February 10, 2005
U.S. Senator Mike DeWine
420 Madison Avenue, Room 1225
Toledo, OH 43604
Dear Senator DeWine,
I'm writing today to ask you to intervene in a very serious situation for Toledo area residents.
All across Ohio, Ohio Citizen Action is conducting "good neighbor campaigns," using the power of citizen pressure to protect public health by winning significant changes at some of the state's biggest polluting facilities. Oil refineries are some of the most dangerous facilities for neighbors, with toxic emissions that can cause cancer, breathing problems, and other illnesses. Sunoco's refinery, located in Oregon, is in the middle of a neighborhood where Ohio Citizen Action has been working since January 2003 on a good neighbor campaign.
In August 2004, volunteers went door-to-door in the neighborhoods surrounding the plant with a questionnaire about health problems. We released the information to the media and the Lucas County Health Department. We found that 60% of the 473 respondents or their children have headaches; 35% have itchy, irritated eyes; and a quarter have asthma, shortness of breath, general fatigue, sinus infections or ear infections.
Separate from our campaign, fifteen neighbors sued Sunoco maintaining that years of pollution have damaged the health and property of anyone living within 1.5 miles of the refinery.
In trying to defend themselves, Sunoco subpoenaed Ohio Citizen Action's documents concerning the Sunoco Refinery. Sunoco's attorney, Louis Tosi, is demanding that Ohio Citizen Action turn over the names, addresses and phone numbers of the questionnaire respondents, along with their personal medical information. This request is not only immoral, since health information should be private, but also could set a dangerous precedent for other communities who might want to conduct their own health questionnaires. Two options to turning over confidential medical information have been offered. Ohio Citizen Action is willing to provide the medical information without the names and contact information attached, or could seek releases from the individual respondents before turning over this private medical information. To date, Mr. Tosi has rejected both options.
Please help us look into what might be done to help bring a swift resolution to this matter. I've encouraged Ohio Citizen Action members to write you directly to support this request, as I know you have been very helpful in helping to resolve other community issues in the past.
I will follow up with your local Toledo staff to discuss this important matter further.
Rachael Belz, Associate Director
Ohio Citizen Action