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Environmental contamination: May 2011 Archives

Five Things to Do if Your Water or Neighborhood Is (or Might Be) Polluted

(1)        Get smart. Find out the names of the polluting chemicals. You will usually learn them, as most of our clients have, from a newspaper article or TV story, or from a letter or knock on the door from a government official.  You need to know the chemicals' names, so that you can learn about how they may affect your family's health. Here's a good website with commonsense information about the health affects of most chemicals found in polluted water, air and soil. When you learn this information, you will then understand what you must do to minimize, or eliminate altogether, your family's exposure to the pollution. (2)        Get control. You need reliable information in order to protect yourself and your family.  And you need it sooner, rather than later.  So, resolve that you will take responsibility for getting answers, and not wait for government, or the polluting company, to decide when to give them to you.  Government tends to move slowly, and its resources for protecting the environment are usually stretched very thin.  The polluting company may wish, in order to save money or its reputation, to down play the extent of the pollution it has caused, or even deny that there is any problem at all.  So don't settle for getting answers, or the problem getting fixed, on their timetable.  It's your family, not theirs, that's living with the problem. (3)        Get noisy. The old adage that "The squeaky wheel gets the grease" applies big time to fixing pollution problems.  So you must make some noise - to get answers, get heard, and get your problem solved sooner, rather than later.  Because polluted water, air or soil typically affect many families, not just one, neighbors can make noise by banding together to do the necessary research, make phone calls, hold informational meetings and rallies, etc.  Another way to make noise is to enlist the help of local newspapers and TV in making the pollution in your neighborhood a high profile story that puts pressure on government to fix it. (4)        Get a lawyer. Fighting pollution in your neighborhood is usually scientifically and legally complicated.  The company that polluted your neighborhood has had a lawyer working - often behind the scenes, and for years - to get her client "off the hook" for the problem it caused.  And that lawyer has hired scientists to help accomplish this goal, usually by offering theories about why the company really didn't do anything wrong, or about how the pollution isn't really as widespread or dangerous as it truthfully may be.  While you will never have the money that the company has to pay lawyers and scientists, hiring an experienced environmental lawyer of your own is the best way to get some power on your side, and use the legal system to help you get the answers and solution that you need. (5)        Get tough. Don't panic.  When you arm yourself with reliable information, band together with your neighbors, and hire a good lawyer to do battle with the polluter, you have taken the most important steps to protecting your family.   While panic is an understandable human reaction to first learning that your family's water, air or soil may be polluted, don't allow those feelings to cause you to lose sight of those steps - like the ones we mention above - that you must take to protect the people who matter to you most.  The opposite of panic - denial - is also an emotion to be avoided.  Pretending that there is no problem does not take you and your family out of harms' way... it keeps you there.  Get informed.  Get represented.  Get moving.

The Gulf Oil Spill, Fukushima, the Budget Bill: Why The Government Doesn't Protect Us

We've been representing families in lawsuits against polluters for filling their homes with toxic chemicals for the better part of the last decade. We've obtained safe water supplies and clean air in homes for thousands of families, and recovered millions of dollars in lost property value for them.  During jury selection we've asked prospective jurors to raise their hands if they believe that government adequately protects them from environmental harm. The next person who raises her hand will be the first. Almost a year ago to the day, we and the rest of the world watched in horror as a single deep water well in the gulf exploded and began spewing millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. For weeks on end we listened to lies from industry, and from government, about everything from how this could happen, to the severity of the problem, to how and when they would clean it up. Now we hear lies about the damage done, including the destruction of industries, families, wildlife and the ecosystem. The recently issued government report on this disaster lays the blame at the doorstep of BP and, to no one's surprise, does not emphasize the responsibility of government for allowing this to happen. Truth be known, this was one well among thousands. The whole approach to permitting and regulation of drilling in the Gulf has been folly from the word go. It has been dictated by industry and the politicians who depend on them for their jobs through our coin-operated political system. More recently, we and the rest of the world have watched in horror as the nuclear plants in Fukushima imploded and have begun to reek havoc by spreading dangerous levels of radiation throughout Japan. Again, we've listened to lies from industry and the government, this time Japan, about everything from how this could happen, to the severity of the problem, to how and when they will stop it. The spin about how little harm has been caused is just beginning, but make no mistake, we will not hear the truth. The truth is they don't even know how much damage this will cause and may not for generations. The problem remains out of control. And now, the budget deal. Last week, on the one year anniversary of the "spill" in the Gulf, our President and representatives in Congress cut a deal on the budget that takes $1.5 billion away from EPA's budget. 16% of its total budget! Its recent efforts to regulate atmosphere destroying emissions have been shelved. The prospect of meaningful enforcement has been crushed. And this, as part of a deal that increases our war budget by $5 billion dollars. Industry and its henchman worked hard for this. Its no wonder that no one believes government protects them from environmental harm. It doesn't. It can't. And it won't until we take our leaders out of the pockets of industry.

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