Saturday, June 19, 2010

Environmental Justice & the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill

More than 370 callers participated on a call sponsored by the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council (NEJAC) on Tuesday. Callers recommended that federal agencies should do a better job of ensuring that both the people working to clean up the oil in the Gulf of Mexico and on shore and residents of coastal communities are protected from the spill's health effects. The council advises EPA on environmental justice issues. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson participated on the call stating that, "The people who are most vulnerable to the impacts of this spill must be empowered during our response and the long-term recovery."

Both council members and members of the public who called in comments during the meeting, expressed concern about plans to dispose of oil wastes and thousands of miles of oiled boom in ordinary landfills after an EPA official told the commission that the agency had concluded the materials did not meet the legal definition of hazardous waste. Local communities in the area believe the oiled booms should be treated as a toxic material and be discarded in a safe way.

One participant maintained that BP had contracted with waste disposal giant Waste Management Inc. to use its landfills in Louisiana and other coastal states, but that the Waste Management landfill in Louisiana was not on a list of approved landfills in Louisiana's oil spill response plan.

Call participants expressed how oil spill workers also are fearful they will lose their jobs if they report illnesses they believe are linked to the fumes given off by the oil. Callers recommended that federal and state officials also need to do a better job publicizing fishing closures to fishers who don't speak English. (, 6/15/2010)

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