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Support December 3, 2009 Day of Action

posted Nov 16, 2009, 9:22 AM by Nancy Swan   [ updated Nov 16, 2009, 10:16 AM by Thomas Swan ]
This OpEd article included below was submitted to the Birmingham News yesterday.  I noted on December 3, 2009, the International Campaign for Justice for Bhopal  "Day of Action" will be commemorating the 25th anniversary of the world's worst industrial disaster.  On December 3, 1984 tons of MIC leaked from the Union Carbide plant in Bhopal India, killing and injuring half a million men, women, and children.  The toxic chemicals left at the abandoned Union Carbide factory has not been cleaned up and continues to pollute the land, air, and water.  The tragedy in Bhopal is not an isolated incident.  Its outcome will affect all of us.

In many countries, and especially in the United States, Corporations and businesses are given the same rights as citizens, but without the same penalties for abusing those rights.  Corporations whose products and actions kill and injured hundreds of thousands of innocent people each year are only subject to civil penalties and fines, while citizens are subject to criminal penalties. The idea is that you cannot jail a piece of paper, which is all a corporation is.  But papers do not make decisions; corporate board members do.  The victims of the Bhopal tragedy want those responsible for the decisions that led to the explosion and release of MIC methyl isocyanate, to be held criminally accountable.  This is an important issue that should receive international attention.

The Bayer Cropscience Plant in Institute West Virginia USA is a foreign owned chemical plant that is storing almost twice as much MIC as the Bhopal Plant.  The Bayer plant history of explosions and safety violations is almost as bad as Bhopal, endangering American citizens with bio-hazardous products. Yet Bayer (German owned) is hiding behind U.S. laws to protect the company from disclosing the nature and name of the chemicals released during the last explosion. 

Something is smelling rotten in the U. S.  While U.S. politicians get rich of contributions, gifts, and perks from chemical companies like Bayer, citizens are left without representation and without protection.  A thought crossed my mind - what if the terrorists responsible for 911 had first formed a U. S. corporation?  Would the penalty have been fines instead of years imprisonment in Guantanamo?

Public support and participation could make The Students for Bhopal December 3, 2009 event an international turning point, by highlighting that nations like the United States should hold corporate board members criminally accountable for harm or death caused by their decisions.

Special to Birmingham News
Re: "Dumping ash, and cash, on Perry County," Birmingham News, 11/15/2009

The bad smell of ash and cash in Perry County

Smelling a rat-
    If the judicial bribery convictions in neighboring Mississippi are any clue, perhaps the Feds should investigate if there were any kickbacks in the toxic coal ash disposal at Arrowhead Landfill near Uniontown in southern Perry County.
    In Mississippi, judges found a nice little loophole for big bribes.  Bank loans to state judges were guaranteed (co-signed) by the bribing party.  As the judge paid off in favorable decisions, the loan was paid off by the person who guaranteed the loan.  But politicians all over the nations had already discovered this trick - a way to hide bribery.  Campaign loans are rarely regulated and almost never audited and bank loans are confidential, unlike campaign contributions which are public record.

The smell of rotting burritos
    Toxic coal ash in plastic wrapped burritos?  It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out these “burritos” will eventually weaken, burst, and leak.  Then what?  How many times has an industry or our government declared the storage of dangerous products "safe," only to be proven wrong?  Who will clean it up?  Who will pay for the damage and cost in human lives?
    During the Vietnam war, Agent Orange was stored in metal drums  at the Naval Construction Battalion Center in Gulfport, Mississippi.  The drums eventually ruptured and spilled, releasing dioxin into the area and migrating to wetlands.  After years of public outrage, the Agent Orange storage area became a Superfund site, cleaned up by men in hazmat suits at taxpayer expense.   
    Union Carbide had also declared their “state of the art” storage of toxic MIC “safe.”

Distance won't make the smell go away
    December 3, 2009, will mark the 25th anniversary of the worst disaster in history when methyl isocyanate (MIC) leaked from the Union Carbide storage tank in Bhopal India, killing and injuring half a million people.  But then, Union Carbide officials weren't worried about the safety men, women, and children living in a poverty stricken area in India - they were living snug in their mansions in the U.S.
    If this toxic coal ash disposal is so "safe" why didn't they  bury it in Tennessee? 
    Perhaps to test the veracity of those claiming the Arrowhead toxic landfill is safe, we should require them to proved it - by living a year on the Arrowhead  “state of the art facility,” drinking the well water, eating the food grown in the soil, and breathing the air.  If they refuse, why should the people in Perry County have to live with the Arrowhead toxic landfill?

The smell that burned my nose-
    What about the effect of toxic coal ash on the children in nearby schools?    State and federal health agencies agree that children are more vulnerable to toxins than adults.  Despite the Arrowhead toxic landfill payoffs to local school districts, the environmental impact on the health of the Perry County children can be disastrous.  Who can help?
    According the Healthy Schools Network, our nation suffers from a “surprising lack of public health agency oversight, intervention, and research to prevent harm to children who are at risk due to environmental hazards common to schools, such as chemical spills.” The U.S.EPA has determined that children in schools with poor environmental conditions “score 11 percent lower on standardized tests than students who attend schools in good condition.” 
     I suffer every day from toxic injuries I received while teaching school.  I know the David and Goliath battle facing the schools in the vicinity of the Arrowhead landfill if children and teachers should become sick or die from exposure to toxic coal ash.
The smell of the dead and dying-
    This December 3, the Students for Bhopal international Day of Action, could be a turning point, when thousands of people worldwide are planning to drop “dead” in the streets.  Perhaps we should all support Students for Bhopal  and tell our government officials that we
  • are tired of being exploited and ignored, 
  • are angry that toxic landfills and toxic storage endanger our health and the future of our children,  
  • no longer tolerate businessmen and politicians who grow rich off gifts from those who kill and injure us with toxic chemicals.
    Perhaps Martin Luther King Jr., said it best, "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

Nancy Swan
Mobile, Alabama