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#143 - New Incineration Video Stars Women Of The Grass Roots Justice Movement, 21-Aug-1989

Greenpeace has just released a remarkable new 30minute video called
"The Rush to Burn," focused on the hazards of hazardous waste
incinerators. It is a powerful piece of work, valuable to anyone trying
to fight an incinerator. But what's most interesting about this video
is that the political message and the technical message of the film are
both conveyed mainly by women, and often by women from the South. Pat
Costner, the Greenpeace Toxics Research Director, from Arkansas, and
Wilma Subra, a chemical consultant from New Iberia, Louisiana, provide
technical criticisms of incineration, while grass roots activists like
Mardell Smith from El Dorado, Arkansas, Kaye Kiker from Emelle,
Alabama, Navie Epps and JoAnn Bickley from Talbot County, GA, Margo
Blackwell from Bloomington, IN, Hazel Johnson, Marian Burns, and Violet
Czachorski from South Chicago, IL, Madelyn Hoffman from Bloomfield, NJ,
Miriam Price and Helen Solar from Morgan City, Louisiana, and Carol
Wolf from Winona, Mississippi, tell the political story of grass roots
action.

The video was put together by Foongy Kyu Lee and Chris Bedford from the
Organizing Media Project in Washington, DC (see RHWN #101) and it is up
to their usual high standards. The visual images are compelling and the
sound track is excellent.

Pat Costner sets the background by telling us that in 1987 the U.S.
chemical industry had sales of $240 billion; they spent one half of one
percent of that (0.5%) on pollution control. U.S. industry produces one
million pounds of hazardous waste every minute, 24 hours a day, 365
days a year, or roughly 525 billion pounds of waste each year. U.S. EPA
(Environmental Protection Agency) isn't forcing industry or encouraging
industry to make less waste; instead, EPA is trying to force states to
license and live with 90 hazardous waste incinerators to accommodate
industry's wasteful habits. (See RHWN #142.)

"This is the story of how communities across the country have
discovered the dangers of hazardous waste incinerators and are fighting
to stop the rush to burn," says the narrator. Then the video asks and
answers three questions about hazardous waste incineration: (1) Is
incineration safe?; (2) Will (or can) the government protect us from
the hazards?; (3) Does incineration promote the local economy?

The answers to these questions come from the technical experts (Costner
and Subra) and from the mouths of activists who have fought to protect
their communities from an incinerator.

Is incineration safe? Toxic heavy metals entering an incinerator are
not destroyed; depending on the temperature in the furnace, more or
less of these metals will be emitted into the atmosphere and thus
become available for the community to breathe: arsenic, lead, cadmium,
mercury, beryllium, thallium, chromium, zinc. What doesn't go out the
stack goes into the ash, which them gets buried in the ground, thus
creating tomorrow's Superfund sites, to be cleaned up by our children.
In the process of incineration, new chemicals are created inside the
furnace, called PICs or products of incomplete combustion. EPA and the
incineration industry admit these chemicals are created but they don't
measure them at any point during an incinerator's lifetime. What they
don't know won't hurt you, right? If the EPA doesn't study the problem,
they can say with complete confidence, "We are not aware of any
problems with this technology." Typically, dioxins and furans are among
the PICs created in a large incinerator.

In actual fact, none of the toxic air emissions from an operating
hazardous waste incinerator are measured. When an incinerator is brand
new, selected chemicals are burned in its furnace under laboratory
conditions. If 99.99% destruction of those selected chemicals is
achieved, the incinerator is put into service on the assumption that it
will continue working at that level of efficiency for at least the next
five years. No measurements of toxics are considered necessary after
that because everyone has complete confidence that no problems (like
PICs) can occur. Does this sound farfetched to you? Far-fetched or not,
that's how the government "regulates" hazardous waste incinerators
today.

Is a waste facility good for the local economy? Kaye Kiker from Emelle,
AL, explains that, in 1978 before Waste Management, Inc., came to town,
the county's unemployment was 5.8%; in 1986, unemployment had climbed
to 21.1%. "Our water is polluted here," she explains "and it's just not
the kind of place where you want to raise your family. We'll never site
industry here again. I believe we've lost it. This is a dying county,"
she says.

The video ends by scrolling across the screen the names of 36
incinerators that citizens have prevented or shut down: Arvin, CA
(Arvin Environmental Services); Ione, CA (Ogden Environmental
Services); Vernon, CA (Thermal Treatment Service); Middletown, CT
(BFI); Waterbury, CT (Environmental Waste Removal); Bloomington, IN
(Westinghouse); Sedgewick City, KS (Chemical Waste Management);
Wichita, KS (Vulcan); Lawrence City, KS (Pyrochem); Louisville, KY
(BFI); Benton, KY (LWD Units 3, 4, 5); Ascension Parish, LA (IT Corp);
St. Helena, LA (Zytech); Hope, ME (Union Carbide); Flint, MI (Berlin &
Farro); Utica, MI (Liquid Disposal); Lenawee City, MI (Augusta
Development); Shakopee, MN (ENSCO); Staples, MN (Industrial Waste
Conversion); Winona, MS (ITD); Columbia, MS (State Incinerator);
Oswego, NY (Pollution Abatement Service); Rockport, MO (Waste Tech);
Castleton, NV (Disposal Control Services); East Liverpool, OH (Chemical
Waste Management); Cincinnati, OH (City Incinerator); Reading, OH
(Pristine, Inc.); Boise City, OK (Orlandis Corp.); Hughes County, OK
(Royster Waste Recovery); Yukon, PA (Mill Services, Inc.); Apollo, PA
(Babcock & Wilcox); Rockhill, SD (Thermal Chem); Laporte, TX (Houston
Chemical Services); Iron County, UT (Rollins Environmental Services);
Cisco, UT (Co-West Incinerator); Ritzville, WA (ECOS); Nitro, WV
(Pegasus, Inc.).

Get: "Rush to Burn" for $19.95 from Greenpeace U.S.A., Video
Department, 1436 U Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009; phone Karen Hirsch
at (202) 462-1177.

--Peter Montague

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TWO-DAY CONFERENCE IN ALBANY, NY, WILL START WITH LOVE CANAL RALLY

The plan to move blue-collar families back into the contaminated
neighborhood at Love Canal is going forward. (See RHWN #104, #136,
#138.) The infamous dump has been capped with clay, but the chemicals
are still there, so now it's a land mine in the ground, waiting for its
next victims.

A rally has been scheduled (and this time the date is firm) to show
Governor Cuomo that people want this immoral plan stopped. Friday,
September 16 at 6:00 p.m., we will meet in State Capitol Park in
Albany, NY, and will walk to the Governor's Mansion five minutes away,
carrying candles and flashlights (bring your own). The rally is
sponsored by Citizens's Clearinghouse for Hazardous Waste (CCHW),
Greenpeace Work on Waste U.S.A., the New York Toxics Coalition, the
Ecumenical Task Force, and the Love Canal Homeowners Association.

For information on the rally, carpooling and leaflets, contact Sandy
Fonda (518) 725-7788, Lois Gibbs (703) 276-7070, or Pat Brown (716)
284-0026.

The following two days, September 17 and 18, there will be a
conference, Environment '89 in Albany, sponsored by the NY
Environmental Planning Lobby, the Environmental Institute, and the NY
Toxics Coalition. These are some of the best groups on the east coast,
so this should be a good conference. Barry Commoner will speak, and
approximately 20 workshops have been planned, including toxics use
reduction, air toxics, recycling, and pesticides. For additional
information, or reservations, phone (518) 462-5526.

--Peter Montague

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Descriptors: hazardous waste incineration; waste treatment
technologies; air pollution; pics; regulation; love canal; ny;
landfilling; conferences.