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New Help For "Toxic Neighborhoods" In Ohio

March 5, 2007

Many Ohio families say their neighborhoods are a "toxic nightmare," with high emission levels for lead, mercury, acid gases and other poisonous air toxics. Hardest hit are the people who can't afford a legal battle to stop industrial pollution. A new effort hopes to help low-income Ohioans fight toxic emissions in their back yards. The campaign is led by Lois Gibbs, who gained national attention in the fight to clean up New York's notorious Love Canal toxic waste site. She says Ohio's EPA has historically ignored low-income communities hit hard by pollution.

"These are communities that are low-income, communities that are of color who are just over-burdened with pollution. They just don't get justice. There's no way for them to improve their living conditions."

According to Gibbs, the Environmental Justice campaign is starting in Ohio because the state has a large number of at-risk neighborhoods, no laws to protect low-income and minority communities from pollution, and the highest toxic emission levels in the nation, according to the U.S. EPA. She says people in at-risk neighborhoods are ready to lead the fight to clean up their communities, but the deck is stacked in favor of industrial polluters, and the state EPA needs to fix that.

"The law does not allow them to participate as fair and equal players, and that's what this is about -- giving them a chance, leveling the playing field, and giving them an opportunity to defend themselves against these corporate polluters."

A series of neighborhood workshops kicked off this weekend in Columbus, with meetings scheduled later this month in Cincinnati and Cleveland.

Rob Ferrett/Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OH