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aaEndl Add i ngton. that Vermont’s ea eme ump the waste in the mostly Hispanic West Texas community is an act of “environmental racism.” Rogers condescendingly replied, “‘Environmental racism?’ I don’t think you’ll find very many -if any other people in this community, that would use the , same terminology. And that’s something that’s been fed to him by somebody else. That’s not his thought.” The superintendent didn’t say whether his own thoughts were fed to him by the TLLRWA, or whether the “people that don’t live here” might include the nuclear power industry of Vermont and Maine. Mr. Mustain horseback. The Authority picked up the $603 dinner tab \(about The next day the group followed the typical routine of touring U.T.’s Southwestern Medical Center and then had lunch at Planet Hollywood before flying back to El Paso. Teacher Mustain commented a couple of weeks later in a letter sent to the Authority, “I was thankful for the many lessons that the students learned from the many activities…. Eight of our students had never before flown on an airplane!” After returning to Sierra Blanca, Tatum had her students prepare reports for the Authority, which must have been pleased with the outcome. “We had been misled about how dangerous low-level waste actually is. This trip opened my eyes to a whole new world,” wrote one student. “At first I had my doubts, but now I am more for it than against. The suites were so cool. The food was great and Medieval Times was fantastic;” wrote another. “Going on this trip made me realize that this low-level waste isn’t really dangerous to our town,” a student wrote. While one student wrote that at the Embassy Suites hotel, “I felt like royalty,” she was not so impressed with Planet Hollywood: “I expected it to be really nice, but when we got there I realized it was just an overrated overpriced restaurant…. The food was way too expensive. If we go back next year I would rather not go to Planet Hollywood.” A few students were still not completely sold on their town’s future as a radioactive waste dumpsite. One skeptic wrote in her report, “I came here very impressed and assured that this will be the safest way to dispose of the waste. But this doesn’t change my feeling on the possibility of human error that can occur and the Blanca will have to take or endure.” Another young woman wrote, “Southwest Medical Center was interesting…. Dr. Michael Devous was probably my favorite though…. I liked him also because he was the only person, after four years of hearing about this stuff, that actually told about the bad things that nuclear waste can do.” This same student also commented about touring the waste storage area at Comanche Peak. “In the waste collection building we got to see some of the canisters where the waste is stored. We also got to see and smell resin. It is cool. It looks like dirt kind of except gold, but it doesn’t really feel like anything. It does however smell like fish, really bad.” The May 1997 edition of the Sierra Blanca School newsletter ran an editorial on the Comanche Peak tour. “‘I am now for the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Disposal Site,’ a student, who was previously against the dump, said after the Comanche Peak trip.” The editorial demonstrated that students understand the relationship between a poor school district in a poor community and a well-funded state agency: “It is true that the [Authority] is helping to better our community by buying things many people here can use. Sierra Blanca is receiving several things that it could not get before because of financial constraints.” Maria Mendez is not a science teacher, but she does recognize the potential hazards of radiation, and in particular the risks it represents for children. “Anything could happen on these tours. Just look at what took place at Three Mile Island. They weren’t expecting that disaster,” says Mendez. “We need to stop the tours and the dump altogether, especially for the kids since they’re more vulnerable than adults. I’m afraid for my grandkids and I’m doing all I can to stop this madness.” It’s unlikely that the tours or at least the promotional work the school district does for the Authority and the nuclear waste industry will end any time soon. In September the Authority gave the Sierra Blanca School another $5,000, guaranteeing that “Nuclear Waste 101” will be one of the best-funded courses in the curriculum in an impoverished school district in West Texas. Richard Boren is an environmental activist and freelance writer who divides his time between El Paso and Tucson. 12 THE TEXAS OBSERVER JANUARY 30, 1998