East Palestine, meet Love Canal
Many victims of the East Palestine train derailment may be too young to be familiar with the toxic tragedy of Love Canal, poster village for toxic waste dumping, corporate irresponsibility, and government fumbling.
According to the EPA itself:
Quite simply, Love Canal is one of the most appalling environmental tragedies in American history.
But that's not the most disturbing fact.
What is worse is that it cannot be regarded as an isolated event. It could happen again--anywhere in this country -- unless we move expeditiously to prevent it.
When the 1910 vision of Love Canal as a dream community went south due to technological advances and the vicissitudes of the economy, Hooker Chemical Co. turned the canal into a chemical waste dump. In 1953, Hooker covered their work with dirt and sold it to the town for a buck -- but with a telling disclaimer:
May 7: Hooker Chemical sells the canal to the Niagara Falls Board of Education for $1.00 and writes into the deed a disclaimer of responsibility for future damages due to the presence of buried chemicals.”
Then, in a display of government imbecility: “The board subsequently builds a school there and sells land that is developed with residences.
The rest is tragic history:
NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. -- Twenty five years after the Hooker Chemical Company stopped using the Love Canal here as an industrial dump, 82 different compounds, 11 of them suspected carcinogens, have been percolating upward through the soil, their drum containers rotting and leaching their contents into the backyards and basements of 100 homes and a public school built on the banks of the canal.
Today, almost anyone can predict the dreadful future that will be suffered by the locals: epilepsy, asthma, migraines, nephrosis, birth defects, miscarriages, elevated white-blood cell counts, various cancers and a multitude of illness with physical deformities being found even two generations later.
It wasn’t until 1984 that lawsuits against Occidental Chemical Corporation (parent company of Hooker Chemical) were settled out of court.
Is that your future, East Palestine?
Here’s one indication: “FEMA Denies East Palestine’s Request for Federal Assistance.”
The spill and the release of chemicals into the air, soil, and water since the disaster occurred on February 3rd and exacerbated by a controlled burn of the toxic material has already resulted in one class action lawsuit alleging “…residents may already be undergoing DNA mutations.”
And this mind-blower: “EPA administrator Michael Regan offered curious remarks concerning the magnitude of the danger residents of the area face that conflicted with other assurances downplaying the risks. Regan explained that his agency categorized the disaster as a "fresh accident" that presented unsafe conditions on the ground that put EPA scientists and engineers in harm’s way.”
In an EPA response that could have been copied and pasted from the Love Canal horror story, Regan's remarks on the agency's role “concluded with him offering the reassurance that he wanted to be sure that their response would not be putting anyone at the EPA into harm's way, despite the absence of a full-scale relief effort doing just that to residents of East Palestine.”
Too bad about all of you ‘on the ground’ with the wife, kids, and mortgage. Not looking good for aid and comfort from the all-caring federal government you’re paying for, is it?
What about Norfolk-Southern Railway, you ask? After all, it was their train tracks! Well, that’s quaint, but “Despite operating the track which the train carrying the hazardous materials detailed from, Norfolk Southern Railway officials released a statement that they would not be attending the East Palestine Town Hall Meeting, citing safety concerns.”
Health safety? Like that of the residents?
Not so much: "Unfortunately, after consulting with community leaders, we have become increasingly concerned about the growing physical threat to our employees and members of the community around this event stemming from the increasing likelihood of the participation of outside parties.”
Even the best possible scenarios don’t look promising for East Palestine residents:
Back on the Ohio-Pennsylvania border, FEMA is living up to the legacy it made in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina longer than a decade ago. Given that context, the denial of emergency assistance to East Palestine should come as no surprise. With so much uncertainty surrounding the short and long term effects of the chemical disaster, one outcome residents of the affected area can see clearly is a continued disdain for government officials whose unchecked systematic failures created a circumstance for this crisis to occur to begin with. Unfortunately, no amount of federal assistance will ever be available to curtail the dangers that presents.
This is just the latest of an unprecedented series of government fumbles by the Biden administration, including the never-ending border crisis, the fentanyl plague, the urban crime explosion, the COVID vaccine fiasco, the Afghanistan pullout, and hurricanes Fiona and Ian, to mention only a few. 2024 can’t get here soon enough.
Image: Hooker Chemical