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February 25, 2001


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Article published February 25, 2001

A little mess in Marion

When a 30-year-old law is dusted off right after folks come to town to shake things up, they can bet they’re rubbing people the wrong way.

So officials in Marion should not be surprised to find themselves sued in a challenge that involves their 7 p.m. curfew and $7.50 registration fee for each canvasser Ohio Citizen Action sent to town to tell residents about residual pollution at the River Valley Schools complex.

The pollution is worrisome because in 1997 the Ohio Health Department announced an unusually high rate of leukemia in and around Marion. Trichloroethylene, a solvent that stays in the soil, has been identified on school grounds, along with benzo(a)pyrene, a known carcinogen.

While scientists don’t know whether exposure to pollutants caused leukemia or other illnesses, the school system plans to rebuild on other property, a prospect that leaves students in the school complex in question until 2003.

They’re saying the middle and high schools are safe, provided contaminated areas are avoided and the air continues to be monitored. Citizen Action, for its part, is demanding that other structures be found for classes in the interim.

The environmental group maintains that the city began enforcing the curfew as the situation with the schools - built in 1962 on acres where the military burned or buried toxic chemicals - heated up. Citizen Action canvassers went door-to-door in areas around the school, which is not within city limits, as well as in the city itself.

Until 1999, Citizen Action maintains it had its people out on other matters, knocking on doors in Marion until 9 p.m., a time various federal court decisions have cited as proper to cease such activity.

Marion officials have a few weeks in which to respond to the Citizen Action complaint, filed in federal court in Toledo. In that time its attorneys should come to terms with this citizens’ group without wasting taxpayer money on defending an indefensible policy. Choking off the voice of the messenger won’t make pollution go away.

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