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Staying Safe in a Toxic World


 


tion to politics. Now that we have opened our eyes to environmental threats, we are aware and active. My husband Julius and I and many of our neighbors monitor the community closely for new activity, new permits, and new threats. We know that once a business is in place, it is almost impossible to stop it. This is why we took quick action when a neighbor noticed workers clearing land in our community. He alerted neigh- bors that we might have a problem. We found that an application for an asphalt plant had already been approved by our county commissioners.





 asphalt plant. We held meetings in each other’s homes and discussed our battle plan. A typical meeting would be held Sunday afternoon, with a gracious hostess serving iced tea and key lime pie. We invited Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL) to help us organize our cam- paign to stop the asphalt plant.


BREDL provided technical reports that gave an overview of 7 toxic substances released from asphalt processing facilities. Their report showed that asphalt plants are sources of gaseous volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These pollutants are dangerous to human health. Some VOCs are also suspected carcinogens or cancer-causing agents. Here is a list of pollutants typically found in emis- -


  - -    


The Change Agent — March 2011 17


zene, chromium, formaldehyde, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), cadmium, and arsenic. BREDL also taught us how to talk to the media and the public. For instance, we learned that it is better to compose a press release to say exactly what you choose in- stead of answering the questions of a reporter and risking saying something that might not help your cause. Our group presented our goal to help free our commu- nity of serious pollution, noxious


 destroy the health and environment of our rural neighborhoods.


An Important Win!


We befriended our county commissioners and had individual meetings with them to explain our concerns. We placed yard signs everywhere that read “NO Asphalt Plants!” We made phone calls, mailed letters, emailed, faxed, and spoke at every available public meeting. We called for a public hearing and spoke as if we had already won. “Our community is grateful that our county commis-


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