LOOK FOR US NEXT TIME YOU LEAVE THE HOUSE. YOU’LL FIND US IN THESE TEXAS LOCATIONS: B. Dalton Barnes & Noble Bookstop Borders And many other retailers across the state To LOCATE AN OBSERVER NEWSSTAND NEAR YOU \(INCLUDING STORES OUTSIDE 512/477-0746. PLEASE LET YOUR LOCAL BOOKSELLER KNOW THAT YOU’D LIKE TO SEE THE GOOD, GRAY TEXAS OBSERVER ON HER SHELVES. 111X11 rver “Wilson,” from page 11 commission the study at first. “Industry would like us to believe it’s impossible, we’re talking philosophy when we’re talking zero discharge,” Wilson says. “And I don’t even think the issue is technology at all, it just has to do with power.” To campaign for zero discharge Wilson went on her third hunger strike in April of 1993, and in May Formosa agreed to commission a study supervised by Matson. But even this agreement was not the victory it appeared to be. The following year, says Wilson, “I was fighting all of Formosa’s permits [to discharge toxic waste], I had an appeal in Washington…they couldn’t start that plant and discharge because I was appealing.” Wilson learned that Formosa was illegally continuing to discharge waste water, she says, when an EPA official inadvertently revealed the information over the phone. “Formosa was discharging. EPA knew it, Formosa knew it, and no one else knew it. It outrages you…. They make the rules, it’s their gameboard and things will keep going until the whole community, the whole bay system is destroyed. “So I quit playing by their rules,” Wilson says. “I wanted to do something that would so grab them by their imaginations…. You know when you’re fixing to do the right thing, because it scares the fire out of you.” She decided to sink her boat over the discharge point. She took out the engine, painted the boat “virgin white,” and close to midnight on March 26, 1994 her brother began towing her out to the discharge point. She never made it there, for on the way out two boatloads of Coast Guard officials, who she says had been tipped off by a Formosa spy, descended upon the boat and conducted a two-hour inspection. Coast Guard officials told her she could face charges of terrorism, she says, and they continued to monitor her for the next month. Though she never sank her boat, she was ultimately successful in securing a zero-discharge agreement, which Formosa signed in July. “The court cases were going nowhere; EPA was going to let them discharge…. Diane Wilson beat them with her moral courage,” Bedford says. “They could not stand the pressure.” According to Jim Blackburn, “Diane’s gotten through agreement what she never could have gotten through , the courts or the administrative process.” Though her hunger strikes and other acts of protest have not led directly to agreements, they call attention to issues that industry would like to push under the carpet. “It changes things, it changes the dynamic of the situation,” Wilson says of her fasts. And other companies in the region know of her persistence, which may be one reason that Alcoa Aluminum agreed fairly readily to perform a zero discharge study last year. In May of this year Alcoa announced it would construct containment facilities and an evaporation pond. Formosa is still considering the study results. ilson’s next goal is to persuade DuPont to abandon its proposal to discharge wastewater into the Guadalupe River. That wastewater is currently injected into underground wells, but the company has applied for a permit to biologically treat the water and then dump it directly into the river. Though company representatives maintain that implementing zero wastewater discharge would be feasible only by increasing other air and solid waste releases, they have not released their studies. Matson asserts that it would be relatively simple for DuPont to attain zero discharge by biologically treating the wastewater as planned, but then re-injecting it into the existing wells rather than piping it into the river. During Wilson’s recent fast, DuPont’s lawyers insisted that the company would not capitulate to acts of “environmental terrorism,” according to Blackburn. Yet the history of Wilson’s protests against other companies suggests that it’s too soon to tell what effect this past strike will have. Blackburn and Wilson will contest the discharge permit in a hearing that begins October 1 in Austin. Meanwhile in Calhoun County, where Wilson was once the lone voice of protest, more and more people are warming to her message. The Seadrift City Council and the Calhoun County Judge each recently passed resolutions to urge companies to study and implement zero discharge. And Wilson is starting to organize an injured worker’s association: because she is known for standing up to the petrochemical companies, she says, injured workers who can’t get a settlement from their employers often call her for help. Local support is growing, Wilson says. “Now we’re saying [to the companies] no more, you will not get it no more….This is grassroots people, everyday people pick up on that message because they’re sick and tired of hearing industry saying let me take care of it, the state says all they gotta do is abide by the permit, and what happens is you destroy your rivers, you destroy your drinking water, you destroy the health of a people, you destroy our waterways. “Industry down here thinks I am a demon with several heads,” she says. “But they start messing with those bays, I have seen them sit down and systematically destroy, and they won’t get the bays, they won’t get them.” Observer intern Karen Olsson has written for Civilization \(the magazine of the City Paper, and other publications. 20 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 4.., SEPTEMBER 13, 1996
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