(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 effects 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 the government, or the polluting company, to decide when to give them to you. The 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 downplay 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 the 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 toward 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.