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Lisa Marcucci – Environmental Activist (Part 2 of 3)

By Admin | May 21, 2008

Lisa Marcucci is an environmental activist and a founding member of the Jefferson Action Group, an environmental watchdog organization.

Can you describe how the Jefferson Action Group was founded?

Following the attempts to dump fly ash in my parents’ back yard, that same developer and the PA DEP (Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection) attempted to do the same in my community, Jefferson Hills.

As a way of organizing our concerns and defeat such a dangerous plan for my community, local residents formed the Jefferson Action Group.

What began as a local environmental battle has evolved into a group that stands with other state and national groups seeking full enforcement of environmental laws designed to protect human health, our air, land and water.

You are currently fighting the Buena Vista Company in their attempts to eliminate coal waste piles which are major polluters. Why?

Acid mine drainage from abandoned mine sites is a very real and pervasive environmental problem – especially in a coal state like Pennsylvania.

So, you feel that the solution to the problem is causing a greater problem than now exists?

While the waste coal piles leach acid – piles of coal combustion wastes commonly known as fly ash contain high levels of toxic metals like arsenic, mercury, selenium, and hexavalent chromium – made famous by Erin Brockovich.

Leaching of toxic metals from coal combustion wastes has already ruined several communities’ drinking water sources.

Additionally, fly ash has the consistency of talcum powder. It has a propensity to become airborne and poses a dangerous inhalation risk to those living near these sites.

While OSHA and NIOSH have workplace exposure limits for fly ash and the toxic metals contained within – families living near these dump sites are exposed 24-7 without approved breathing, dermal or ocular protection devices.

Picture this. A baby born the day the dumping of fly ash begins at one of these so-called “beneficial use” sites, that is using fly ash without any regulatory protections – just dumping it in mine shafts or abandoned strip mines will likely be 65-70 years old when the dumping ceases.

That means children could live their entire lives exposed to such dangers.

How does the Pittsburgh area rate in terms of air quality?

Greater Pittsburgh is ranked #1 worst air in the nation (American Lung Association, State of the Air, 2008) – and #1 highest premature death rate due to breathing power plant pollution – especially fine particulate matter that lodges deep in the lungs.

No one should have to move in order to breathe clean and safe air. The laws guarantee us that right.

You have two children with asthma and you live in a heavily polluted area. Why don’t you move to a safer, less polluted place?

Oh, if it were just that simple. However, most of PA has the same poor air quality. In fact, the American Lung Association releases an annual State of the Air Report.

For as many years as I have been working on pollution issues, most PA counties have received an “F” failing grade for air quality.

Unfortunately, our entire Commonwealth is being exposed to dangerous pollution due to lack of enforcement of environmental laws – laws currently on the books – that the elected officials and PA DEP are choosing to ignore.

And, most importantly: no one should have to move to have clean air or safe drinking water.

Pennsylvania’s Declaration of Rights, Article I, Section 27 guarantees: “The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment.”

Regulatory agencies charged with protecting our health through state and federal laws should do just that: protect us, not turn a blind eye to chronic polluters.

Editors Note: American Lung Association State of the Air, 2008:
http://www.lungusa.org/site/apps/nlnet/content2.aspx?c=dvLUK9O0E&b=34893&ct=5318243&notoc=1

Editors Note: http://www.stateoftheair.org/2008/states/pennsylvania/particle-pollution.html

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