An Ounce of Action...
Celebrating Michelle in Oregon, Helping Expose Toxic Waste In Her Neighborhood
In the 1700’s Benjamin Franklin put out the idea that an “ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Well, I’m updating it thanks to this letter from Michelle Cheney in Oregon to highlight how small actions really do add up for communities dealing with pollution. It doesn’t take much to get curious, get involved, and make a difference.
With permission, I’m sharing her story with you today in the hopes of inspiring you to take an ounce of action in your backyard.
I am enjoying your book, your leadership, and your passion for clean water. I wanted to share something that went right today.
JH Baxter is a wood processing treatment plant located a stone’s throw from my house.
After receiving a “Dear Resident” letter from Beyond Toxics, an Oregon nonprofit helping residents of West Eugene become aware of the JH Baxter’s toxic practices, I sent an email to the Department of Environmental Quality. Page after page, I asked questions about information that was public record about the pentachloraphenol plume under my house and about the private meeting between the DEQ and JH Baxter in 2019.
The DEQ answered me right away. It was a short paragraph answering none of my questions and encouraging me to get involved with Beyond Toxics. Then, something wonderful happened. Please see below.
Our zip code receives 99 percent of all the air pollution in our county, much of it generated by JH Baxter. Yes, JH can still appeal, and yes, their fine is small, but, as you say in your book, the actions of concerned citizens do draw attention. In this case, also a fine for my notorious neighbor. It is a good start.
Thanks so much for being the advocate that you are and the call to action that we hear.
Here’s what happened:
From the State of Oregon Newsroom
The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality issued a $223,440 penalty Wednesday to J.H. Baxter & Co. for hazardous waste and water quality violations at its wood preserving facility in Eugene.
The majority of the penalty, $178,905, is for the unpermitted treatment of hazardous waste. Baxter improperly treated about 1.7 million gallons of hazardous waste without a DEQ permit over a five-year period, according to the notice of civil penalty assessment and order. DEQ found that Baxter illegally used its retorts to boil off, or evaporate, liquid process waste containing mixtures of water, oil, and the wood-preserving chemicals. Retorts are large chambers where the company pressure treats wood. Baxter is no longer using retorts to evaporate liquid process waste.
DEQ is also fining Baxter $14,735 for allowing untreated stormwater and water removed from boilers to overflow into a storm ditch leading to Amazon Creek during two weather events in spring of 2019, exceeding permitted limits for copper in treated stormwater discharge, as well as fining Baxter or citing the company without fine for other hazardous waste and water quality violations.
The violations posed risks to the environment and public health. Along with the civil penalties, DEQ is ordering Baxter to create three plans for investigation and sampling to better understand and mitigate impacts of the violations to the environment, and to prevent potential future violations. The plans would assess the potential impacts associated with the release of hazardous waste and improve stormwater management at the facility.
View the full enforcement documents here: https://www.oregon.gov/deq/nr/032021JHBaxter.pdf
Michelle followed up with another small win:
Here’s another bit of good news. When I wrote to the contact person at the DEQ to thank her for her good work regarding JH Baxter, she wrote me back almost instantly and mentioned two Baxter work groups, one through the DEQ and one through my community. I raised my hand to get involved with both. It was easier than I knew it could be to join the movement.
Thank you so much for ringing the bell of advocacy, awareness, and involvement, and inspiring us to do the same. The work you do is changing lives!
Thank you, Michelle. YOU inspire me. This is how you do it! Write a letter, pick up the phone, call a neighbor, volunteer to join a group, etc. Little by little we can make a difference.
Do you have something to celebrate? Let me know in the comments below.
I lived over there with my boyfriend, and he developed severe asthma while we were there. Are the citizens going to see any money from this?
Reading this & honored & proud of & for all the courage & tenacity of Michelle & all our women & #HeroesInAction.
Tragically & sadly, the world has lost another AmeriCAN mom & hero in action, taking & making positive actions, our most treasured & dearly departed Ann Muniz. Ann is one of few people in our universe & life time to leave here on earth & ascend to heaven with her well-earned wings.
She fought multiple chemical companies poisoning private well water supplies in Downers Grove, ILLinois. Ann, together with her husband & family proceeded & rallied the community.
Their water was so bad they were instructed by the IEPA to leave the window in the bathroom open at all times because the toxic fumes were also being released every time, they turned on the water & just lying in the toilet.
They successfully won the 1st ever class action lawsuit involving multiple companies combining the trail in 1 collective lawsuit against all of the companies responsible for their water contamiNATION.
The way that Ann found out about their poison filled well contamiNATION was because another neighboring community had chemical poisons in their wells. One day the IEPA stopped by & offered to test their home for $50 to see if their water was safe. IEPA found chemicals that may be migrating from many miles away. Low & behold, truth was told & results were positive for contamiNATION. Companies actively & collectively dumping proven poisons into water supplies for decades.
These companies were also legally forced to pay medical bills for anyone who got sick with diseases & cancers linked to the as a result to the chemical exposures.
Insult to injury, in more ways than one. The polluting companies later started pointing the finger of blame at each other & sued each other saying, in a nut shell that the others involved in poisoning & contaminated water supplies & homes did it more than we did.... They all also got out of paying for people’s sickness & cancer too.
SOP of our failed system, these poison on purpose for profit companies always find ways out or around of doing what was deemed by the courts. They close or file bankruptcy or reopen in another name or sold or traded & continue doing the same. Or they just move to another location & continue & legally get permits to doing their worst to hurt to all of us/US. These polluters are given in effect a license to leak, leach, dump & spill = kill everyone & everything living downwind & downstream.
Why aren't they & we protecting all Americans drinking water sources? Call it beneficial reuse like toxic poison filled piles of coal ash to make mounds on golf courses. Pay to play thereby making deceitful & deadly decisions & polluting from that point of source on, poisoning our innocent children, country & our invaluable recourses.
There’s no honor in American businesses who are willing to intentionally endanger & willfully place kids, people, animals & communities in harm’s way & in peril for their personal, political & financial gains. Nobody wins except polluters or so that’s their thinking; but what’s in the water that they’re also continuing to be drinking?
To be honest, we'd all rather have Ann here than getting any "citizen of the year" award & letting her go way to soon & in a preventable tragic way. We're are being poisoned on purpose for profits. Migrating looms from the poison on purpose filled plumes of doom, effectively making people’s homes IRL sickening impeding tombs.
Ann is definitely 1 in a million but tragically 1 of very many millions all over our state & country intentionally harmed & by poison on purpose for profits industries. Capitalism at its worst refusing to protect our precious kids & their future & our country first. For all our kid’s sake, when will we stop their suffering & poison fate?
Dearest Ann; Your smile, laughter, courage, tenacity & willingness to always help people & animals everywhere & whenever with love, sincerity, dignity & grace always with your beautiful smiling loving face & you’re always there welcoming all of us with your sweetest reassuring embrace. There isn’t any regrets, always learning, helping & celebrating life.
We'll celebrate you every day in our hearts & ring your kind & LOL words in our ears for the rest of our earthly living years.
Until were together again, Ann, Angel Ascending; wife, mother, sister, daughter, auntie, animal & all humankind's best friend & then….