The public knows that extreme weather events, while they are inevitable dangers, are just some of the reasons why uranium mining in Virginia is unacceptable. The public also knows that there is no technology that can contain radioactive emissions and contamination in perpetuity, but what the public doesn’t know is that radioactive exposures are inevitable because the regulations that govern uranium mining are based on the ALARA (as low as reasonably achievable) standard, which allows for and legalizes radioactive contamination. So, the focus of my presentation was on the fact that containment is impossible, radioactive contamination, even at low levels is dangerous, and according to uranium mining guidelines, radioactive waste could likely be buried at the Coles Hill site.
It is day 53 of my 365 Days of Living Deliberately blog, and I can’t help but think about what toxicologist, Dr. Charles Miller Professor of Global Environmental Health Sciences at Tulane University’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, said at yesterday’s panel discussion on Cancer Alley. He said that most incidences of cancer are caused by tobacco, ignorance, and poverty and not by polluting industries. Obviously, he represented the opposite point of view that Dr. Williams had represented.
Dr. Williams explained how children are “environmental indicators.” Children don’t have destructive habits such as drinking alcohol and smoking, and they breathe and eat more for their body weight, so when they are exposed to toxic and radioactive contamination, they are affected more than adults are. She described how children are, in effect, the canary in the mine, showing us what dangers are present before the dangers to adults are apparent. Yet even as children are indicators of exposure to carcinogens, Dr. Williams described how the Louisiana Department of Health continues to ignore the cancers that are known, for instance, ignoring a cancer cluster found in a second grade classroom where five children had cancer.
Over the past thirty-five years, Ken and I have educated ourselves so that we can help educate others on the scientific and technical issues related to waste disposal and the risks to public health. We have studied toxic waste landfills, and now that we are part of the opposition to uranium mining in Virginia, we’ve been schooling ourselves on the risks of mine tailings disposal and of radioactive exposure. I am also now schooling myself on the dangers of coal ash. We’ve found that since we are grassroots educators and activists, we have no vested interests and no partisan affiliations, so, we are free to learn the unfettered truth concerning the realities of toxic and radioactive contamination. Thus, we are free to work more effectively to help promote solutions.
The Tulane Environmental Law Clinic is well-known across the country for working legally with communities in Louisiana which are impacted by the massive petro-chemical and other pollution-causing industries that are located on and near the Mississippi River. A host of topics was presented at the two-day Summit, including discussions on ocean acidification, wetlands destruction, Levee destruction and damages, restoring the Gulf Coast, hydraulic Fracturing and waste water, legislative solutions to plastics, Louisiana’s Cancer Alley, the recent West Virginia chemical spill, uranium mining in Virginia, and environmental radicalism and civil disobedience.
“Our job is making sure all the remediation that can be done, is done,” said Myles Bartos, an “on scene coordinator” for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “We’re not going anywhere for a while.”
But Bartos and a platoon of his fellow officials dodged an important question several in the crowd posed in different ways: It’s great you’re here now, but where were you before it happened and why didn’t you prevent it?
Environmentalists have a ready answer.
“Where were the regulators? They were making things as easy as possible on business and corporations,” said Sam Perkins, a staff member with the Catawba Riverkeeper group that monitors its namesake river system.