How do I find out if my property is contaminated by toxic waste?
—Bryan Blake, Conshohoken, PA
Over two billion pounds of toxic chemicals were released into the environment in 1995. The good news is that this astounding number actually represents an improvement, thanks in large part to the Toxic Substances Control and Resource Conservation and Recovery Acts, which regulate the transportation and storage of hazardous wastes. But toxic chemicals can remain in the environment for decades, sometimes long after the polluter has vacated the site. In the late 1970s, residents of Love Canal, New York, traced the prevalence of severe illnesses in their community to contaminated soil left behind by a chemical company that had occupied the site years earlier. Soon after the Love Canal incident, Congress passed the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act to ensure that similarly contaminated areas would be cleaned up—at the expense of the polluters, not taxpayers.
But not all toxic waste sites have been identified. To find out if you’re living in harm’s way, solicit the help of the Environmental Protection Agency office in your region. You can also contact the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, headed by former Love Canal resident Lois Gibbs. The group offers a plethora of helpful publications, including Love Canal: A Chronology of Events that Shaped a Movement ($9.95) and Using Your Right-To-Know: A Guide to the Community Right To Know Act ($9.95) .
Center for Health, Environment and Justice
PO Box 6806
Falls Church, VA 22040
Tel: (703) 237-2249
Right-to-Know Community Hotline
Tel: (800) 535-0202