talking about crazies. But these people had all they could take by 1980, and when two EPA officials came down to explain that folks had genetic damage in their children, the rest of us decided that if it was so darned safe for Love Canal citizens to live there, then they could live there. “Love Canal residents took two EPA officials hostage.” Her audience erupted into laughter and applause. “We put them in an old abandoned Love Canal house. We fed them bologna sandwiches and chocolate chip cookies. And we held them there for five hours. We called the White House. Because we weren’t afraid of Jimmy. And we never called him President. Because we figured he was just like us. We had the power. We put him into office; we could take him out. He’s an agent of mine; I’m not an agent of his. So we called . his office and we said, ‘We are holding two EPA officials hostage here at Love Canal,’ and that we were not going to leave them go until we were evacuated from our community. “Now I don’t advise you ever to do this. The timing and everything was perfect for us. I don’t think it could ever be repeated. But I do want to explain how far our community went, because we were so angry and we had no way out. We had no money to move people. We were stuck there. And so we were forced to take the law into our own hands. “We gave the White House till Wednesday at noon to give us an answer and evacuation. We told them that if they didn’t, what we did would look like a Sesame Street picnic, to what was gonna happen Wednesday at noon. What could we possibly have done that Wednesday at noon? [Laughter in audience.] Don’t ever do that! We did a whole lot of praying that something would happen Wednesday at noon, and precisely Wednesday at noon we got a phone call, from the White House, saying we had all been evacuated. Not because we had 56 percent of our babies that were born birth defected, not because our women couldn’t carry their children or had made decisions about postponing pregnancy, not because we had a high cancer rate, but because it was politically advantageous to Jimmy Carter to do that. They evacuated 900 families at Love Canal for ‘mental anguish.’ ” Lauri Maddy, a Kansas housewife, was driven to desperate acts by her failure to get attention to her complaints against Vulcan Chemical. First, she became sick, then her children, finally her baby. Two years after she’d sought help from government officials, they were still “studying” it. She lost patience. “In 1988 there was a true metamorphosis,” she said. “The nation got kinder and gentler, but I got meaner and nastier. The only way I was gonna get any public attention [on the problem] was to embarrass my government. So I took my to do. I handcuffed myself in the governor’s office. I sent a statement to the governor saying, ‘I have locked myself in your environment, as you have locked me in.’ And I watched him squirm. I watched his aides squirm. “I sold my farm, I sold my dream, I sold my hopes, and I sold my health! I guess what I’m trying to say is, from now on I don’t have to be modest. I don’t have to be kind, and I don’t even have to be good to my government. They don’t protect me. So from now on, this kid is gonna get meaner and nastier, and I’m gonna do everything I can do to embarrass my government. Make them squirm. And I think it’s time that we all did that!” Maddy’s comments were followed by thunderous applause. THE ISSUE OF accountability, whether for polluters or politicians, was a recurring theme in the speeches and hearings. “We’re dealing with criminals,” said Larry Wilson. Pat Bryant, whose voice resonates with the cadences of the black pulpit, put today’s pollution in historical perspective. “Fifty years ago, people got shot for poisoning somebody’s water. And I think we need to start talking about what people did 50, 60 years ago, a hundred years: ago, [when someone] poisoned their water, their well.” Peter Montague, the tall, graying, amiable Ph.D. in chemistry, from Environmental Research in Princeton, New Jersey, who publishes the weekly Hazardous Waste News, elaborated. His state includes 100 Superfund sites. “Thirty years ago, everything was known about pollution that is known today. They knew that if they put it in the water you were gonna end up being sick. They knew that if they piled creosote down there, it was gonna get out and move with the water, in the direction that the water flowed. This is not a surprise. And the word for that is ‘criminal.’ It’s a harsh word, but it is true, that the people who have contaminated America are criminals. And they need to be brought to justice in handcuffs. “America is in serious trouble. We are undergoing a siege. Someone from El Dorado [Arkansas] told me at lunch ‘a chemical holocaust.’ That is not an exaggeration. “These people are converting poisons into money by any means they can. They don’t give a damn. And they are gonna have to be brought to justice.” Montague said the problem is not just a matter of environmentalism but of human rights. “You have the right to defend yourself against chemical assaults,” he said. Talk of solutions included discussion of both tactics and goals. Walter Hammerschick, the towering, affable, German-accented activist \(of CitiTexas, offered a plan inspired by the success of the National Rifle Association with its three million members. “They make or break politicians, and we have to do the same thing. If they do not follow the environmental rules we want, we will tell them, ‘You will not be going back any more to Washington or to Austin or to any capital in this country.’ It’s the only way to do organize. All over the United States we need one or more million members, and each of them members who pay a little fee per year not much, $5 maybe. “We have to tell ’em every day that we, the people, sent them to Washington, and not the industries. We have to become powerful enough, all over this country, to do the same thing as NRA. We have to do it for ourselves, for the children, and for our grandchildren.” John O’Connor pointed out how toxic chemicals and waste profiteers have corrupted American life. He spoke of the need to “restore our democracy, so that we as a country can do as we have never done before, which is to decide democratically what is produced, how it is produced, and ultimately what is done with those products and by-products. That’s real democracy, that’s what we need. . . . “Let me talk about the solutions. It’s not complicated. Bans, plans, and damns. We’ve got to ban the production of the worst toxic chemicals. Plans we’ve got to get the firms that are making the toxic wastes to come up with plans to stop making the toxic waste, with time tables. And damns we’ve got to damn the siting of any new facilities where they dump toxic waste in the holes in the ground. Incinerators don’t work. They take a lot of toxic waste and turn it into a smaller amount in a much more potent form of toxic waste. That’s no way to deal with your toxic waste. No more dumps, no more incinerators. “You’ve got to ask the question, ‘Do we need styrofoam cups?’ It makes the coffee awful, blows a hole in the ozone, workers die when they make the stuff. You put it in a landfill and it won’t break down causes the garbage to set there for hundreds of thousands of years. “Do we need all the pesticides? Let me give you some interesting numbers here. Before World War II, before the family farmers started to get pushed off the land, because of these chemicals, farmers lost about a third of their crops to bugs. Well, today, 40 years later after a chemical saturation of the nation, we’re losing a third of our crops to bugs. We’ve got super-bugs. You have to shoot ’em with shotguns! They get stronger and we’ve got to use more and more toxics, pollute the water and pollute the air, and guess where all the toxic waste comes from. Most of the toxic waste comes from the production of these synthetic chemicals. “You make a barrel of pesticides and you 10 MARCH 10, 1989
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