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Chemical Contamination in Fenceline Communities

Hundreds of thousands of Americans, live in communities where their health is damaged by pollution from high-emission industrial facilities and military bases. For this series of reports, Chemical Contamination in Fenceline Communities, Steve Lerner visits these neighborhoods and talks with the residents to see what they experience, interviews activists who are involved in organizing protests, and talks with corporate and regulatory officials to see what is being done about the problem.




Guadalupe and Robert Alvarado, Sr. have lived across the Union Pacific railroad tracks from Kelly Air Force Base, in San Antonio, Texas for the past 37 years. A purple wooden cross, erected outside their white clapboard home signifies that someone inside is either living with cancer or died from it.


“The life is being sucked right out of us,” says Horace Smith as he sits on a stool in his living room with a clear plastic tube running from an oxygen tank up his bare chest to his nose. “I’m real short of breath and it [the oxygen] helps me breathe,” explains Smith, who lives on Palm Drive in the Hillcrest neighborhood of Corpus Christi. Just two short blocks from his door and clearly visible from his porch is the huge Flint Hills Resources (formerly Koch) refinery.


Hundreds of thousands of Americans, perhaps more, live in communities where their health is damaged by pollution from high-emission industrial facilities and military bases. These compatriots are on the frontlines of toxic chemical exposure in this country. Continue reading...


Hilton Kelley grew up on the frontlines of toxic chemical exposure in the United States. Kelley, 45, a big man with a shaved head and a brown belt in Tae Kwan Do, lived for six years in the Carver Terrace public housing complex just across the fenceline from the Motiva Enterprises refinery in the West Side neighborhood of Port Arthur, Texas.


Lula Bishop moved into Midway Village Complex in Daly City, California in 1978 and counted herself lucky at the time. The subsidized housing was in a relatively desirable neighborhood one mile from San Francisco Bay. Bishop was initially surprised by how attractive the housing was. True, her apartment was located across the fenceline from a PG&E utility company maintenance yard, but the rest of the neighborhood was residential. There were also convenient facilities for her three children -- Kevin, Kenneth, and Tonya -- including a daycare center, Head Start program, a playground, a park, and elementary school. Continue reading...


Imagine being told that your backyard is contaminated with toxic wastes. Suddenly your relationship with your home is turned upside down. Instead of living in what you considered a safe haven, all at once you begin to question whether or not the contamination has made you ill or may cause you to become sick in the future. Continue reading...


Bernard “Buzz” Bowman, Jr. is proud of his antiques collection. He has 3,000 antique toy cars and trucks on shelves in his basement in Addyston, Ohio. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. His yard is full of dozens of old-fashioned gasoline pumps and stashed in his basement is a lovingly restored doctor’s one-horse sleigh, upholstered in crushed red velvet and sporting a black convertible canopy that snaps into place with well-oiled precision. “We’re on the map,” he says, pointing out a designation of his museum on a local tourist map. He also has a write-up in a book that features attractions along Route 50, the winding River Road that snakes through this West Side factory town located on the banks of the Ohio River 12 miles from downtown Cincinnati on the Ohio/Kentucky state line. Continue reading...


 

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