Entries in Toxic (2)


Oklahoma Town Fears Cancer, Asthma May Be Linked to Dump Site

Photodisk/Thinkstock(BOKOSHE, Okla.) -- Many residents of Bokoshe, Okla., have a common fear: a coal ash dump site.

"It's real distressing to have something like this in your backyard and not be sure if you're safe, if your kids are safe," Dub Tolbert said.

The mound of coal ash at the MMHF -- Making Money Having Fun -- dump site reaches six stories high; residents count 80 truckloads a day. The dump site has been in the town since 2001.

Residents say the toxic mix -- coal ash contains arsenic, mercury and lead -- contaminates the air they breathe and water they drink.

"It would be a cloud of dust that would engulf you," said Susan Holmes. "It would just choke you so you couldn't breathe."

Of the 20 homes in the immediate neighborhood, 14 have one or more cancer victims, residents told ABC News.

"She has cancer there," said Tolbert as he drove by houses. "He has cancer there. She passed away from cancer."

Shirley Holbert has incurable lymphoma. "For me, it's too late. But my children and grandchildren, I want them to be healthy and not have to breathe what I've been breathing," she said.

In the Bokoshe public school, teachers told ABC News that more than half of the students there had asthma.

"It's scary because you, you think you might, like, start coughing or something and that you could possibly die," said 12-year-old Shelby.

A link between exposure and specific diseases is difficult to prove but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concluded that dumps that do not have protective liners present a high risk of human exposure to arsenic and other hazardous contaminants. Bokoshe's dump does not have a protective liner.

According to the EPA, if contaminants from coal ash sites get into drinking water, the cancer risk can increase from 20 to 2,000 times the EPA's targets.

In 2009 and 2010, the agency tested the water being discharged at the Bokoshe dump and found it to be toxic. MMHF was ordered to stop polluting the water but the EPA says the company has not complied. The case has now been referred to the Department of Justice.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Toxic Danger: Hazardous Materials Dumped in the United States

Photo Courtesy -- Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- The toxic red sludge that engulfed the streets of a Hungarian town this week appears almost alien, but toxic waste is a very real threat for millions of people in the United States.

Coal ash, a byproduct of coal power plants, is stored in largely unregulated dumps across the country, and retaining walls holding in the toxic material occasionally give way.

A large coal ash spill near Kingston, Tenn. destroyed homes and scarred the environment in a 300-acre area in December 2008.

The coal ash contains heavy metals such as lead and mercury that potentially can cause birth defects, cancer and other health problems.

Just last week, there was a much smaller coal ash spill in Wilmington, N.C. The breached pit didn't present a threat to the public, but it served as a fresh reminder of the standing pools of ash that remain nationwide.

While the federal government does not consider coal ash a hazardous material, plenty of other toxic dumps are being tracked by authorities.

The federal government's Superfund program was enacted in 1980 by President Jimmy Carter, charged with identifying uncontrolled hazardous waste sites around the country.

Three decades later, there are 1,282 active sites on the "National Priorities List," the government's short list of Superfund sites so hazardous that they merit long-term clean up.

NPL sites dot every state in the nation, located in both major population centers and rural areas, with hundreds of millions of Americans living nearby.

Sites can be found everywhere from densely populated Brooklyn, N.Y., where the Gowanus Canal contains dangerous pollutants, to Conroe, Texas, where chemicals from a wood-treating facility leeched into the groundwater.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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