Fair Board decision doesn't reflect values

I grew up on a dairy farm in Sistersville, West Virginia. For years, our family sold milk to Broughton’s of Marietta. Like most farm kids of the day, my siblings and I belonged to the local 4-H Club, The Sistersville Cyclones, of which my Mother was the leader. 4-H stands for Head, Heart, Hands and Health, and as a vehicle for bonding agricultural families together in education and fun, it has no peer. Every year, our farm family of eight participated in the Tyler County Fair, presenting our projects and selling our animals.

My family moved from the dairy farm in Sistersville to Marietta when I was in the 7th grade. The many cooking projects that I completed in 4-H led to a lifelong interest in cooking and health. The values that I learned from 4-H led me to care about the health of the soil, the water and the air around me. I was co-owner of the first natural food store in the area, Mother Earth Foods. My brother Michael Stewart, founded Brighter Day, Marietta’s own natural food store.

Even back in the 1970's when my family first moved to Marietta, many people were concerned about the air pollution. I joined Neighbors for Clean Air because of a long-standing desire to clean up the water, soil, and especially air of the place that is my home. Of particular concern is the manganese dust produced by Eramet. Time and time again our group has stated that we are not interested in shutting down Eramet, simply interested in having them clean up their processes so that less manganese dust is emitted into the air. We know that this is possible because they have done it at a plant in Norway.

This past weekend the Fair Board voted to have ‘Neighbors for Clean Air’ barred from walking in the Washington County Fair Parade at Eramet’s request. I am having a hard time believing that the Washington County Fair Board, an organization that is supposed to embody the values of local agriculture and 4-H, has voted to ban an organization from their parade whose sole purpose is to promote a cleaner environment for the future generations who will be showing their projects at the Washington County Fair this weekend. Board member Steve Tornes said, “The clean air people have never done anything for us.” I beg to differ, Mr. Tornes. History frequently shows that it is those individuals who have the courage to stand up and speak the truth who have done the most for both present and future generations. It's a sad day when a company owned by a French corporation can influence who will and will not walk in a local American parade just because they have provided monetary sponsorship and bought themselves the right to do so. I suggest that Eramet spend the money to clean up their mess instead.

Barb, Neighbors for Clean Air