or protocol. Hundreds of detailed written reports were distributed throughout the community and we did an ACE Report for TV on the “Cancer Study.” ACE information made front page news the week after their announcement and follow up articles appeared in two other major area newspapers. This all diminished the impact of their “study” being used as a campaign tool for election.
PA Cancer Registry Update
Compiled for ACE by National Statistician.
Since 1998, our state representative, Mary Ann Dailey, has remained in denial that a cancer problem exists in the Greater Pottstown Area, in spite of the significantly elevated health department cancer statistics and massive anecdotal evidence of harm. She repeatedly announced that we needed an update to determine what is going on now. ACE believes Representative Dailey’s motives in doing a cancer study are to say there is no problem, which will enable Waste Management to get their Pottstown Landfill expansions and Occidental to continue to do business as usual, all at the expense of public health and safety.
A national researcher agreed to volunteer his time for ACE, to update the Montgomery County Cancer Report, using the most current PA Cancer Registry Statistics.
• While this effort stopped the cancer study from being used as a campaign tactic, it did not stop her study. However, we believe it will be more difficult for her to deny the cancer problem and certainly those with common sense will not believe with blind faith.
• ACE believes the PA Cancer Statistics reported by ACE will make it harder for Representative Dailey’s cancer study to be used by Waste Management as a tool for their upcoming expansion.
State Lawmakers Children’s Health Forum
The Senate Democratic Policy Committee called ACE to participate in a forum they planned in Pottstown in June to discuss children’s health issues. ACE prepared packets for the Senators to view prior to the forum. Included was information showing:
b. Overall cancer rates around the Pottstown Landfill
c. Reports on elevated infant mortality in Pottstown
d. TRI data showing Greater Pottstown Area children breathe the top 10% of the most carcinogenic and unhealthy air in the nation.
e. 25 schools within 2 miles of Occidental Chemical and 29 schools within 3 miles of the Pottstown Landfill.
f. Lists of carcinogens and neurotoxins from these major air polluting facilities, Pottstown Landfill and Occidental Chemical. We explained how these hazardous substances not only poison outdoor air, but also indoor air, sports fields and parks, and water supplies.
In addition to ACE officers, Dr. Lewis and Donna Cuthbert, ACE members Dr. Fred Winter, Dr. Jean Flood, and Susan Burke, school nurse, all spoke about the evidence of harm they are seeing among area children. Other ACE members attended and were given an opportunity to share their personal experiences and cancers in their children. Most revealing was Dr. Flood’s experience of dealing with so many children in her practice. She stated:
b. It is not just poor people who are being affected by the impact the area’s environmental problems have on health. She said “Many of the children I treat have affluent parents. They are the cream of the crop. They eat organic food an drink bottled water. The problem is there’s no place for them to run, no place to hide, from the air we breathe.”
c. Dr. Cuthbert told the Senators we are dealing with a community health crisis, a chemical plague. He said, “Every child who draws a breath of air in this community is exposed.”
2. There was also great coverage of this event in the Pottstown Mercury, which gave us the opportunity to share information on children’s toxic risks with vast numbers of parents.
3. Another valuable outcome was that we got the opportunity to explain to the Senators how DEP really works for the polluters, not the public, and why public health has been abandoned in DEP’s permitting decisions.
4. In addition, Chester County Commissioner Dinniman, who also attended, subsequently brought about a productive meeting between the Chester County Health Department Director, Dr. Flood, and Dr. Cuthbert.
As the Environmental Task Force of the Tri County Health Partnership, ACE has worked on a committee called the Healthy Pottstown Project. Within this committee ACE provided extensive information from CHEJ, a local school nurse on ACE’s board, and other sources, on how to reduce environmental health exposure risks.
• For this project we developed a proposal for the Pottstown School District, as we believe children in this school district may be the most impacted from the hazardous air emissions from the Pottstown Landfill and Occidental Chemical.
• The theory is that the more we empty the cup, the more likely cancers and other serious illnesses which plague Greater Pottstown Area Children in record numbers can be avoided.
• ACE President made the presentation to the school district administration, who embraced the concept within their long range plan.
• In December, approval was given by the school board.
VICTORY! The Pottstown Landfill Gas Pipeline Died.
For five years, ACE waged an enormous and consuming battle against the unprecedented threat of transporting hazardous, corrosive, explosive Pottstown Landfill gas to Occidental Chemical in Pottstown, already one of the worst polluters in the state. This would have produced major concentrations of the most potent carcinogens known to mankind, ½ mile from our hospital and around 31,000 residents and 25 schools within 2 miles. During the five years, we gained support from hundreds, if not thousands of area residents, local elected officials, groups and civic organizations, and physicians from two area hospitals. On July 12, 2002, it was reported in the Pottstown Mercury that Toro Energy, the pipeline company, withdrew from the project, citing reasons as expenses and length of time. But, Toro told a government employee that the reason was ACE’s persistence.
ACE Establishes Community Air Testing Program
ACE held a “Bucket Brigade” press conference at the entrance of Occidental Chemical, which made front page news in our local newspaper, was featured in another major area paper and on Channel 69 news throughout Allentown and Reading. We used this press conference as an ACE Report for cable TV as well. At the Press Conference Bill Smedley, a PEN Links coordinator and the regional Bucket Brigade coordinator, presented information about the buckets, the way they work, and what they test for. Why we need the Bucket Brigade in Pottstown was presented by ACE President, Dr. Lewis Cuthbert and the Mayor of Pottstown, Anne Jones. Victims of exposure shared their experiences and gratitude for air testing.
• It enlightened people about extremely poor air quality in the region - the top 10% of most cancer causing and unhealthy air in the nation.
• It created awareness about self monitoring, testing, and reporting by polluters.
• The “Bucket Brigade” press conference provided a sense of empowerment. It inspired more people to join ACE and get involved.
• Our press conference led to a follow up story on National Asthma Day by CN8.
• The news and TV coverage led to shared air testing information from ACE and Bill Smedley to other PA groups.
ACE held two PVC Press Conferences which both made front page news in the local paper with follow up stories in other major newspapers. Bill Smedley, from PEN Links, and the regional dioxin coordinator, was instrumental in both.
• The outcome of Judith Helfand’s visit and the following media coverage and ACE Report viewing was an increased interest in viewing “Blue Vinyl.”
• ACE received numerous phone calls and e-mails discussing ways individual community members intended reducing their purchasing and use of PVC products.
Through ACE file reviews in 2002, on Occidental at EPA and DEP, our ACE TAG Grant advisor developed an outstanding overview of the status of the Occidental Superfund site community. He presented this report to the community in August. The meeting was followed with distribution into the community of facts about Occidental’s well and water contamination, hazardous lagoon waste status, hazardous air emissions, and take action packets. EPA received this report shortly afterward. This was followed by heated discussions in conference calls between EPA, ACE, and our TAG advisor, Dr. Cole. The fear is from Occidental being surrounded on three sides by the Schuylkill River, which is now planned to be used for recreation. The superfund lagoons are very close to the river.
• Dr. Cole discovered that while Occidental and EPA were claiming there was great progress in water clean up, little progress has actually been made.
• Dr. Cole’s investigation verified that while many private wells are very close to the site, no off-site wells have ever been tested and all we have is Occidental’s word that they are not polluted.
• Dr. Cole’s report led to plans for off-site well testing.
Problem: EPA continues to keep ACE out of the loop in making important testing and remediation decisions, which will affect serious threats to health of the community far into the future.
• This ACE Report and the delivery of packets into the community resulted in many calls about what could be done to get Occidental to transition to safer alternatives to PVC, as well as a desire to learn more about the health effects of PVC and dioxin.
ACE heightened awareness of health impacts from chemical exposures at colleges, universities, and local high schools During 2002 ACE officers made presentations at Penn State University, Alvernia College, Gwenned Mercy College, Owen J. Roberts High School, and Pottstown High School. There have been several positive effects as a result of these presentations.
• The most outstanding result was an investigation from a Penn State graduate class into increases in the Greater Pottstown area and Montgomery County in learning disabilities, ADD/ADHD, autism, and brain cancer. They compared these statistics to the state and the least polluted counties in PA. Results were shocking, even to ACE members. The investigation by these students has led to very valuable information, including web-sites and other places where you can and can not find this kind of information.
• In addition, several students from various classes have taken an interest in environmental issues, contacted ACE for follow up information, and done reports for school on such topics as Lois Gibbs and Love Canal and sludge dumping.
ACE officers made many presentations and handed out information on timely take action issues throughout the year. Some of the presentations included the Tri-County Health Partnership, Kiwanis, Taxpayer’s Alliance, and the Unitarian and other churches.
• There is far greater awareness of environmental threats and related harmful health consequences in our area.
• Many people copied ACE on local and state issues on which they sent in follow up comments to our Action Alerts.
• There is growing support for the ACE Toxic Turnaround Initiative through these presentations.
The Pottstown Landfill is applying for a 99 foot vertical expansion covering 31 acres over its Eastern Expansion. The FAA has objected to every Pottstown Landfill expansion in the past (at least 4) due to its close proximity to the Pottstown Airport. FAA regulations say landfills are to be at least 6 miles from airports. Pottstown Landfill is about 1 mile away from the Pottstown Landfill, and Limerick Airport is about 5 miles away. For the conditional use proceedings for expansion Waste Management presented their own aeronautical investigation. ACE called many different branches of the FAA to do our own investigation.
• In spite of FAA’s objections to the last four expansion, DEP issued permits ignoring FAA regulations. In a letter to the head administrator of FAA, ACE challenged FAA to enforce its own safety regulations, particularly in this proposed expansion, since FAA had already objected to the Eastern Expansion, on which the vertical expansion is planned.
• Pottstown Council and Mayor Jones are also trying to stop this expansion to protect the Pottstown Airport, which the Borough owns. ACE has also picked up support from several Upper Pottsgrove and Douglass Berks officials.
• In December, the FAA ruled against its own safety regulations and inexplicably determined no hazard.
• ACE led the way to appealing this illogical determination in January, 2003, followed by Pottstown Council. The outcome represents significant threats to public safety for tens of thousands of people living near the airport and landfill.
• This is a real test of the effectiveness of FAA safety regulations. Can FAA choose to ignore its own safety regulations or try to make deals with Waste Management (ignoring our safety)? If FAA can ignore its own safety regulations and they can be ignored repeatedly by DEP, then why do we pay such an agency to overlook our safety or why do they even have such rules?
DEP’s Radiation “UNprotection” Action Plan
In December, 2001, Waste Management applied for a major permit modification to legally accept open ended amounts and kinds of radioactive wastes, all under the guise of monitoring for radiation.
Through the efforts of PEN member Tina Daly, this smokescreen set up by DEP and Waste Management was discovered. In January, 2002, ACE sent out over 60 comprehensive packets to all local elected officials and leaders on the history of radiation in the Pottstown Landfill, its radioactive gas and leachate, the links between leukemia and radiation and how that could relate to our leukemia rate almost double the state. In the packets ACE identified the reality of DEP’s Radiation “UNprotection” Action Plan. No longer would DEP be able to get away with this scam unnoticed.
ACE also sent these packets to national groups, including NIRS, CHEJ, Sierra, and others. Through the Pottstown experience, it was clear that radiation permitted into a landfill gets into the gas and leachate, and thus into community air and water. The potential harm caused from opening the floodgates to radioactive wastes into the Pottstown Landfill, and in fact all over the state, has major implications.
• Through massive correspondence about an apparent DEP cover up involving testing information, DEP and NRC got caught in conflicting and misleading information. This incident proved the fact that DEP’s plan would not protect public health.
• The public relations tactic used by Waste Management to convince us that the Pottstown Landfill would find radioactive wastes through visual inspections backfired on them, since you can’t see or smell radiation according to DEP’s own facts.
• All this led to Waste Management revising its permit in August and a public hearing in December.
• The public hearing was a joyful display of democracy in action.
• 29 testimonies brilliantly exposed the environmental injustice of DEP’s scheme to open the floodgates to radioactive wastes into Pottstown Landfill and all waste disposal sites throughout the commonwealth. Issues about the health crisis from already living around a radioactive landfill to what will happen if the floodgates are opened came from local officials, physicians. moms, dads, and activists. Only Waste Management’s hired scientist and the landfill manager spoke in favor of the plan.
• Pottstown’s Mayor delivered a brilliant speech opposing this plan and Councilman Ron Downie delivered a unanimous resolution from the Council against Waste Management’s request to accept open ended radioactive wastes.
• Attending at the request of Tina Daly and presenting extremely valuable information on the health effects of radiation and the very dangerous radioactive waste stream, was Dr. Judith Johnsrud, Director of the Environmental Coalition on Nuclear Power and technical consultant on radioactive waste to the National Sierra Club, for which she also sent in written comments.
• Attending at the request of ACE and presenting valuable help all along the way, as well as at the public hearing, was Diane D’Arrigo, the Radioactive Waste Project Director for Nuclear Information and Resource Service in Washington, D.C.
• David Ritter, a policy analyst for Critical Mass Energy and Environment Program of Public Citizen in Washington, D.C., presented powerful testimony, which was also printed as a guest column in our local newspaper.
From this massive ACE effort, there has been broad based awareness and support from across the state, largely due to PEN’s outstanding communications network. ACE sent packets of news articles, as well as radioactive waste packets from NIRS radioactive waste research and information. This resulted in groups and individuals across the state commenting against this injustice. At least two other PA groups will be challenging permits to legally accept radioactive wastes.
PA is the largest importer of waste in the nation. DEP’s plan raises the limits of radioactive levels which can be disposed and legally permitting into every PA waste facility. DEP’s Radiation “UNprotection” Action Plan represents an unprecedented health threat. PA residents will be exposed to unnecessary continuous concentrations of everyone else’s radioactive wastes, unless DEP’s plan is stopped now. ACE is hopeful all PA residents living around waste sites and even those who travel on PA highways, will challenge permits in their communities to say no to the acceptance of radioactive wastes and monitor on the waste trucks to avoid transporting these wastes.
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