Letter to the editor
S.U.F.F.E.R.’s fight against dredge

  Editor, This past week I was going to write a letter outlining the innumerable defi­ciencies
in the Hazleton Creek Proper­ties LLC/Hazleton Redevelopment Authority proposal to use river dredge, fly ash and cement kiln dust in reclaim­ing the toxic waste dump/stripping pit along Cranberry Creek.
  This involves condensing hundreds of pages of scientific reports that refute the validity of the Bark Camp Demonstra­tion
Project and the Groundwater Sci­ences Site Characterization of Cranberry Creek.
Standard-Speaker front page of Dec. 13 and the editorial of Dec. 14 have caused me to recast that letter.
  The headlines that Hazleton will be hiring 10 new police officers in 2007, funded in part by dredge fees and that the dredge will be arriving
in a few
 weeks might lead readers to conclude that the dredge controversy has been resolved. In fact, the appeal on the part of S.U.F.F.E.R. (Saving Us From Future Environmental Risk) will be heard before the Environmental Hearing Board in April of next year.
  No one can dispute that the city and indeed all of the communities in the area are in need of increased police resources. What has not been properly addressed is how our social, economic and environmental problems arose.
  Until that is undertaken, any response to our dilemmas will be ineffective and give rise to a new set of problems.
  Our current difficulties stem from ineffective economic revitalization efforts since the decline of the coal industry 50 years ago. Concerned citi­zens have been making these assertions for decades and have been dismissed by community leaders as dangerous sub­versives.
  If 10,000,000 cubic yards of contami­nated materials are dumped at Cranber­ry Creek, the chump change the city of Hazleton receives out front will be dwarfed by the health and remediation costs that will one day confront the community. That disaster haunts the future is confirmed by recalling the ghosts of Christmas past: Beryllium, Chromatex and the city landfill, to name a few.
  The landfill itself, a remnant of pre­vious economic development initia­tives, is perhaps the major complication in reclaiming this benighted acreage. In formulating a technical rebuttal to HCP LLC preten­sions that the former toxic waste land­fill is suitable for recapping by a new toxic waste landfill, S.U.F.F.E.R.
  obtained mine maps and cross sections of the Cranberry Creek basin.
  They revealed that, contrary to Groundwater Science’s claims, not all of the site has been cleansed of toxins by time and rainfall. The bottom 200 feet of the old mine workings are below the ele­vation of the hydrogeological connec­tion to the Hazleton Shaft Colliery, Tunnel X and the outfall of the Jeddo Tunnel along the Little Nescopeck Creek in Butler Township.
  The implications of this revelation are staggering and worthy of a
Standard­ Speaker investigative report.
  Aside from contaminating the hun­dreds
of acres at the landfill site, lateral and vertical migration of these liquid and gaseous toxins into the entire undrained portion of the Hazleton basin means that for three or four decades, the entire south side of Hazleton has been impacted by chronic exposure to a witch’s brew of carcinogenic industrial waste. S.U.F.F.E.R. contends that the abnormally high rates of environmental cancer in the area are the result of this extraordinary insult to the environment.
  The party responsible
for this dismal state of affairs is of course CAN DO Inc.
  They orchestrated the tax-subsidized entrance of industries that have exploit­ed and abused the community.
  Despite being scrutinized by state and federal agencies innumerable times, the presence of this toxic lagoon has never been acknowledged. But in response to this recent revelation, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Dis­ease Registry (ATSDR), a federal entity associated with the EPA, will conduct an assessment of this situation and its implications for the dredge project. If the landfill is once again designated a Superfund site, remediation of the con­taminated mine pool must occur before any reclamation and reuse can begin.
Standard-Speaker might want to develop a series of stories on this topic.
  Other items for scrutiny would be the deficiencies in Groundwater Sciences monitoring system for the Cranberry creek study and the flawed conclusions of the Bark Camp Demonstration Pro­ject Report. Perhaps they can determine why no licensed hydrogeologist has signed and sealed this report, as required by regulation.
  Bark Camp and its report were fabri­cated by the interests that want to make money turning Hazleton into an unreg­ulated waste dump. S.U.F.F.E.R. wishes to protect the human and natural envi­ronment from future and further dam­age by economic developers exploiting the credulity of a small group of elected officials (i.e. the mayor and his support­ers on council) and beleaguered citizens looking for deliverance from community chaos.
  This brings us back to CAN DO Inc., both the source of the physical condi­tions at Cranberry Creek and the cre­ators of the social and fiscal problems that serve as a specious rationale for another economic/environmental deba­cle.
  Each CAN DO disaster (Beryllium, toxic dumping, the KOZI KOEZ fiasco) was promoted as a solution to the ills of the community, but each merely com­pounded or expanded them. Each disre­garded obvious red flags and vocal, if systematically marginalized opposition.
  Importing 10,000,000 cubic yards of tox­ic waste to remediate hundreds of acres contaminated by untold millions of gal­lons of industrial poison is quite simply insane (meaning doing the same thing again and again and expecting a differ­ent result).
  Mad cow disease is basically caused by consuming animal food products contaminated by organic waste. It was spread by the uncritical acceptance of animal feed practices promoted by meat business profiteers. CAN DO has spread
an economic developmental disorder that shares the etiology of this malady, and manifests itself in the belief and practice that contamination is a form of nourishment that promotes healthy growth.
  Relying on the dredge project to fund police to battle toxic social conditions created by disastrous economic devel­opment programs is beyond crazy. But let’s go beyond the circular delirium of Hazleton’s economic development delu­sion, which envisions a 30,000-seat amphitheater rising like Oz on the far side of a poppy field, somewhere in the near or distant future.
  Let’s go to Times Beach, Missouri, the most notable Superfund site after Love Canal. Citizens of this isolated, impover­ished community couldn’t afford to pave their streets. They got paid a few thou­sand dollars to take an oily material (dioxin) from a shady business man to spray on their roads to keep down the dust.
  Two hundred million dollars and a cancer epidemic later, the homes of this tiny town have been removed from the face of the Earth, its dusty streets scraped up, incinerated and taken away to a lined, regulated toxic waste landfill.
  The moral of the story should be obvi­ous.
  Local and contemporary history pro­vides examples of why the dredge proj­ect will be the ghost of Christmas future. The
Standard-Speaker could research its files on the ghosts of Christ­mas past to see how its coverage of eco­nomic development and environmental disaster hasn’t changed much in 50 years. Each new project is uncritically supported. Opposition is ignored or characterized as the enemy of progress.
  Failure and disaster is forgotten when the next misbegotten initiative is unveiled.
  Unless the community confronts the reality that 50 years of economic devel­opment effort has resulted in a deterio­ration of the environment and the quality of life and an accelerated flight of educated youth from the region, the next 50 years will be even worse. Natives and newcomers will not see better jobs for their children.
  Cancer, crime, addiction and abuse will increase. All the amphitheaters, stadiums and franchise restaurants in the world won’t persuade anyone except gangs or drug dealers to visit or move to Hazleton. But that hardly mat­ters to our obtuse community leaders.
  Like Satan in Milton’s
Paradise Lost,
 they would rather rule in Hell than serve in Heaven.
  Support S.U.F.F.E.R.’s fight against the dredge. Demand an EPA clean-up of the old landfill. Insist that local news out­lets investigate the fatal flaws in the Bark Camp Project and Groundwater Science study of Cranberry Creek.
  Throw out the economic developers that have spent 50 years reducing the area to its present sorry state. Or don’t, and wait for the visit from the ghost of Christmas future. Because the New Year won’t be any happier than the last fifty have been.
Drew Magill, Sugarloaf

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