Two decades ago, Democrats and Republicans together sought to protect Americans from nearly 200 dangerous chemicals in the air they breathe. That goal remains unfulfilled. Today, hundreds of communities are still exposed to the pollutants, which can cause cancer, birth defects and other serious health issues. A secret government 'watch list' underscores how much government knows about the threat – and how little it has done to address it.In my last post, I wrote about one of these "poisoned" places, Hayden, Arizona, Titled "EPA Takes Action Against Toxic Arizona Copper Plant."
According to NPR there is a "secret government 'watch list' underscores how much government knows about the threat – and how little it has done to address it." So what is this secret government 'watch list' NPR speaks of?
The Bush administration's EPA faced criticism for not being tough enough on chronic polluters, so in 2004 it created a confidential watch list to manage the problem.
According to EPA reports, when regulators don't crack down within nine months of learning that a facility is a chronic or serious violator of the rules, the facility automatically pops onto the watch list. As a result, the agency says, some facilities may end up on the list in error.
Some of the facilities on the list likely are the "worst of the worst" polluters, but others may be breaking the rules in ways that do not pose significant risks for human health or the environment, says Grant Nakayama, who headed the EPA's enforcements under President Bush.Apparently, Hayden, Arizona is on that secret list. Is it a "worst of the worst" polluter or is it on there for "breaking the rules in ways that do not pose significant risks for human health or the environment?"
That's an important distinction for two reasons. One, you imply poisoning when you call someone a polluter, this leads to fear, concern, and stress for those who live in that "place." Two, we have limited resources to spend, lets take that money and protect human health and the environment from real danger, not perceived risk. Soapbox /off
Let's also look at the question: "how little it has done to address it."
“The bottom line is that the whole town is contaminated,” said Betty Amparano, who was born in Hayden and has lived here most of her life. Which led the Center for Public Integrity to write:
In some families, generations claim to have suffered ill effects from bad air. Deaths from cancer are common. Regulators have done little; for people who live here, the sense of betrayal is profound.Is there any way possible to look at this objectively? I mean you have a town that is located for the most part within a factory that smelts copper ore. What possible conclusion can one come up with other than the people in Hayden, Arizona have been "poisoned" and there has been "little done to address it."
Let's look at the evidence the NPR and the Center for Public Integrity put forth to support the claim of a "threat" and a "sense of betrayal."
1. We have a copper smelter
2. The town is right next to the copper smelter
3. We have citizens claiming they "suffered ill effects from bad air."
4. The Center for Public Integrity states "deaths from cancer are common."
5. "A copper smelter failed to keep toxic air pollution in check."
6. "The state failed to lean on the smelter’s owner, Asarco."
7. "The federal government failed, until days ago, to override the state."
8. A "finding of violation" claims the company has been continuously emitting illegal amounts of lead, arsenic and eight other dangerous compounds for six years.
9. The EPA says its monitors detected lead at two to three times federal limits on some days during 2011.
10. The EPA ordered Asarco to remove and replace the soil from more than 200 yards in Hayden after finding soil contaminated with lead and arsenic.
11. Does the smelter have a "License to Pollute" as the Center for Public Integrity claims in their video on the NPR web page?
Let's get 1 and 2 out of the way. Yes, there is a copper smelter and the town is right next to it. When you look at the EPA map and the satellite photo, it looks like a bad place to live. The copper smelter in Hayden, Arizona has all the bells and whistles needed to make such a "poisoned places" claim. I mean, look at this map from the EPA that they handed out to the community:
|Handouts from EPA’s Open House and Community Meeting, January 9, 10, 2008|
Maybe a satellite image might work a bit better:
|Alamo in San Antonio, Texas|
You can understand why Hayden citizen Betty Amparano sees it as failures "that all but ruined this wisp of a town occurred on multiple levels."
But here is one of the facts in play. Hayden and Winkelman are there because of the copper smelter.
According to the EPA:
The fact of the matter is this: 50 years before we had an EPA we had a copper smelter in the town of Hayden, Arizona. For 50 years - till present day laws and regulation - that copper smelter did what it was designed to do - smelt copper - which results in ore being refined, tailings being produced, heat being generated, and emissions put into the air.
"I remember clouds of blue smoke coming down into the playgrounds in the community and coughing and your eyes burning," recalls Manny Armenta, 56, who represents union workers at Asarco.
And I remember the air being so bad in Garden Grove, California that it burned my eyes when we went outside to play. That was Orange County back in the 60s before it was all grown up. That was then, this is now.
So one again, we have two opposing claims:
A "finding of violation" claims the company has been continuously emitting illegal amounts of lead, arsenic and eight other dangerous compounds for six years....and:
"Our smelter is in compliance with its air permit," writes Tom Aldrich, an Asarco spokesman. "Asarco works closely with its regulators and proactively seeks innovations as science evolves and environmental laws and rules are updated."
Two men claim they're Jesus one of them must be wrong.
Next post: Poisoned Places: Part 3 - The whole towns contaminated.