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PRESS RELEASE – THE LORAX ARRESTED IN IDAHO
SOURCE: Mothers Against Death, c/o Dinehligai News, POB 1835, Tuba City, AZ
928-606-6229, contact: Chris Kane, Editor, Dinehligai News
THE LORAX ARRESTED IN IDAHO
The real Lorax was falsely arrested by railroad security on the right of way videotaping radioactive phosphate processing gravel from FMC spread on the railroad tracks running behind homes in Pocatello, Idaho, on February 21, 2012, and held incommunicado for a week without hearing, first in City Jail, and then in an insane asylum pending commitment hearings which were abruptly terminated when several mental health professionals called in refused to cooperate in labeling public spirited exercise of citizenship rights insanity.
Is it insane behavior to participate in public hearings? Is it crazy to trust in the American law, to submit Freedom of Information Act requests asking the EPA to implement its mandate to protect the public from flagrant violations by polluters? Is it insane to rely on the protections of the constitution when revealing radioactive threats to the health of communities near the Idaho National Engineering Lab, one of the five major uranium processing sites in the country? Do we live in the land of the free or in a police state in which the military lock up dissenters without trial and people suddenly disappear?
It is ironic that the movie “Lorax” opened in the same week that police invaded a Free Art Show in Old Town Pocatello, and just three weeks after the Idaho Lorax was verbally threatened with injections of thorazine and lobotomy to silence him, while friends and relatives tried desparately to find him and were told by city police (present as “observers” as this arrest) that they didn’t know where he was being held.
In the world of cartoons we feed our children the activists against pollution win. But what happens in the real world?
Thirty years ago the Idaho Lorax was reading the Seuss book to his daughter. In the evening they would bicycle above the FMC plant on Bannock Shoshone tribal land at the edge of Pocatello, and the Lorax would say, “See, there’s a dragon! Isn’t it a dragon? It’s breathing fire and smoke, it sits on a huge pile of gold, and it is bringing devastation and death and ruin to people in the whole valley!” He was teaching his children that fairy tales are real, that there are real dragons to be faced, and that real life is about being a hero and going up against the dragons in this world even though they have the power to throw you in the dungeons, and have you slain by servants at a wave of their claws.
Do we live in a world ruled by these dragons, utterly at the mercy of these tyrants, these corporations ruling company towns, or are we the land of the free and the home of the brave?
Ever since those days when he was reading fairy tales to his daughter and insisting to her, “No, no! They are real!” everyone has called him the Idaho Lorax.
In that year when he was telling his daughter about the Lorax, a mother with a geology degree dropped her toddler off at school and noticed that they were spreading a grey gravel as snow remover, a gravel she recognized as bits of rock containing uranium. Several concerned mothers held a Geiger counter to a pile of gravel at the School District yard and the Geiger counter roared. The School District was spreading highly radioactive gravel in all the schoolyards of Pocatello. They found out that the FMC plant had been selling its slag, the result of its phosphate fertilizer extraction operations, for years as gravel to be spread in alleys and driveways, spread as foundation for asphalt in the city streets, mixed into cement in building the basement walls of 200 homes, spread as support for the railroad tracks running through the town at the backs of homes. Appalled at the widespread broadcasting of hazardous waste wherever children play in Pocatello, the mothers organized as “Mothers Against Death” and brought their case to the City Council. When you drive around Pocatello with a Geiger counter, it roars to life whenever you drive over a patch of this stuff. Later the EPA paid a consultant to do an aerial map which pinpoints which homes are built with the stuff, and which alleys and driveways and patches of road have patches of the slag gravel which could be scraped out and removed.
At the City Council meeting, FMC pooh-poohed the fears of “these foolish mothers” and produced technicians who held a geiger counter to a banana and assured the city fathers that the slag spread in the schoolyards “is no more dangerous to the children than this banana.”
But ten years later the EPA declared the entire FMC installation a Superfund site, with the largest deposit of purified phosphorus in the world (a few hundred yards from the Portneuf River) as well as large deposits or arsenic and other poisons and heavy metals left behind by the company as its waste. FMC used Pocatello and the Fort Hall Reservation as its toilet and moved on.
According to East Idaho Cleanup (see www.eastidahocleanup.com), the EPA’s plan is “to treat 28% of arsenic in groundwater over 100 years, 64% of total phosphorus and 56% of orthophosphate and potassium” and “everything else is expected to be diluted through natural attenuation.” In other words, after 17 years of operation as a Superfund site and spending many million dollars to clean up the mess FMC left in its diapers, the EPA’s answer is to cover the site over, to just cap it all, and let all the poisons leach out naturally into the environment. In addition, FMC’s 2009 groundwater monitoring report recommends that “mixing of small volumes of EMF affected ground water with large volumes of unaffected groundwater within the EMF aquifer system substantially reduces the concentration of all constituents.” In other words the solution to pollution is dilution. What happens when all these phosphates reach the Portneuf River and then start sudsing up the whole environment of the trout in the Snake River? Isn’t this a little like pouring laundry soap flakes into your home aquarium?
One of the big surprises to Kelly Wright, Environmental Waste Manager for the Bannock Shoshone Tribe was the discovery of 22 railroad cars filled with phosphorus buried under a hill of the slag gravel at the site. This must be the biggest book of matches in the world!!
Lori Cohen, EPA Region 10 Superfund deputy director told the Morning News (see www.am-news.com) that “we have studied the site for a number of years” and “there is no way that we know of to safely treat and remove the materials at the site.” This is evidently in part because of the explosive nature of phosphorus. Meanwhile there have been leaks of cyanide and hazardous phosphine gas.
“What we see is just a covering up or capping of this containment” Shoshone Bannock tribal spokesperson Laverne Beech told the Idaho State Journal. “It doesn’t address leaching into the aquifer and Reservoir” (see Idaho State Journal, 9/28/11, “Just A Covering Up” Tribal Spokesperson: FMC Cleanup Plan Falls Short, Doug Lindley).
In formal protest dated May 28, 2010, the Bannock Shoshone Tribes insisted upon being immediately informed when poisonous gases are vented from the site located on the Reservation which may affect nearby tribal members, rather than the current practice of weekly bulletins provided by FMC and the EPA (see www.shoshonebannocktribes.com).
The Shoshone Bannock protest that the only mention of the tribes in the most recent enforcement document is one sentence saying “EPA has notified the Shoshone Bannock tribes of this action,” and insist that the tribes be fully involved in monitoring the site in every detail and in administering and monitoring a full cleanup of this mass of highly hazardous waste left in Bannock Shoshone lands.
The EPA is mandated by law to involve the tribe fully in the cleanup process, and is in violation of Executive Order 13175 and CERCLA, 42 USC. The National Congress of American Indians in outrage at the EPA’s casual dismissal of the site being subject to tribal laws and monitoring, being located on tribal lands, passed Resolution PDX-11-071 calling for EPA to “recognize tribal laws” as required under CERCLA, and to demonstrate respect for the Shoshone Bannock Tribes “in their efforts to protect their tribal sovereignty, self determination, and the health and welfare of tribal members.”
Tribal member Louis Archuleta, speaking from “forty years of engineering background” insists that the EPA put more effort into cleaning the site and says, “I’m concerned because my grandchildren and greatgrandchildren live in this area and I don’t want them exposed to this crap” (see “Tribal Member Offers Cleanup Solution,” Bob Hudson, October 22, 2011, www.am-news.com).
Meanwhile the Idaho Lorax carries on, speaking out at public hearings held by the EPA at the Chubbuck City Council Chambers and the Fort Hall Tribal Government Center. Use the Freedom of Information Act process outlined on the EPA website (google Eastern Michaud Flats Superfund EPA and FOIA) and ask the EPA to send you a video of the testimony of Mr. Vee, Louis Steeley, the Idaho Lorax, and Mr. Kokopelli, provided at these hearings. It’s a real eye opener of forty years of coverup by FMC.
The Mothers Against Death have been fighting this real-life struggle for a long time, in between reading fairy tales and picture books to their children.
Oh, the stories we could tell.
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