Sunday, August 24, 2008

Media Release and Funeral Arrangements for Clare Hindman

Lois M. Speaker, Ph.D.
    South Fulton and Fayette Community Task Force
This week, in the midst of all the necessary activities that fill your life, take a few moments to think prayerfully about what Clare Hindman's family and friends and neighbors are undergoing as they bid her goodbye and turn off the machinery.  Think of Clare herself over the last two years, struggling to maintain her personhood and her identity as the symptoms of Lou Gehrig's disease (ALS, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) ate relentlessly at her body, destroying her and all she held most dear.  And think about why this terrible disease might have happened to Clare, one of the most gracious, loving and gentle of Southern ladies, who led an active, healthy lifestyle surrounded by adoring family.  Consider that she might have died this frightful death chiefly because of where she lived, about half a mile from the so-called PSC "waste treatment" plant in south Fulton County.  [See "Waste plant stirs up stink," Atlanta Journal Constitution Metro Section page 1, Sept. 15, 2006; also see numerous articles, editorials, blogs and broadcasts by Ben Nelms and others published in the Citizen newspaper and website between May 2006 and the present).
Anyone who smelled the rotten garlic odor two years ago was exposed to the chemical associated with it, an oranophosphorus (OP) pesticide called ethoprop.  Scary as it may be, think of this happening to anyone among your own nearest and dearest.  OP poisoning might have sidled into your household, eventually attacking in the form of  ALS, other nervous system damage, cancer or any of a huge variety of the ills that flesh is heir to.   The rate of disease development may be slow – many cancers don't show up for several years – but it is inexorable.  Clare's ALS was atypical in many ways, increasing the suspicion that its cause was unique.  It worsened unusually fast, very rapidly taking away her speech, her ability to swallow, her independence at every level.  But every morning for as long as she could, says her daughter Cindy, "Mama got up in the morning and made herself pretty for the day."  Her usual outing with her husband was lunch at Chick-Fil-A in Peachtree City, where the staff would grind up her favorite menu and Earl would feed it to her through a tube.  
Why do I insist on telling you such unpleasant things, describing ugly and threatening conditions that could destroy your serenity?   Why should you react to the illness and death of Clare Hindman with a more generous passion than you usually feel at the death of a stranger?  After all, we can't yet prove beyond the shadow of a doubt (although experts in the field have been making great strides) that Clare's ALS was caused by the OP-laden air that pooled around her home every day for monthsBecause Clare was our neighbor, a friend to some of us, and because many of us were exposed to the same poison that she ingested.  
.  Nevertheless, we can show you long lists of others who also detected the horrendous odor and claim they were made ill by whatever was causing the odor and that many of their pets died because of it.   A statistical research team from the respected Veterinary School of a large midwestern university, analyzing data from pet clinics associated with a large chain of pet supply stores, found increased incidence of respiratory problems and eye inflammation in a 20-mile radius around the PSC plant during the period over which ethoprop was released. Does anyone seriously question whether the Tokyo subway deaths of several years ago were caused by Sarin (a "nerve gas" chemically related to PSC's MOCAP "waste?")   If so, the Japanese system of justice was grossly mistaken in convicting and punishing those who were found to be responsible.
Who is ultimately responsible for fixing these problems?  We are!  Only we can vote into office the men and women who will institute legislation to protect us.  In particular, Georgia governing officials at all levels must establish control over our rapidly cascading "real estate development" and its inevitable accompanying issues of waste creation and management.  Not tomorrow, but NOW!  Our present uncontrolled situation allows such grotesqueries as whipping up froths and fogs of pesticide-loaded mixtures and distributing them for months at a time over hundreds of square miles of formerly pristine countryside (the PSC "incident"); and, building new homes near Old National Highway virtually to the lip of active granite quarries.  Routine blasting by Vulcan Materials not only destroys the fabric of the homes but also creates an atmosphere laden with granite particles that can cause mesothelioma, an incurable lung condition
We all should care about Clare's death because she was a fine human being who probably would have enjoyed many more years of fulfilling life if PSC had been forbidden to repeatedly contaminate her environment with a material that is known to be so dangerous that a group of Nicaraguan banana workers recently was awarded $7million.  The court agreed that ethoprop had rendered these men sterile.  We should care about Clare's death because it may well mirror our own exposures to dangerous materials it the environment.  We should care about Clare's death because it is a warning:  "Take care," she tells us in effect, "be very aware of what you are ingesting from the water, the earth, the air, and what it may do to your body and, especially to your children's bodies, because they get higher doses of all environmental contaminants.  Take responsibility.  If you don't, who will? And when?" 
The environmental regulations in this state are pitiable, formulated in the mistaken and outdated notion that the best way to draw industry here is to offer "laizzez faire" across the board.  For all practical purposes, Georgia's industry can do whatever they want with whatever material they want, no holds barred and no matter who gets hurt. " Compliance" is a joke We require a new agency that understands and strongly enforces the proper management and disposal of reactants, products and waste materials, a capability that EPD does not have. We Georgians must elect educated officials who understand the importance of "cradle to grave" management of materials in a new era of environmental responsibility.  If she could, Clare Hindman would tell us that we need legislation to keep us from being a garbage can for more forward-thinking states like Alabama.  She was a lovely lady, and she is missed.  





(The family has requested that in lieu of flowers please give to these organizations that were near and dear to Clare's heart - Peachtree City Christian Church - Action of Faith Ministries - Cystic Fibrosis Foundation )

Connie Thomas Biemiller, Chair
   South Fulton and Fayette Community Task Force
Environmental Institute of Georgia

As Margaret Mead once said:

Never underestimate the power of a few committed people to change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.

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