1999 CPEO Brownfields List Archive

From: Tony Chenhansa <cpeo@cpeo.org>
Date: Thu, 28 Oct 1999 11:15:36 -0700 (PDT)
Reply: cpeo-brownfields
Subject: [CPEO-BIF] "Sierra Club's high standard for inner-city toxic clean-up"
Sierra Club Response to "Race, class and the brownfields battle"

Sept. 28, 1999 
San Francisco Examiner 


Sierra Club's high standard for inner-city toxic clean-up 

Perhaps the best way to respond to Scott Winokur's column attacking the
Sierra Club's position on redevelopment of contaminated urban sites (
"Race, class and the brownfields battle," Opinion Page, Sept. 21) is to use
the case study he and I discussed on the telephone. 

Winokur asked me why a parochial school in East Los Angeles shouldn't be
able to expand its playground by buying a former gas station next door
without having to spend a fortune to clean up the gas station. 

The Sierra Club's position is that if the gas station site is safe for
children to play on, there is no reason not to redevelop it into a

But as residents of the Chester Street neighborhood in Oakland know, where
a former industrial site is being converted into a playground without
proper cleanup, neighborhood children would be exposed to dangerous levels
of lead and could suffer significant health problems. 

The Sierra Club believes that the level of safety found on a playground in
East Los Angeles, or East Oakland, should be the same as the level of
safety found in Beverly Hills or Piedmont. It's not clear if Winokur
disagrees, but he appears to, citing as a high reality that "thousands of
lives are being stifled by the material conditions of existence in the
inner city." 

This is appallingly true. It is also appallingly true that millions of
inner-city children have had their health and their learning capacities
impaired by exposure to toxic chemicals. 

The connection between toxic contamination and minority neighborhoods was
not placed on the public agenda by the Sierra Club - it was placed there by
the environmental justice groups, churches and community organizations in
those communities that resent the suggestion that because an outside oil
company contaminated their neighborhood, they have to live with that
contamination forever or be condemned to economic stagnation. 

Under the law that Winokur evidently dislikes, it is not the parochial
school, wishing to expand its playground, that is liable for cleaning up
the gas station. It is the oil company that contaminated the site in the
first place. 

Carl Pope Executive director Sierra Club San Francisco

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