- Love Canal was just a warning 20 years ago. This August 2nd marks
the twentieth anniversary of perhaps the largest public protest in US history,
which lead to the evacuation of residents living around Love Canal -- the
most notorious toxic waste dump in US history. On August 2,
across the US, people will be remembering Love Canal and highlighting important
issues of chemical exposures and public health risks.
In the city of Sydney, Nova Scotia, Canada, a group of people from Frederick Street are holding a candlelight vigil to highlight the issue of toxic exposure right in their own community. Sydney's infamous tar ponds are well-documented: 700,000 tonnes of toxic sludge, of which 45,000 tonnes are ploychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). To put this in
perspective, the tar ponds contain approximately 35 times the amount of toxic sludge than New York's infamous Love Canal.
It's been 12 years since the federal and provincial governments launched a $34 million project to clean up the tar ponds. Taxpayers spent $60 million on an incinerator to burn sludge from the ponds, but the piping system to transport the toxic waste didn't work and the project was abandoned.
"Children in toxic communities like ours are suffering from asthma, learning disabilities and cancer," says Frederick Street resident and spokesperson, Juanita McKenzie.
It has been 20 years since Love Canal, and people are still fighting with governments and corporations to clean up toxic dumps. Governments are still in denial about the effects of toxic contamination. Rather than erring on the side of caution and moving people from immediate arease of concern, they systematically deny any ill effects and spend money trying to prove it. It will be 20 years from now that the children of these toxic areas will be dying of cancers and other fatal
illnesses, or they will be unable to give birth to healthy children of their own.
On August 2, Frederick Street residents will light 20 candles to signify a flicker of hope that their government will do the right thing for its citizens. "We want our government to relocate us from Frederick Street. We feel our health is being seriously threatened," says McKenzie.
Last week, government toxicity tests on Frederick Street showed high levels of toxic chemicals like arsenic, molybdenum, benzopyrene, naphthalene, lead, toluene, tar, benzene, and polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). All the toxic chemicals were at levels well above those permitted by Canadian guidelines. The concentration of arsenic was 18.5
higher than acceptable levels.
These chemicals are known to cause various cancers, birth defects, heart disease, kidney disease, brain damage, immune deficiencies and skin rashes. The residents are torn between hoping the results will prompt the government to relocate them, and hoping none of their families are sick.
Community activist Shirley Christmas, a Mi'Kmaq/Maliseet poet and writer from Membertou Reserve, will be on Frederick Street to lead the vigil with prayer and drumming. Anyone who would like to participate in the ceremony is welcome.
For more information contact: Juanita McKenzie (902) 562-3848 or firstname.lastname@example.org