A publication of Work On Waste USA, Inc., 82 Judson, Canton, NY 13617 315-379-9200 February 1992



This picture is worth a 1,000 experts .

The above photograph is an aerial view of the WTI hazardous waste incinerator which is nearly 95% constructed

on the banks of the Ohio River and within 1,100 feet of an elementary school in East Liverpool, Ohio. Current Ohio law says that you cannot build such a facility within 2,000 feet of a school.

by Paul Connett.

A major step towards reclaiming justice for East Liverpool was taken at approximately 10 pm on Friday, February 14, 1992, when the 8-person jury returned a verdict of not guilty for 29 citizens charged with criminal trespass. On October 13, 1991, these citizens had climbed the fence surrounding the Waste Technologies Industries hazardous waste incinerator being built on the banks of the Ohio River. For the defendants (I was one of them!) it was a moment of great joy and relief that we had convinced eight of our fellow human beings that our act was not “illegal.” We had proved that we had acted out of “necessity” and that the “evil” we were trying to prevent dwarfed the “evil” we had committed. To establish the necessity defence, we had to establish that the danger we were trying to prevent was imminent and significant; that all alternatives had been exhausted; that our action was likely to remove the threat and that there was an objective reality to our beliefs. In normal circumstances this is a very difficult defence to win. But the circumstances in East Liverpool are far from normal. A powerful combination of financial interests together with a sizable chunk of the regulatory machinery, of both the Ohio EPA and Region 5 of the US EPA, has been working against the interests of the people of East Liverpool and the surrounding area for over 11 years. It was this incredible situation which propelled 29 citizens (a group which included the wife of a judge, the Mayor of Chester, West Virginia, a schoolteacher, a nurse, and world famous actor Martin Sheen) to break the law by climbing that fence.

The presence of Martin Sheen, a wonderfully warm and compassionate human being, was an incredibly lucky break for the community, because it assured that the trial received the maximum press attention. Indeed, the whole trial was broadcast on Court TV (February 18-21, 1992). After 11 years the community got its first real day in court. At last the world outside East Liverpool could witness the outrageous absurdity that was going on. It meant that experts like Dr. David Ozonoff, Chairman of the School of Public Health at Boston University, Dr. Herbert Needleman, a world authority on the impact of lead exposure to young children and Dr. David McCauley, a professor who teaches a course on air pollution at the State University of West Virginia, could confirm under oath what any human who has visited East Liverpool could tell you: this is the worst site in the world for a huge hazardous waste incinerator. The site is situated in a 100 year flood plain, in an area subjected to frequent pollution-trapping air inversions, with housing within a few hundred feet and an elementary school just 1100 feet away. As Dr. David Ozonoff said in his testimony, siting this incinerator here made as much sense as designing a transport system for Death Valley based upon ice skates! He further indicated that when he showed the photograph, reprinted in this newsletter, to his colleagues, “people’s eyes just bugged out.” No matter how good the technology, no matter how conscientious the operation, you need the fail safe of good siting. Here there is no fail safe. It only needs one accident and the consequences could be catastrophic.

The trial also meant that Hugh Kaufman, a whistle-blower from the US EPA, could expose the whole shell game of corporate intrigue which underpins WTI. He also exposed the fact that the permit issued in 1983 was illegal. He further indicated that officials at both the Ohio EPA and the US EPA who sanctioned this project, even though they were informed that the permit was illegal, could in turn be prosecuted under federal law.

In short, the lid is off this whole sordid can of worms, and no matter how hard they try, officials at WTI, the Ohio EPA and the US EPA will not be able to put the lid back on. Too many people of goodwill know the truth and will not rest until justice is complete in East Liverpool. The very presence of Martin Sheen; the brilliant pro-bono efforts of defence attorneys Paul Boas and Joe King; the fact that all the experts testified without fee and the fact that the legendary singer for justice, Pete Seeger gave a benefit concert (the day after the trial ended) to help raise money to pay some of the bills incurred by citizens fighting this battle, are all magnificent illustrations of that goodwill. Already, U.S. Senators Rockefeller (WV) and Metzenbaum (Ohio) and U.S. Congressman Mollohan (WV) have called for a federal investigation of WTI’s permit.

If otherwise law abiding citizens “broke a law” it was because the authorities who we had expected to protect our families and our communities, failed to do so. They had built the fence that separates the children of East Liverpool from a safe future. Margery McKinnon, a life-time resident of East Liverpool, said it best: “I am a concerned citizen, but I am a mother first...I was compelled to go over WTI’s fence...it is a miracle I have my three children today...I would do anything I had to do to save my children’s lives...I have lost my mother to cancer, I’ve lost my dad, I have a sister who has cancer, I have a brother who has had skin cancer...Enough is enough. They are poisoning for profit and I can’t stand it. It’s wrong. It’s criminal. I am here today because the law says I have to be here. In my heart I am not a criminal. In my book, it would have been criminal if I had not gone over that fence.”

The 29 people who were on trial: From Ohio: Becky & Dave Ammon, Edith Barnhart, Matthew Bennett, Jeremy Bowman, Kimberly Drasler, Timothy Dwyer, Margery McKinnon, Virgil Reynolds, Aldonzo Spencer, Becky Tobin, Jason Tochman, Lisa Tychonievich; From West Virginia: Joy Allison, Howard Beynon, Leslie Kusic, Neil Randolph, Sally Riley, Terri Swearingen, Mary Vandervender, William White. From Pennsylvania: Kathleen Jennings, Sue Merritt, Barbara Reed, Dave Shiller, Lisa Topley. From New York: Paul Connett, James Hanson. From California: Martin Sheen.

For more information: Terri Swearingen 304-387-0574; Connie Stein 304-232-4083; Alonzo Spencer 216-385-4584; David Deakyne 412-573-4845; or the Tri-State Env. Council, PO Box 76,Chester WV 26034.

WOW Video #25 reports on a hazardous waste incinerator in BIEBESHEIM, Hessen, Germany. This German incinerator has been cited as a model by WTI. Filmed in Germany, we hear about the many problems experienced by this incinerator, which include: many fires in the loading bunker, accidents involving both trucks and trains delivering waste, reports of releases of high levels of dioxins, furans and other pollutants in the soil and air near the facility. Produced in March 1991 by Roger Bailey & Paul Connett. Available for $25 from Video Active, Rt 2, Box 322, Canton, NY 13617. Tel: 315-386-8797.

WASTE NOT # 185 A publication of Work on Waste USA, published 48 times a year. Annual rates are: Groups & Non-Profits $50; Students & Seniors $35; Individual $40; Consultants & For-Profits $125; Canadian $US45; Overseas $65. Editors: Ellen & Paul Connett, 82 Judson Street, Canton, NY 13617. Tel: 315-379-9200. Fax: 315-379-0448.