1999 CPEO Brownfields List Archive

From: Emery Graham <egraham@dca.net>
Date: Tue, 17 Aug 1999 11:23:34 -0700 (PDT)
Reply: cpeo-brownfields
Subject: Is There A Pattern of Government Failure? How Would You Describe It?

I was reviewing some of my prior contributions to the
listserve and ran across one titled, "No Subject."  When I
reviewed its contents it became clear that there was an
emerging pattern of governmental behavior regarding
brownfields in Wilmington, Delaware. Rather than engage in
assertive speculation, I thought I'd offer other listserv
members the opportunity to read this submission and the one
titled, "Local Governments Face Harsh Realities" and offer any
thoughts, insights, or comments that they might wish to share.

 I hope other communities can begin to understand the dynamics
of the political economy and intergovernmental linkages that
are at play in the brownfields arena. It is no place for the
fainthearted. One can remain comfortably complacent and
probably never engage the dilemmas and contradictions that
accompany the material realities of living in this
capitalistic, democratic society. It's pretty difficult to
continue ignoring the contradictions and abandonment one
encounters while developing a brownfields literate community.
It's just a matter of time before the situation moves to
another level.
  EPA Documents Contradict State of Delaware's Environmental
Officials' Representation of Hazardous Wastesite Danger

 On February 25, 1999, 270 barrels of hazardous waste were reported to have
been discovered in Wilmington, Delaware according to a Delaware daily
newspaper. Prior to the news report a manager from  the State of Delaware's
Department of Natural
Resources and Environmental Control(DNREC) had twice assured City
of Wilmington officials, in correspondence dated 9/18/98 and
10/30/98,  of the safety of this hazardous wastesite stating,

 "....that the Drum Area did not pose an immediate public health hazard..."

In the February article the local newspaper reported the comments of a
Delaware State environmntal department manager saying,

"The wooded land is isolated and doesn't present a risk to the public."

However a funding request to the Director of the Hazadous Site Cleanup
Division of the Environmental Protection Agency, Region III, in
Philadelphia, dated February 5, 1999,
from the On-Scene Coordinator, states in its " Endangerment Determination"
section the following,

 "Actual and threatened releases of hazardous substances from this Site, if
not addressed by implementing the response action discussed below, will
continue to present an imminent                             and substantial
endangerment to the public health, or welfare, or the environment."

In another section the funding request goes on to point out,

"there is a strong potential for exposure to nearby populations to the
substances found at the Site. The urbanized area of the City of Wilmington
is approximately 1 mile from this Site." " There is evidence that people
slept onsite in the past. It appears that over the years children have made
forts and other
temporary "play" areas onsite. People have been observed fishing in the
creek in close proximity to the Site."

Finally, in the "Issues"  section of the same funding request the author

"Because the Site is largely unsecured and the public could come in direct
contact with these hazardous substances,{"... including PCBs,. mercury,
arsenic, strong acids, halogens, and flammable solids.}and because of the
release of these hazardous substances to the environment, they pose an
imminent and substantial threat to human
health, welfare, and the environment."

To the ordinary citizen, and any reasonable person,  the Federal and State
representations directly contradict each other. State officials say there
is no, or little, danger and
Federal officials say there is imminent danger to life, health, and safety.
Who's telling the truth? Who should the vunerable, unsuspecting, taxpayer

Why did State of Delaware's environmental officials tell Wilmington City
officials and the press that the hazardous wastesite posed no danger?
What's going on  in the the State of
Delaware's Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control? Is it
time for the State of Delaware's Attorney General and Federal Environmental
Protection Agency officials to step in and investigate DNREC's actions?
When the citizens can't trust their egulatory agencies to protect their
life, health, and safety or to honestly represent the dangers facing the
citizens, it's time for a drastic change. The supervisors of these
officials have some explaining to do and some corrective action to take.

Misleading statements that cause citizens to be unaware of, or understate,
dangerous situations is a terrible  failure of governmental responsibility.
How can innocent
people protect themselves if they are given incorrect or misleading
information?  Innocent citizens suffer. What is Governer Carper's  policy
in a situation like this? Given the poor health conditions in Wilmington
Delaware's  African American community, where many hazardous wastesites are
located, and with no public health assessments having been done at these
hazardous wastesites, serious attention must be focused on these failures
of State government agencies.

This is not the first time that State and Federal officials' lack of timely
action increased the danger to the Wilmington public. A snafu occured at
the Diamond State Salvage wastesite project, currently under way in
Wilmington, Delaware, when neither the State of Delaware's environmental
agency nor the Federal Environmental Protection agency acted to fence in
the hazardous waste site once evidence was gathered that the site was a
danger to public health and safety. The Diamond State Salvage wastesite had
been declared a "high risk" site by the Agency for Toxic Substance and
Disease Registry almost three years prior to the site being fenced in May
of 1998.  Both State and Federal environmental officials admitted that the
site should have been fenced immediately to prevent homeless
persons and local residents from having been exposed to the sites hazardous
wastes. There is some consolation to know that this Federal On Scence
Coordinator is calling for the immediate fencing of the entire hazardous

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