Citizen Science: Charlie’s Garden and Family’s Food vs. the Pittsfield Cell Tower

By Patricia Burke of Safe Tech International with Charlie Herzig

Encyclopedia Britannica describes Love Canal, as “a neighborhood in Niagara Falls, N.Y., U.S., that was the site of the worst environmental disaster involving chemical wastes in U.S. history. The Love Canal area was originally the site of an abandoned canal that became a dumping ground for nearly 22,000 tons of chemical waste (including polychlorinated biphenyls, dioxin, and pesticides) produced by the Hooker Chemicals and Plastics Corporation in the 1940s and ’50s. In the following years, the site was filled in and given by the company to the growing city of Niagara Falls, which allowed housing to be built on it. In 1978, however, state officials detected the leakage of toxic chemicals from underground into the basements of homes in the area.

Subsequent investigations established an abnormally high incidence of chromosomal damage among the area’s residents, presumably caused by their long-term exposure to the toxic chemical wastes. Much of Love Canal was then evacuated, the abandoned land being purchased by the state of New York. The canal was capped and fenced off, and the buildings around it were razed. After protracted litigation, 1,300 former residents of Love Canal agreed to a $20,000,000 settlement of their claims against the Occidental Chemical Corporation, which had taken over Hooker in the late 1960s, and the city of Niagara Falls.”  – Source

The Crucial Role of Citizen Science

The Britannica narrative fails to describe the revolutionary impact of citizen data-gathering that unfolded over a three- year period in upstate New York, fueled by a mother with a sickly child.

Citizens took science and data collection into their own hands.

The Center for Health, Environment and Justice explains,

“Lois Gibbs was raising her family in Love Canal, near Niagara Falls in upstate New York, in 1978 when she discovered that her home and those of her neighbors were sitting next to 20,000 tons of toxic chemicals. That shocking discovery spurred Lois to lead her community in a three-year struggle to protect their families from the hazardous waste buried in their backyards. By trial and error, Lois and her neighbors developed the strategies and methods to educate and organize the community, assess the impacts of toxic wastes on their health, and challenge corporate and government policies on the dumping of hazardous materials. Her leadership led to the relocation of 833 Love Canal households.[]

Homeowners were never given any warning that their property was located near a chemical waste dump. From the late 1950s through the 1970s, people repeatedly complained of odors and substances surfacing near or in their yards and on the school playground. The city, responding to these complaints, visited the area and covered the “substances” with dirt or clay. []

[ ] Lois began talking with other parents in the neighborhood to see if they were having problems with their children’s health. After speaking with hundreds of people, she realized that the entire community was affected. In June 1978, she started the Love Canal Parents Movement.

On August 2, 1978, the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH) issued a health order recommending that the 99th Street School be closed, that pregnant women and children under the age of two be evacuated, that residents not eat out of their home gardens and that they spend limited time in their basements. A few days later, the state agreed to purchase all 239 homes in the first two rings of homes closest to the canal.- Source

Chemicals were the culprit when Love Canal residents were told not to eat the food growing in their gardens. What happens when the economic growth engine is powered by another environmental exposure impacting gardening – for food?

Continue Reading at Safe Tech International

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

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