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Environmental candidate
brings familiar message to county

        

September 28, 2000

Jo Ann Bobby Gilbert
Columbiana County Morning Journal

EAST LIVERPOOL - Despite arriving an hour late, Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader was greeted by cheers and yells of, "Hi Ralph," as he arrived in the East End yesterday for a press conference and public meeting.

About 100 people gathered at the city school district's administration building to hear Nader speak, among them several news reporters and about a dozen employees of Waste Technologies Industries, which operates the hazardous waste incinerator that was a focus of Nader's remarks.

The rest of the crowd was composed of apparent supporters of the long-time consumer advocate, including a handful of local residents who have fought the incinerator for nearly two decades.

Nader began the press conference by saying he was calling on presidential opponent Vice President Al Gore to "make good on his promise" by shutting down the incinerator, whose emission stack could be seen billowing just outside.

He said employees should be given two years' severance pay "by their negligent employer, WTI."

According to Nader and opponents of the facility, Gore promised during the 1992 election campaign to shut down the incinerator until a thorough investigation could be completed.

"This is just the sort of phony populist rhetoric that Mr. Gore has tried to sell the American public in this election year," Nader charged.

Later, when asked how he plans to stop the incinerator's operation, called for "keeping (the issue) alive in the public press so it doesn't lose its novelty."

Nader also said class action litigation should be filed against the company because "there has been enough damage to property values."

Reminded by one reporter that studies conducted in relation to the incinerator (which included a $2 million risk assessment conducted by the federal EPA) showed no substantial risk to the environment, Nader called those studies "laughable."

He said a number of scientists were ignored and contended that, if the hair and urine of children living near the facility were compared before and after startup of operations, they would show an increase in levels of mercury.

"The incidence of mercury doubled after WTI started up," he alleged.

(However, results of a mercury level study conducted by the city health department did not show higher levels.)

Asked what can be done with toxic waste if not incineration, Nader said the first step is to avoid the build up of such waste, much of which he said could be made biodegradable.

Secondly, he said, the recycling ability of the country needs to be elaborated, with the remainder placed in dumps that are "carefully lined so as not to leak."

"You don't burn it and put it back in people's lungs. Whoever thought of incineration should be eternally condemned to Hades," Nader stated.

After insisting that his opponent, Gore, will never come to this part of Ohio to address voters, Nader was asked why.

"Because he betrayed this part of the area by not saying... 'Postpone a decision (on WTI's permit) until we can take office.' He would get a nasty reception here," Nader responded.

Saying the "Clinton-Gore machine will do anything to avoid dealing with this issue," Nader said Ohio is a "swing state," important to both the Democrats and Republicans.

"They have to win this state and this incinerator has become an important issue. Win or lose, we're going to keep on the successive administration to put an end to this dangerous folly. The incinerator should be shut down," Nader said.

Part of the press conference was used by Chester, W.Va. resident Terry Swearingen to outline some of the background related to opponents' battle against the incinerator.

She talked about recent studies that show considerably higher rates of cancer in East Liverpool than national rates and said at least one opponent who has since died of the disease attributed it to WTI.

An official from the Ohio Department of Health related to the city health board after that study that environmental cancers account for just 3 percent of all cancers and that most of those develop over a 20-year or more period but that the incinerator has not been operating for that length of time.

Nader reported that he has asked Gore to "disclose whether he asked the Bush EPA to postpone the approval of a test burn" at WTI, but said he has not yet received a response.

Company officials yesterday reiterated remarks made by plant Manager Fred Sigg in that day's newspapers, in which he said Nader was "using WTI as a political football."

Spokesman Raymond Wayne said upon hearing some of Nader's remarks, "Our position hasn't changed. In fact, it has been amplified."