=======================Electronic Edition========================

.                                                               .

.           RACHEL'S ENVIRONMENT & HEALTH WEEKLY #255           .

.                    ---October 16, 1991---                     .

.                          HEADLINES:                           .

.                THE GOVERNED BEGIN TO WITHHOLD                 .

.           THEIR CONSENT AND 34 ARE ARRESTED IN OHIO           .

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The longest-running incinerator battle in America boiled over

late last month when nearly 400 citizens in East Liverpool, Ohio

shut down a public meeting September 25 chanting and singing

"America the Beautiful" so loudly that officials of U.S.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Ohio EPA surrendered,

wheeled out a black board bearing the scrawled words, "We can't

convene this meeting so it is adjourned. Send your written

comments to U.S. EPA in Chicago," and left town, their ears red

and ringing. As we went to press, 20 local citizens and two

Greenpeace campaigners were still being held in three local

jails, charged with civil disobedience--a mass trespass on the

property of the WTI incinerator in East Liverpool Sunday October


Between September 20 and October 13 momentum had built steadily.

September 23 a consulting firm called CHMR loosely affiliated

with University of Pittsburgh released a report saying the huge

furnace was entirely safe. Greenpeace chemist Pat Costner, author


report to shreds on technical grounds. "This report displays an

embarrassing level of incompetence and complete lack of

integrity," she began, then unfolded a laundry list of errors,

evasions, and untruths. In an experiment in low-cost media,

Costner delivered her blast from her home in Arkansas. Her

written critique was sent by modem to Ohio,  where it was printed

and photocopied for distribution. She then videotaped her

critical remarks, sent the tape by overnight courier for

presentation the next day at a press conference in Pittsburgh

where she answered reporters' questions by phone from Arkansas.

A couple of days later Richard Sahli, former chairperson of

Ohio's siting board, attacked the incinerator as dangerous and

outdated technology that didn't belong anywhere, least of all at

water's edge on the Ohio River.

WTI public relations teams scheduled a "public information

meeting" in a local school Sept. 24. But local citizens boycotted

what they viewed as sham science and outright lies intended not

to inform but to ramrod a dangerous project into a rural town.

Only about 10 people sat in the empty hall while 150 angry

citizens held a noisy demonstration outside. "We stole their show

completely," said Joy Allison, a local leader.

The next night government took its turn at trying to convince

people in East Liverpool that America's largest toxic waste

incinerator was just what they needed to improve the quality of

life in their little town. Citizens announced they would shut

down the hearing. Nearly 400 local people showed up. As the

show-and-tell got underway, citizens laid a coffin with a folded

American flag on the stage behind EPA officials to symbolize the

death of democracy. As the hearing opened, local leader Terri

Swearingen stood on her chair and shouted through a bull horn,

"This hearing is a sham," and all  nonviolent hell broke loose.

Local citizens had smuggled at least 5  battery-powered bull

horns into the gym and the combined blast of bull horns plus 400

people chanting and singing in one room produced a deafening din

that didn't diminish until EPA turned tail after nearly an hour.

"You could hardly hear the person right next to you," said

Swearingen, 35, a nurse and mother turned activist. "It was

beautiful and powerful," she said. "It restored a sense of

control for local people, and that sense of democracy is still

growing. That meeting was the turning point," she said.

Momentum kept building and this past Sunday (October 13), 34

people were arrested for civil disobedience (trespassing on WTI

property) in the quiet eastern Ohio town. Outsiders like actor

Martin Sheen and charismatic chemist Paul Connett, head of Work

on Waste USA, were both arrested, linked arm in arm with local

people. The crowd was singing "Amazing Grace" when Sheen said, "I

feel led by the Spirit to climb over this fence," and he did.

Thirty-three others followed suit and were arrested.

The town was shaken to its midwestern roots, and so was Ohio

government. Governor Voinovich blamed the entire series of events

on "outside agitators" but anyone who has followed the ten-year

history of WTI knows the governor missed the point.

After five years of battle, the WTI project was badly stalled in

1984 because it was then owned outright by Waste Management, Inc.

(WMI), a convicted felon. Under Ohio's "bad boy" law, convicted

felons can't get a license to handle hazardous wastes in Ohio.

Now a complex financial arrangement lets WMI profit from the

incinerator through a thinly-veiled shield of subsidiaries. WMI

sold its WTI permit to Von Roll (America), a European firm that

provides the furnaces for Wheelabrator incinerators (a WMI

subsidiary). The incinerator is being built by Rust Engineering

(a WMI subsidiary). The 47 million pounds of hazardous ash

produced by WTI each year will be sent to  dumps in Wayne County,

Indiana, and Model City, New York owned by Chemical Waste

Management (a WMI subsidiary). But Ohio government gave WTI a

permit on the pretense that convicted felon WMI is nowhere in

sight. "They are not fooling anyone," said Alonzo Spencer, head

of SOC (Save Our County) who has been fighting WTI relentlessly

for 10 years. As we went to press, Spencer--a soft-spoken,

middle-aged businessman--was in city jail in East Liverpool.

There ARE outsiders in East Liverpool--a handful of seasoned

Greenpeace activists have set up an outpost in a house across the

river in Chester, WV where they are being kept alive by the local

Dominoes Pizza outlet as they work late into the night helping

local people make their moves--but to think of these events as

outsider-driven is to miss entirely what's happening here. The

people in jail are ordinary Americans--nurses, airplane pilots,

ministers, shopkeepers, homemakers, family people, senior

citizens--who were being herded to the slaughterhouse by the

regulatory-industrial complex when they bolted from the chute,

growing feisty and independent in the process. They have now

learned the secret of success: the system simply does not know

how to handle citizens who confront their corporate adversaries

directly, start exercising their right of free speech and start

taking the Declaration of Independence to heart: "Governments are

instituted among [people], deriving their just powers from the

consent of the governed--[and] whenever any form of government

becomes destructive of those ends it is the right of the people

to alter or abolish it...," the Declaration says. Withholding

consent is powerful medicine for an ailing democracy.

After the first bunch was taken off to jail, people regrouped

later that night. Vern Hurst and nearly 20 others from the group

STOP IT in Nova, Ohio, had arrived to help any way they could in

the WTI fight. Hurst, a retired Air Force captain who has spent

years fighting an incinerator proposed for his home town by IT

Corp., spoke eloquently of the need to press on. "They've jailed

your leaders, they hope they've broken your spirit. But this is

the time to gather our strength and renew the fight until victory

is ours...."

Government is being altered in Ohio. The consent of the governed

is being withheld in East Liverpool.

The WTI incinerator is nearly 80% built, and construction is on a

fast track with activity round the clock. It is the biggest

incinerator ever proposed in the U.S. with a capacity of 176,000

tons of liquid hazardous waste and another 83,000 tons of

inorganic waste annually.

WTI estimates that 11,000 trucks will drive through East

Liverpool delivering wastes each year. If the incinerator works

perfectly, with never a single upset, leak, spill or accident, it

will release somewhere between 26 and 260 tons of raw, unburned

hazardous wastes directly into the air of East Liverpool, plus

1.5 million pounds of toxic metals (lead, cadmium, arsenic, and

so forth), and another 5.1 million pounds of toxic organics

called Products of Incomplete Combustion (PICs); these are toxic

compounds created inside the incinerator, many of them more

dangerous than the raw wastes from which they were created during

combustion. This large quantity of toxic pollution will sweep

through an elementary school 1100 feet from the smoke stack, then

down into the valleys of nearby Pennsylvania and West Virginia,

carrying hazards as far as Pittsburgh (37 miles away) and beyond.

Citizen groups in all three states have formed an alliance to

stop WTI. West Virginia's Governor Caperton says he'll sue to

stop it. If that happens, WTI seems headed for the U.S. Supreme

Court and, at a minimum, serious delay.

People from East Liverpool and surrounding towns are now

confident they can win their decade-long battle against the hated

incinerator. "It was taking over that EPA meeting that did it for

us. If we could do that, we can do anything," said one local


As we went to press, 20 local people and two Greenpeacers

remained in three separate jails. Reports from the Columbiana

County jail in Lisbon indicated that women prisoners were being

denied basic necessities like tampons; one woman, a diabetic, was

being denied a diet suitable for her medical needs. No such

problems were being reported by the jailed men. It seems gender

discrimination continues everywhere in our developing society,

even as democracy's handbook is being rewritten.

                                                --Peter Montague

Descriptor terms: east liverpool, oh; oh; epa; wti; pat costner;

greenpeace; hazardous waste incineration; waste disposal

technologies; hazardous waste; martin sheen; paul connett; wmi;

bad boy laws; von roll; wheelabrator; rust engineering; cwmi;

alonzo spencer; wv; chester, wv; citizen groups; pa; heavy

metals; pics; democracy;



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