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. Miller even cited a case where he said that people who lived near a polluting industry had a lower cancer rate. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing from Dr. Miller, so in the question/answer session after the panel presentations, I asked Dr. Miller if he had in fact said that there is a lower cancer rate next to the industry he described. He answer, “Yes,” and I then asked him (innocently), if this is the case, then should people be encouraged to move into that area?” He didn’t know if I was being serious or facetious, but I let him know that I didn’t seriously entertain my own question. Soon after my question, a woman, (I later met her and found her name) Nathalie Walker said that the Louisiana Tumor Registry was a bunch of “garbage,” and she then lambasted Dr. Miller and others who skew science in behalf of industries. Ms. Walker is an attorney and is co-director of Advocates for Environmental Human Rights, a “nonprofit, public interest law firm whose mission is to provide legal services, community organizing support, public education, and campaigns focused on defending and advancing the human right to a healthy environment, and advocating for the human rights of internally displaced Gulf Coast hurricane survivors.”
I was able to attend the last part of a panel discussion on the West Virginia chemical spill before my uranium mining presentation. Attorney Kevin Thompson described the legal battles that are ahead of the people of the impacted Charleston area, especially since the polluting chemical industry, Freedom Industries, went bankrupt. He said that the chemical spill has created a brownfield site and violates a number of laws, including the Clean Water Act, the Toxic Substance Control Act, and the Resource Conservation Recovery Act.
Mr. Thompson said that the wives of the CEO’s of the chemical companies in the area, soccer moms, are irate and are going up against their own husbands, as they are “raising hell” in regard to the chemical spill. He said that there is a need for $50 million just to replace contaminated hot water heaters, and that doesn’t include replacing contaminated pipe systems. So, the cost of Freedom Industry’s negligence is being passed on to homeowners and certainly to taxpayers.
Here’s what I found on the Wikipedia site concerning the West Virginia chemical spill and the impact of it on homeowner water systems.
“On January 16, an independent unfunded engineering and science research team from the University of South Alabama drove more than 800 miles from Mobile, Alabama to help residents affected by the incident. The team was headed by Environmental Engineering Professors Dr. Andrew Whelton  and Kevin White, and also included graduate students Keven Kelley, Matt Connell, Jeff Gill, and Lakia McMillan. The initial focus of their effort was to determine the impact of flushing on chemical levels in household drinking water as well as understand the reaction of the contaminated water with various household plumbing materials.
When on the ground, the team found that many residents had not flushed their plumbing systems despite being given permission days before their arrival. Contaminated water remained in homeowner plumbing systems, leaving it to contact plumbing materials such as pipes, valves, gaskets, and joints. Homeowners they spoke with explained that they had refused to flush because of reports they heard from friends that odors caused by flushing could cause negative health impacts. Many homeowners stated no intention of flushing for the foreseeable future. In response, the research team modified the flushing protocol that was issued to homeowners and helped flush residences with these more health protective measures.
Dr. Whelton’s team then issued new guidance to the affected homeowners on how to conduct a plumbing system flush.
On January 20, Dr. Whelton, his team, and the WV Clean Water Hub briefed the Governor Tomblin’s Director of Communications about citizens not flushing after a press conference at the Capitol building. The number of residents that had not flushed their plumbing systems was unknown to the Governor’s office.
Results of the unfunded research team’s efforts have been reported by several news outlets, including CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley, local CBS affiliate WOWK, Charleston Daily Mail, West Virginia Water Crisis Blog, New York Times, Mobile Press-Register, local NBC Affiliate WMPI, and The Huffington Post. Their testing continues and focuses on the public health and plumbing system degradation issues associated with contaminated drinking water.”