Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Silly Rabbit, Toxic Waste is for Kids!

So the biggest news on the home front this summer was the discovery that we live within 1/3 mile of one of Connecticut's largest Superfund sites. Shock was the least of our emotions. gives several meanings to the word Superfund. The definition that probably holds most to the use in our town is the following from Webster's New Millennium™ Dictionary of English:
  • Main Entry: n
    Definition: a U.S. federal government program established for toxic waste cleanup

The truth is all this came to light when the EPA announced plans to meet with residents to discuss the future of more than 29 sites throughout out the town that are contaminated. We got a flyer to the house but it was such a plain looking flyer no one noticed what it was for. The poor little flyer found it's way into the junk mail pile and was promptly forgotten. Well, largely overlooked until a neighbor explained what it was. That was the end of July. Since then there have been several meetings and a large push by my neighbors to stop the plans. I understand and share many of their concerns. To fully understand you need a little history on the town's ongoing relationship with it's toxic waste-

"Raymark Industries, Inc. (Raymark) was a manufacturer of automotive brakes, clutch parts, and other friction components, primarily for the automotive industry. Raymark and its predecessors were located on a 34-acre parcel at 75 East Main Street in Stratford, CT. Raymark operated at this location from 1919 until 1989 when operations ceased. Raymark's manufacturing waste was historically disposed of as fill at 75 East Main Street, at a minimum of 46 residential properties, and at numerous commercial and municipal properties in Stratford. In addition, several wetland areas in close proximity to the Housatonic River were also filled in with Raymark's manufacturing waste. The contaminants in Raymark's waste consists of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxin, semi-volatile and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), asbestos, and metals. Extensive testing of soil, groundwater, soil gas, indoor air, and sediments throughout the Stratford community has been conducted by the EPA and Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (CT DEP). The total population within 4 miles of the site is approximately 145,000. No known public drinking water wells are located within 4 miles of the site; however, a few private water supply wells may exist upgradient of the former East Main Street facility. Near some of Raymark's historical disposal locations, seed oysters are cultivated in the Housatonic River, and crabs and clams may also be harvested for recreational purposes. Selby Pond, located adjacent to Ferry Creek and the Housatonic River, has warning signs posted that informs the public that eels from this pond may have high levels of PCBs. The 34-acre former manufacturing facility at 75 East Main Street has been demolished, capped, and redeveloped into what is now known as the Stratford Crossing Shopping Center - which includes a Home Depot, Shaw's, and Walmart." Quoted from Superfund 365 - This site takes a one year journey examining 365 of the worst toxic waste sites in America. It's a fascinating and scary journey through the places we call home. Anyone at all intrested in the topic, and we all should be, should take a look. My hometown of Stratford, CT is day 40.

The EPA's best plan for our town it to take 26 smaller sites and consolidate their waste into one of 3 larger sites. The largest site is located three blocks from my home and while I am not keen on the idea, I do see why they are suggesting this site as the best option. The problems in our lives always seem to come down to money, don't they? This case is no different. There is only $21 million left to deal with this after the major site was capped back around 2000. It is the completion of that site that caused much of my own, and many of my neighbors', confusion. I found out about the Superfund after we moved in but, like many others whom are new to the neighborhood, thought it was a completed and finalized problem. I thought it was dealt with. Silly rabbit, there is obviously much more out there. So with money running low the consolidation plan isn't bad, it's just not necessarily the right choice.

The site near our home, referred to as OU4 or the Ball field, is smack in the middle of a highly residential area. There is a park right across from our house, complete with playground and pond. This park is also where the local high school plays football and has it's track meets. I am concerned that the most viable plan to truck this waste into the area for consolidation brings it right past this park. Yet the other two major sites are not better choices. All three sites are in residential areas. Besides ours, one is a wetland and the other is a beach area. What I do know is that the area that gets on board with the plan will have it's OU site capped. The sites that don't get completed? Well, who knows. Superfund has had it's funding slashed every year and this means less help each year for those that live around such sites. My neighbors have started a group to try and get power behind the fight - They are fighting for what they believe is the very lives of their families.

People often say something is good for an area. Prisons, half-way houses, psychiatric centers, garbage dumps, and health clinics are good things. Everyone thinks places like these will help the population in the end. Unless it's going to be located in our neighborhoods, then it's bad. These places and institutions lower our property values. We feel less safe. We feel abused. Not in my backyard! Still, someone has to live near these places. Someone has to pay the price. When it comes to toxic waste the same thing is true. The funding only goes so far. It has to go somewhere. How high a price is acceptable to pay though? Some pay for the good of the many? I get it, but when is the price too high. Lead, asbestos, and other poisons are in the land around where children play everyday. Is it acceptable to leave it? Is it acceptable to move it so it has a chance to be airborne? Children and families live near these site. It's not okay that money has to be a major factor. Where does that leave those of us who already have it in our backyards?

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