Landfills

Examine the Earth before we applied our footprint;

Consider our effects recently;

What Actions should we take to prevent more damage than we have already done...

State-Sponsored Crime  
On November 7th, 1986 the government finalized a $34.3 million budget  (Elisabeth May, 2000) to proceed with the excavation and incineration of the toxic mess festering in a seaside lagoon that was once filled with all kinds of sea life and supported the welfare and livelihood of people living on the beautiful island of Cape Breton.  So many years before, on July 1st, 1899, an iron works and steel plant was established there that promised a better life to the people of Sydney; yet, the area became one of the worst toxic sites in Canada.  Sydney’s people, who once hoped for a better life, were now distorted in fear of sickness and death.  In a few decades, workers realized that their elected government not only supported but catered to the interests of the corporate owners of these industries. It is State-corporate crime when the health and environment of the people of Cape Breton is neglected because of the resistance of powerful corporate and government organizations that valued profit over people's health and their living environments.
The process of bringing it to the attention of officials took a long time, and it was only by accident in 1987 (Barlow & May, 2000) that Donnie Macpherson, an electrician fixing lighting in a Sysco manager’s office, managed to find and pass along to the media, with the help of a co-worker, files that contained details about the scandalous quality of the air in Sydney.   Worse, the information was from official reports done in 1973 & 1974; meaning that the government had known for more than a decade how dangerous a place was Sydney to live and raise children. Yet they had suppressed the information.
Nonetheless, after many decades, the plant began having difficulty making any profit, so government subsidies arrived to help keep the workers employed and keep the owners making profits. However, there was no concern for the living conditions or the health of the people producing those profits. By 1968 the company secured new orders for steel rails from Korea, Chile and the United States.  Concurrently, between 1967 and 1970, dumping of iron dust and other toxins increased by 71% (Barlow & May, 2000, p. 69).  The positive correlation between more production and more toxin dumping did not concern the appropriators of the wealth being produced.  The corporation benefited from the growth of the company by earning more, while the workers lost their health, and many lost their lives. Toxins such as dioxide, PAH, cyanide, ammonia and other chemical substances continued to contaminate the air, water and land.  Over that time, more than 520 tons of dust fell on every square mile of Sydney as production increased. Health and Welfare officials reported increases of sulphur dioxide production of 36%, and the coking operation alone dumped 330 tons of toxic waste into the environment over that time period (Barlow & May, 2000, p. 71).
As the number of sick and dead rose to levels too difficult to ignore, government officials began to test toxin levels in the environment; although any findings were not shown to the residents of the area. This criminal behaviour shows that the government was not interested in doing its job of protecting its people and their resources, but instead valued the support and protection of the corporation and its interests.  They ignored the welfare of the people for a long time until the death toll became too obvious, by which time the process of cleaning up the debacle took that much more time and money. By 1994, despite major health problems faced by the people of Cape Breton, there was as yet no proper program in place for effective clean-up, that up-to-date cost the taxpayer $55 million (Barlow & May, 2000, p.88).

27 years passed; however, Elizabeth May on 24 March 2010 said....
The quality of the various health studies that were conducted on the Sydney pollution issue:
In 1976 the increase of air pollution involved the federal department of Health and Welfare. It conducted a study of respiratory problems and air pollution in the Sydney area. This study described two interesting results: First, it found an association between children’s breathing difficulties and bad air; and second, the study’s air measurements raised another key issue that showed that area children were not affected equally. The study illustrated that while every part of Sydney was polluted some of the time, the community of Whitney Pier was polluted almost all the time. Since workers and their families lived near the plant, the prevailing winds brought pollution, in the form of dust, ash and poisons, over their homes and into their lungs causing health problems. Nevertheless these studies, with all the evidence collected by federal departments charged with oversight of the environment and human health, did not seem to be good enough to convince the authorities to start a clean-up and stop wasting lives for profit. Sixty million dollars worth of surveys and research studies by government and by environmentalists failed to bring about action on a clean-up, and only served to betray the hope and trust of the people of Sydney. But then the fishery department found itself in trouble.
A study by the department of Fisheries involved surveys of Sydney Harbour lobsters, testing them for contamination with PAHs: deadly cancer-causing chemicals (Barlow & May, 2000, p. 74).  The study found PAH-contamination of lobsters. The lobsters in Sydney had high levels of PCBs, mercury, cadmium and lead. Other studies in the area revealed that the formerly swarming ecosystem of Muggah Creek was completely drained of all life and that the obvious source of contamination of the fishery was Sysco. In the meantime, the source of the pollution continued its business as usual; furthermore, Sysco demanding additional funds for modernization to reduce pollution. The federal government funded $96 million for a modernization plan, from which $14 million was allocated for pollution control.  However, the modernization plan did not mandate the closing of the oven.
In 1974, Environment Canada followed up on its assessment of Sydney’s air quality. It found that air pollution from coking operations produced emissions 2,800% to 6,000% higher than the permitted standards. The report noted that “there are no air pollution control systems operating on the coke batteries” and that there was a large amount of airborne pollution from the coke ovens.  However, none of the air quality reports from the 1970s and 1980s were revealed to the general public. It is State-corporate crime when one or more institutions of political governance cater to institutions of economic production and distribution to the detriment of human health.

The quality of the public consultation
The government formed the new Joint Action Group (JAG) after August 1996 with a view to finally implementing a cleanup and working toward a “Healthy Sydney.”  JAG consisted of representatives from the government and about 55 members of the public, and within months numerous working groups created and developed a language of their own. There were committees of health studies, site security, remedial options, planning, governance, human resources, finance and ethics.
Community meetings and protests were arranged, and people started to organize themselves.  People begin to learn more about the situation, and that PCBs cannot just be buried, but must be relocated and specially treated.  No matter how much people tried to bring the issue to the attention of municipal, provincial, and federal governments, nothing much changed and people were still dying of cancer, lung problems and other illnesses.
JAG suggested removing and relocating the affected community, though far from evacuating residents, the government had not taken even the most basic steps to keep people away from the toxic ooze. JAG was faced with a huge task, so they started by defining the problem. In June 1997, biologists, local activists and JAG went from classroom to classroom explaining the risk of breathing PAHs. The children went home and questioned the parents and together they called on city hall. The local residents became aware that the problem was larger than just the estuary’s 700,000 tons of toxic PAH sludge, with its estimated 50,000 ton complement of PCB ooze, (Barlow & May, 2000, pp. 102-105).
With so much contamination, JAG started on a range of activities, many of them related to establishing and developing by-laws, becoming incorporated, and devising rules of procedures, standards for conflict of interest, mediation procedures and ethics guidelines. Without community involvement no study would have been possible anywhere.

The Role of local Doctors and Health Authorities
No matter how much people tried to bring the issue to the attention of municipal, provincial, and federal governments, nothing much changed and people were still dying of cancer, lung problems and other illnesses. Yet, Dr. Jeff Scott, the medical officer for the province, dismissed the idea of relocating Fredrick Street families. He told the media, “Based on test results so far, we do not believe residences are at risk.”  Dr. Scott continued to ignore the facts and on August 12, 1998, 12 years after the federal-provincial promises, he minimized the risk, reporting that “people are reporting a variety of general health effects, such as ear infections, kidney infections, general malaise, which are bacterial or viral in nature, and are not likely associated with chemical exposure (Barlow & May, 2000).”  He advised residents to not walk in their yards, and to not go into the brook, and to keep windows and doors closed.
Also, none of the local doctors sympathized with people’s concerns or investigated the daily unusual problems they were facing in the hospitals; even though, data collected by health authorities suggested that the rate of premature deaths in Sydney was much higher than in other parts of Nova Scotia, and higher even than the average in all of Cape Breton. The doctors and health authorities in the region ignored the unusual illnesses amongst the people of the Sydney area for decades.

Over the years, much testing and government consultation and debating occurred among environmental groups and health authorities over finding the best way to clean up the tar ponds disaster zone.  The MAO (Mortality Atlas for Canada) reported that cancer rates in Sydney were significantly higher for the period of 1973 to 1977, and in 1986 the federal-provincial authorities began promising funding for a clean-up the tar ponds, to be completed by the mid 90s.  Such activities made it clear that there was a serious problem in Sydney. Failure by provincial and federal governments, and more importantly the health autorities, to take proper actions had violated the rights of the people of Cape Barton/Sydney for a long time.

The extent to which the local people engaged in popular epidemiological research:
Popular epidemiology challenges the system; it is a pursuit of truth and justice on behalf of the public that involves both the general public and professionals. Popular epidemiology is not simply a system of folk beliefs, although they certainly deserve attention from professionals; it also unites the public and scientific perspective in an effort to link science and politics in regarding to mass contamination of living areas of the people (Brown, 1997, p. 126). In Sydney's case, popular epidemiology took place after many people became sick or had died of all kind of illnesses.
In 1986, the Nova Scotia government assigned Dr. Laving to conduct a research to get to the bottom of increased cancer problems in Sydney. Dr. Laving's study consisted of interviewing over 1000 people and having 300 people fill out a nutrition survey. His study did not question the fact that residents of Sydney were dying much earlier than their friends and family in other parts of the province; it simply concluded that the people of Sydney have a bad lifestyle which is causing cancer. In 1991, local activists David Ervin and Donnie Macpherson started to work with Dr. Judy Guernsey on an epidemiological survey to look closely at cancer rates in Sydney.  Dr. Guernsey also was concerned about the people of the island and had an interest in investigating the pollution issues there.  She took photographs of the affected areas and examined cancer incidences in the surrounding population.  She rejected the official hypothesis that sought to blame the elevated cancer rates on people’s lifestyle, and to prove her theory she wanted to conduct an epidemiological study on the Sydney Steel workforce.  She had trouble getting funding to do the research though, because federal health and welfare agencies only wanted to explore the “lifestyle” idea.
It was 1993 when Don Deleseskie went on a public hunger strike; it didn’t take more than 4 days that Ron Stewart promised action, which involved Dr. Guernsey officially working on the problem. Don was a former steelworker and coke oven worker who had a disabling respiratory disease and had watched his mother die of cancer at age 37. He was frustrated hearing nonsense about their sicknesses being the result of bad and unhealthy habits, so he took it upon himself to go on a public hunger strike. On the fourth day of his strike, Ron Stewart agreed to fund the provincial share of the study proposed by Dr. Guernsey.  Her study covered a 17-year period and had heart breaking results; Sydney residents were 45% more likely to develop cancer than the residents of the rest of Nova Scotia (Barlow & May, 2000, p. 99).
The mortality data from 1951 to 1994, the longest time frame of any study up to that time, showed that Sydney had 16% excess mortality compared to the rest of the country. Furthermore, reports suggested that cancer continued to kill the people of Sydney more than the rest of Canada.
Local community members and Dr. Guernsey wanted the study to reflect local concerns, and their first step was to conduct a survey on health and the environment. However they first had to deal with the political aspect of it; even though the hospital had a new cancer center to deal with the unusually large number of cancer cases, the emphasis seemed to be on maximizing the money being gained for treating all these cancer patients, rather than focusing resources on exploring the causes and fixing them.