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Message - [NLC] RE: Wed. Forum on Railroad Pollution
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Posted by  Majeska Seese-Green on October 21, 2002 at 20:34:28:

Wednesday, October 23

- How we can make Union Pacific clean up their act
- How we can protect the neighborhoods in the Impact Zone
(Whiteaker, River Road, Trainsong, Bethel, West Eugene)

7:00 pm at Whiteaker Community Center
(NW corner of Clark & N. Jackson; located one block north and one block east
of the intersection of 1st Ave./Railroad Blvd. and Van Buren in Eugene)
Refreshments provided by Sweet Life Patisserie

Presentations by panel of local experts, followed by discussion and
development of plan of action for our community. Topics will include:

- History/background
- Health impacts and protecting ourselves
- Soil and groundwater testing
- Cleanup options
- Legal recourses
- Can we save our neighborhoods?

Come be part of the solution!

Sponsors of this Community Forum (coalition organizations to date):

Whiteaker Community Council (684-8064)
Community Against Railroad Pollution (686-9150)
Northwest Environmental Justice Center
Oregon Toxics Alliance (465-8860)

These four organizations have recently come together to address the soil and
ground water contamination from the Union Pacific Rail Yard in Eugene. The
October 23 community forum marks the beginning of a long-term joint effort
of this coalition. Others are urged to help broaden the effort. This forum
will be an opportunity to become informed and involved.

Neighborhoods in the Railroad Pollution Impact Zone include all of Trainsong
(formerly Bethel Triangle), nearly all of River Road, most of Whiteaker, and
parts of Downtown, Bethel, Jefferson-Westside, and West Eugene. According
to the coalition, people living or working in these areas face health risks
from soil and ground water contamination resulting from spills, leakage, and
alleged dumping from trains and former railroad industrial operations.

A high rate of unexplained illness, first noted in the Whiteaker
neighborhood, was documented in a metro-wide health study carried out in
1999-2000 by Concerned Blair Area Neighbors in collaboration with Technical
Outreach Services to Communities, based in Corvallis. Numerous human and
animal birth defects, disappearing species, unusual incidences of cancer in
people and pets, and chemically damaged vegetation have also been documented
in various parts of the Impact Zone, particularly in the Trainsong and River
Road areas.

The Science Director for the Center for Health, Environment and Justice,
Stephen Lester, has said he is "stunned" and "appalled" by the level of
contamination in Eugene’s Railroad Pollution Impact Zone and the number of
people living in the affected area. Lester has advised the community to
consider relocating, either temporarily during a cleanup process or
permanently. The Center for Health, Environment and Justice, of which CARP
is a member organization, grew out of the successful drive to relocate
residents of Love Canal in New York in 1981, and has since helped hundreds
of communities exposed to industrial pollution around the United States.

The community forum, open to all, will begin with a panel presentation
addressing issues including adequate testing, legal recourses, health
impacts and how people can protect themselves. Following the
presentations, those present will develop an action plan to get Union
Pacific to clean up the area in a safe and effective manner.

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has worked with the railroad
since the early 1990's on testing the soil and ground water in the rail yard
in Eugene. Union Pacific’s consultants have discovered more than 40
hazardous substances on site, and found that many of the chemicals have
moved into the ground water in Trainsong and River Road neighborhoods, where
some residents use garden wells. The contaminants can also enter the air in
vapors and dust, which people inhale.

According to the coalition, testing has not yet been done for many hazardous
substances known or suspected to be present in the rail yard and
rights-of-way. Another gap in the investigation is the Whiteaker
neighborhood, where no tests have been conducted, though surface drainage
runs from the rail yard into the streets. In addition, Union Pacific
applies pesticides heavily every year, including 2,4-D, a component of Agent
Orange. Illness in the Impact Zone spikes during spray seasons, yet
pesticide residues have not been taken into account in the testing.
Additionally, neighbors and others have observed chemical spills which were
not included in Union Pacific’s testing process. The coalition believes the
neighborhoods cannot be adequately protected until they know what is in
their soil and ground water.

“When railroads negatively impact the safety and well-being of the
community, they have a responsibility to work with the community to solve
and remediate the problems,” stated former State Representative Kitty
Piercy, a resident of Whiteaker neighborhood. “Their responsibility remains
whether the community is rural or urban, or whether the income level is
modest or rich. No community should have to accept chemical poisoning as
part of its environment and no historical license should allow railroads to
forgo their responsibilities.”

“Whiteaker Community Council, as one of the neighborhood associations in the
Impact Zone, has made a commitment to work with others to force a cleanup of
this contamination, no matter how long it takes,” stated Council President
Majeska Seese-Green. “This forum marks the beginning of the next phase in
this struggle for the health and livability of our community.”

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