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natural predators. There are ways, also, to create jobs without stepping up the production of toxic substances. One strategy that is emerging has to do with the conversion of existing chemical plants to safer products, starting a transition from an over-synthesized chemical industry to a more natural-based industry. The National Campaign Against Toxic Hazards, a Boston-based non-profit group founded in 1984, is one group talking about this approach. The campaign’s executive director, John O’Connor, also advocates a “Superfund for chemical workers,” to support workers who are displaced by a move away from the most dangerous chemical jobs. He suggests a heavy tax on substances known to be dangerous, with the revenues from the tax going to the workers’ fund. Who will lend the political muscle to ideas that are not sanctioned by the powerful chemical industry? “There is a brewing grassroots movement saying no to toxic wastes,” says O’Connor, who spends much of his time traveling the country to help cothmunities organize against waste dumping schemes. Out of this movement against waste dumps, O’Connor says, will come an understanding that overproduction of pesticides and plastics is a major cause of the toxics problem. He sees citizen power already making an impact on the political process. Ten years ago, it would have been “unthinkable” to impose a tax on the corporate giants to clean up toxic waste, O’Connor says. But last year Congress not only reauthorized the Superfund cleanup bill; it increased the funding. The role of the universities in changing the course of technology is important as well. For so long, university researchers have been the handmaidens of the industry. But a university should be a place where independent scholars who understand more than one narrow field are thinking of solutions for the central problems of the times. The pesticide and chemical problem, for example, can not be separated from questions about an economic system that has led us toward self-destruction. A better society will not come out of the chemistry labs, that much has been demonstrated. And yet the work that the chemical industry is fostering now is the work of biotechnology the science of throwing nature even more out of whack by genetic manipulation and engineering. If there is to be progress, there will have to be a new ethic one that demands more than stockholder satisfaction in the technologies of the future. The new ethic will demand that public health be guaranteed; it will demand more than marketability and consumer acceptance from new products; it will assert that the further we move from nature’s ecosystems the worse off we are. This type of ethic can only be imposed on an economic system by the people themselves, acting in many small movements as part of one large movement. D.D. Highlands FOR GLORIA CHAPLIN and her children, the 30-acre moonscape of clay and pits behind their six acre homestead has been an continuous ecological nightmare. Once a licensed facility, the old Liberty Waste pit has become its own generator of toxic chemical compounds. Mud geysers atop the sealed waste pit spew out clouds of choking chemicals that include ethylbenzene, xylenes, tolulene, benzene compounds and napthalene. A recent gas chromotography/mass face soil, commissioned by the Texas Center for Rural Studies, established that the “waste stream that is being released outside of the existing landfill pits contains hazardous waste constituents that were not indicated in the manifests of the wastes that were being dumped there. The hydrologist’s report could confirm what Gloria and her neighbors have claimed for years: that there is more buried in the dump than the nonhazardous industrial plant trash that it was permitted to receive by the Texas years residents around the dump, situated on an alluvial plain less than a quarter of a mile from the meandering San Jacinto River, have complained of a variety of illnesses. Nosebleeds, headaches, severe rashes, insomnia and blisters in the nose and throat are the most frequent complaints. Five years ago, Chaplin, and another neighbor, Eva Fontenot enlisted the support of a Houston Chronicle reporter and Dr. Norman Trieff, of the University of Texas Medical School at Galveston. “Everyone living out here,” Chaplin said, “had tumors or cancer of some kind.” Chaplin and Fontenot conducted an informal survey of the neighborhood; what they discovered was disturbing. Within a two-mile radius of the dump site they found more than 100 people with cancer and 75 with benign tumors. According to Treiff, the nonspecific complaints of nosebleeds, blisters, insomnia and headaches are typically related to exposure to toxic chemicals. Yet Liberty Waste owner C.P. Joiner insisted that there was no hazardous material disposed in the dump during its 13 years of operation. Liberty Waste Disposal Company applied for a Class II permit in June of 1971. The permit issued by the Water Quality Board now the Texas Water Commission allowed for the disposal of dry non-hazardous materials. Accord ing to an article published in The Highlands Star, company executives and legal counsel met with Highlands residents in June of 1971 and explained that the dump would receive only dry materials such as “lumber, paper, cardboard, rags, metals, plastics, concrete, etc. There would be “no burning and no odors,” Liberty Waste officials promised. The proposed dump was described as a “trench-type landfill operation” that would receive about 1,000 cubic feet of material daily. Waste was to be compacted and covered with a six-inch layer of soil at the end of each day. Residents living near the dumpsite began to register complaints about odors, burning eyes and upper respiratory inflammation soon after the dump opened, said Eva Fontenot who lives 500 feet from Liberty Waste’s front gate. At times, chemicals in the dump would ignite; smoke and fumes were so intense that residents were forced out of their houses for days, according to Chaplin and Fontenot. The Texas Center for Rural Studies, an Austin-based grass-roots environmental group, also claims that the dump began to violate its permit restrictions soon after it opened. Rural Studies researchers have reviewed agency files and obtained file summaries from plaintiff’s attorneys preparing cases against Liberty Waste and 22 regional industries who had disposed of materials in the Highlands clump. WHAT THEY HAVE discovered strongly suggests that some Class I wastes, toxic and hazardous materials, were dumped The Wastelands Getting to the Bottom of a Suspicious Dump By Louis Dubose 8 APRIL 17, 1987