The Alliance For A Clean Environment

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“The Toxic Turnaround”

ACE has taken steps to try to reverse the dangerous toxic trend in the Greater Pottstown Area. At a press conference in January, 2001 ACE announced the “Toxic Turnaround” Initiative supported by Pottstown’s Mayor Nancy Jones.

Step 1 - Call For A Moratorium - Enough is Enough! (January, 2001)

Due to documented significantly elevated cancers, and air which is in the top 10% of the most carcinogenic in the nation, ACE asked our protective agencies to deny all pollution permits with any increases in hazardous air emissions. We asked DEP to use the Precautionary Principle, which states that when significant risks to public health exist, precautionary measures should be taken.

Air Pollution Permits from DEP

  • ACE asked DEP to deny a permit to Occidental which would concentrate some of the most dangerous and carcinogenic air emissions known to mankind at Occidental, with 31,000 residents and 25 schools and day-cares within 2 miles of Occidental and tens of thousands more residents downwind. Thousands more people work dangerously close to Occidental and the Pottstown Hospital just ˝ mile away. Pottstown Landfill gas at Occidental would be the second source of radiation in less than a mile. The Limerick Nuclear Power Plant is .7 of a mile from Occidental.

      a. DEP ignored all the documented evidence of harm and issued the permit to allow Occidental to increase its hazardous air emissions in June, 2001.

      b. ACE is still hopeful that the Governor will honor the concerns of physicians at two area hospitals, Pottstown Mayor Jones and other local elected officials, area businessmen and leaders, and ACE, all asking the Governor to withdraw that air pollution permit to Occidental.

  • ACE will be working diligently to try to get DEP to finally take responsible action to stop all additional hazardous air emissions and deny any pollution permits in the Greater Pottstown Area, especially all Pottstown Landfill expansions.. The Pottstown Landfill emits extremely hazardous air emissions 24 hours a day, which are already destroying our air, soil, water, and our health. We cannot risk or tolerate additional hazardous exposures.

      a. Pottstown Landfill expansion is unnecessary and far too great a threat to public health and safety in a heavily populated area. Pottstown Landfill already cannot manage the amount of gas it produces.

      b. There is already enough permitted landfill space in PA to last another 12 years. Waste Management has forced us to be the dumping ground for others far too long. PA state elected officials need to limit the amount of waste that can be dumped in PA every day to only what PA residents generate.

Step 2 - Requested Reductions - Save Our Children’s Future (January, 2001)

ACE asked DEP to REQUIRE REDUCTIONS of hazardous air emissions limits on 5 year Title V air permits for Occidental Chemical and Waste Management based on the health crisis in this area.
  • DEP ignored all the documented evidence of harm and since has issued both 5-year air permits with no reductions and in fact, increases to the Pottstown Landfill.

  • There are two pending permits which we are hopeful DEP will deny which will make matters worse and provide no reductions.

Step 3 - Tooth Fairy Project (January, 2001)

ACE joined a national research project to measure the amount of strontium-90 radiation in baby teeth. There has been a great response by area residents in sending in baby teeth. Joseph Mangano, the national director of the Radiation and Public Health Project, will return to Pottstown to report preliminary results.

  • This region has responded very well. This on-going initiative has been very successful. Please continue to send your children’s baby teeth. Contact ACE for an envelope. (If you have a child with cancer and have a baby tooth from that child, or if anyone you know has a child with cancer, please contact ACE as soon as possible.)

Step 4 - Childproofing Our Communities (March, 2001)

Because we live in an extremely toxic damaged region due to the continuous and ever-increasing hazardous air emissions from major polluting industries, ACE believe it is even more imperative for our region’s schools to take immediate action to childproof their schools. Reducing exposures to dangerous pesticides and cleaning chemicals at schools will reduce some of the additive risks and prevent some of the suffering and serous illnesses. Children can not avoid the poisons in their air from polluting industries. They are forced to breathe in the air and are exposed on the playgrounds and sports fields. Parents in their own homes can also start to take action to minimize chemical exposures to the children in their homes.
In March 2001 we joined CHEJ’s national campaign and announced our initial step in childproofing our communities. An ACE Regional Pesticide Coalition was formed to focus on awareness of the hazards associated with pesticide spraying in schools. We hope to present CHEJ’s recommendations for an integrated pest management program to each school. Eventually, we hope schools will minimize or eliminate hazardous pesticide spraying. We believe this effort will bring awareness for parents to do the same at home.
ACE is also working toward schools and parents using safer alternatives to hazardous chemical cleaning products, which pose unnecessary and avoidable risks to our children. ACE can supply schools and parents with suggestions for safer alternatives. Toxic mold is a serious health threat to our children. This must be taken seriously, identified, prevented, and eliminated. ACE has fact sheets on the health effects of toxic molds and other mold information.

  • In April, 2002 we began working with an area school district which will be taking a proactive initiative to reduce all potential toxic exposure risks at school in an effort to minimize the risks their children face from living in our toxic damaged community. In time, it is our hope that most of our regional school systems will also try to protect their children.

Step 5 - Stop Dioxin Exposure Campaign (September, 2001)

EPA says that people living near sources of dioxin, like those in the Greater Pottstown area, are at far greater risk from dioxin than the general population – we not only get it in our food, we are also forced to breathe it. EPA confirms that dioxin is one of the most toxic chemicals known to humans. Dioxin stores in the body fat and can cause severe damage at parts per trillion in your body. Dioxin is not metabolized by humans. Our bodies have no defense against it.
Dioxin is passed on to our children – Babies are born with dioxin in their bodies. Dioxin causes low birth weight, birth defects, decreased IQ, learning disabilities, nervous system damage, hyperactivity in children, low sperm count, immune system damage (leading to increased infectious disease, asthma, and allergies).
Dioxin causes hormone disruption, miscarriages, infertility, endometriosis, and chloracne. Dioxin has even been linked with diabetes. Dioxin is a potent cancer-causing agent.

In September 2001 ACE joined CHEJ’s national campaign to stop dioxin exposure. In Pottstown, we face enormous risks from dioxin exposure, both from Occidental’s PVC production, and burning enormous amounts of Pottstown Landfill gas. Tragically, neither EPA nor DEP has measured for dioxin releases in our community nor done anything to control them. DEP refuses to consider dioxin releases in its air pollution permits, in spite of an obvious health crisis here already and two major sources of dioxin emissions.

  • Occidental Chemical in Pottstown produces PVC. PVC is a primary dioxin source. ACE has met with Occidental Union leaders. We asked them to join our efforts to encourage Occidental to transition to safer alternatives than PVC plastics in order to protect our community from Oxy’s dioxin threat. Since many large manufacturers, due to its toxicity from the cradle to the grave, are phasing out PVC we believe a transition to a safer alternative is also the only way to insure the jobs of Oxy workers in the future.

  • ACE will be working hard to try to stop the burning of Pottstown Landfill gas anywhere in our community. The landfill contains massive amounts of chlorinated chemicals. When burned, the chlorinated chemicals in the landfill gas produce dioxin in the cooling down process after combustion. The landfill produces enormous amounts of landfill gas, which when burned results in dioxin formation. It is time for the Pottstown Landfill to be shut down to protect our community from this inevitable dioxin exposure as a result of burning Pottstown Landfill gas.

Step 6 Proactive Health Initiative (October, 2001)

ACE has enlisted the expertise of national environmental health experts to get ideas for developing ways of reducing health risks and improving the quality of life in our toxic damaged community. This program would provide proactive assistance to those who are suffering from environmental exposures that result in disease. The model has been shared with elected officials and a number of medical professionals on the ACE Medical Advisory Board.
ACE is seeking funding to bring in environmental health experts, experienced in providing proactive help for this toxic damaged community. These experts would work with the community and its interested physicians and leaders to design the best comprehensive protocol possible for a plan which that ultimately result in clinical health care for the victims of our excessive hazardous exposures.

Suggested Objectives:

1. A comprehensive environmental and health plan for the future of the Greater Pottstown Area.
2. Moratoriums and reductions on known and proposed routes of exposure that pose a threat to human health.
3. Provide victims of environmental exposures with individualized assistance.
4. Environmental education programs for citizens and interested physicians.

This on-going program would;

a. reduce environmental disease
b. educate and train the public as well as medical and other professionals about environmental illnesses and establish preventive programs
c. establish preventive programs
d. collect valuable clinical data
e. reduce and eliminate exposures and restore public health in the area.

Step 7 The Bucket Brigade (April, 2002)

ACE announced a citizens air monitoring initiative. This will enable us to measure everyday pollution levels or respond to accidental releases from Occidental Chemical and the Pottstown Landfill. We will be able to take a “grab sample,” or a snapshot of pollution levels at any time, day or night, weekday or weekend. Goals of this initiative:

1. Effective pollution prevention.
2. Watchdog the major polluting industries that are left to test, monitor, and report their own hazardous air emissions. Buckets are a powerful right-to-know technique.
3. Force DEP to take their own measurements more accurately and respond to concerns more aggressively.
4. Use the data to make connections between health concerns and the hazardous emissions from these facilities.

Why is this necessary?

  • DEP has been extremely unresponsive. If DEP came to investigate citizens’ odor complaints at all, they came days after the problem and then not to test, but instead to have a DEP employee “SNIFF.” Sniffing for hazardous air emissions days after the event is ridiculous. This is not responsible action to identify health risks to community residents. DEP has displayed little, if any, interest in the truth.

  • DEP’s one time gas testing of Pottstown Landfill gas for chemicals was totally inadequate and absolutely flawed.

  • DEP’s one time radiation testing of the air around the Pottstown Landfill was woefully inadequate. ACE asked DEP to test the GAS for all kinds and amounts of radiation likely to be in Pottstown Landfill gas. DEP and NRC permitted many kinds of radiation to go into the Pottstown Landfill even though it was not permitted to accept radiation and even though it was too close to a very heavily populated area.

  • Both ACE and Pottstown Mayor Nancy Jones asked for continuous perimeter monitoring around both Occidental and the Pottstown Landfill before Title V five-year air permits were issued. EPA has an approved method to do continuous perimeter monitoring which could have been used by DEP. DEP has ignored our requests.

  • DEP has since set up just one station to monitor for only a tiny fraction of the potential hazardous emissions from the Pottstown Landfill. DEP can in no way determine our health risks in this way. Most of the extremely hazardous substances the Pottstown Landfill emits into our air will not be measured.

  • We believe DEP is using this monitoring station as a tactic to claim there is no problem so that the polluters can continue to do business as usual. DEP issued 5-year air permits to both the Pottstown Landfill and Occidental without waiting a year for results from their monitoring station. This suggests DEP’s conclusions have been pre-determined.

  • DEP will finally measure for vinyl chloride. However, DEP’s monitoring station will not be in the downwind direction of Occidental, even though Occidental in Pottstown has been the #1 emitter of vinyl chloride in the nation. Given the extreme health risks associated with exposure to vinyl chloride, why didn’t DEP do perimeter monitoring at Occidental or also put a monitoring station downwind of Occidental? We believe we know the answers.

P.O. Box 3063
Stowe, PA 19464

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