EPA Approves Toxic Waste Plant Near School

The Environmental Protection Agency has licensed what may be the world's largest toxic waste incinerator to operate less than 400 yards from an elementary school in East Liverpool, Ohio - despite the protests of parents and other residents of the area.

The communities around the mostly completed plant - which is scheduled to burn as much as 352 million pounds of hazardous waste each year - have waged a campaign to prevent the incinerator's start-up. In July, 12 residents of the region met with EPA officials in Washington, D.C., to urge the agency to halt construction and investigate charges of safety and regulatory violations during the building and licensing process.

When the EPA officials rebuffed the request, the 12 people protesting the toxic incinerator refused to leave the conference room and announced they were beginning a hunger strike. They were arrested, fined, and released the next day. Twenty-five people, most of them lifelong residents of the Ohio Valley area, joined the hunger strike against the plant.

The EPA issued a temporary permit for the hazardous incinerator two months after plant officials sought help from Vice President Dan Quayle. In a May 21 letter to Quayle obtained in August by the Cleveland Plain Dealer, D.J.B. Marshall - president of Von Roll Inc., a company furnishing equipment for the incinerator - complained of regulatory delays and asked for Quayle's help in obtaining a waste-burning permit. The permit was issued a month after plant supporters met with Quayle's Council on Competitiveness.

Hugh Kaufman, a 20-year investigator with the EPA, said the temporary permit was improperly issued and that the process "demonstrates that the permit issuance and project go-ahead from the EPA was based on politics, not law."

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Sojourners Magazine October 1992
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