Angry Toxicologist

Do you ever get the feeling that we’re not really living in the first world but in the third? I was thinking so when I read this LA Times article (excellent piece for its short size).

Illegal dumps are spread across the Torres Martinez reservation like ugly wounds, making it the most polluted tribal land in California, Nevada and Arizona. Vast swaths of desert have been transformed into toxic trash heaps threatening the tribe and nearby communities. There are at least 26 illegal dumps here, including the largest one in the state. Federal officials struggle to shut them down, but new ones pop up all the time.

Struggle? What the heck? How is this not a ‘do’?

Fires routinely sent poisons into the air; more than 34,000 square feet of arsenic and chromium ash littered the place…The 40-acre site has mountains of debris 50 feet high and a million tons of buried waste. Subterranean fires smolder endlessly, occasionally flaring up through cracks. Since a federal judge shut it down last year, there have been more than 20 fires injuring nine firefighters. …

You’ve got to kidding me. We’re having fire fighters being injured at these things and we can’t find the muscle to shut them down? Here’s more and why…

Citing a total lack of permits, the BIA issued Lawson a cease-and-desist order in 1994. Yet he continued to operate. It took more than a decade to shut it down…

Unlike in some other states, the BIA in California has no police officers to enforce its will….”It would be a lot easier to have a law enforcement officer standing with you when handing out cease-and-desist letters,” said Lisa Northrop, natural resources officer for the BIA’s Southern California Agency. “If they ignore the letters, we hand them out again. We need to create a record before taking someone to court.”

No police to enforce the law. This has to be one the most asinine stories I’ve heard this year. Even when it comes to the geeky IRS, if someone goes afoul, they come after them with jail time and taking possessions.

How come when it come to health, it’s always a struggle, not a ‘do it’? “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.” Life! It’s number one! While officials are throwing up their hands, kids in the nearby schools are getting asthma and bronchitis, and firefighters are being injured. Parents are complaining but are being violently threatened when they do.

People’s health is always treated like a problem way down the totem pole of importance, even though it is something that we each hold dear. I ask you, if they were counterfeiting money or growing marijuana, how long do think it would take the feds to bust that apart? Why do we not apply that same seriousness to flagrant disregard for the law that winds up sickening kids and injuring public servants?

I’m sick, I’m ashamed, I’m furious, and I’m sad.

Comments

  1. #1 mgr
    July 18, 2007

    Excellent post. Excellent reportage as well.

    The challenge to enforcement is that certain NA tribes are their own nation. It is their responsibility to police themselves.

    The approach BIA or US EPA needs to be take is diplomatic, and should reflect concerns for those from off the tribal lands that are affected.

    Mike

  2. #2 Vanderleun
    July 19, 2007

    I’d count that one as “Indian Nation the Polluted.”

  3. #3 Extenze
    January 14, 2010

    Thanks for the information I was looking for it.

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