Midlothian Health â€œConsultationâ€ Target of Congressional Hearings Thursday
bringing damning video on animal health conditions in “Cement Capitol of Texas”
What: Congressional hearings on the failures of the ATSDR
Who: Sal Mier, local Midlothian area citizen who petitioned for the Agency to do a health study will be testifying before congress about the ATSDR ‘s failures in his town
When: 9am CST, Thursday, March 12th, streaming video available at: http://science.house.gov/subcommittee/oversight.aspx
Where: Washington DC, House Committee on Science and Technology
DC Staff contact: Alex Dery Snider (202) 225-6375
(Washington DC)— Four years ago, Sal Mier thought inviting the federal agency that’s assigned to investigate environmental mysteries to his hometown was a good idea. He got 400 of his fellow Midlothian citizens to sign a petition requesting that the Agency of Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) come to town to look into why there seemed to be so many unusual health problems among residents of “the cement capitol of Texas.”
But on Thursday, Mier will be testifying in Washington DC against the Agency, outlining its various failures in doing even the most rudimentary kind of health investigation. He’ll be one of several people from around the country who’ll be recounting their disappointments with the ATSDR to a Congressional oversight committee that’s examining what many critics call a systematic breakdown of the agency’s capacity to conduct its most basic mission.
For Mier, the disappointment is especially painful. As a former employee of the Centers for Disease Control, the ATSDR’s federal parent, he believed his community would receive an objective and comprehensive study that might answer questions about why Midlothian has higher than average rates of specific birth defects and cancers. Based on anecdotal evidence, he suspected the enormous amounts of pollution emitted by the town’s three cement plants might be connected to these health problems, but he wanted a scientific review.
What he got instead was a slap-dash regurgitation of old air monitor readings given a new spin by the same state health department employee who had already concluded a decade earlier that there were no health problems in Midlothian. It wasn’t a study, it was a “consultation.” There was no new sampling of the soil or people, or interviewing of residents for a health survey. There was also no inventorying of the catalogue of problems that breeders of all types of animals had recorded for many years. “We don’t do animals, “ the ASTDR said, even though the symptoms the animals had often echoed in the human population and could represent “sentinel” health effects – the local canaries in the coal mine.
So along with his own congressional testimony, Mier is also presenting a three-minute video that gives graphic evidence of health effects among two different Midlothian animal populations - the cattle stock on Sue Pope’s s ranch and the dog breeding operation of Debbie Markwardt. Both say the deformities and problems they’ve seen came with the introduction and increase in burning hazardous waste in the local cement plants.
That practice was put on hold last October when TXI “indefinitely shut-down” its four older wet process kilns, the only ones in Midlothian permitted to burn hazardous waste. Nevertheless, the state is choosing now - the only time in the last 24 years that no hazardous waste is being burned in a Midlothian cement kiln - to conduct new air monitoring in Midlothian for air toxics in order to remove the “indeterminate” conclusion of its consultation for ATSDR.
Even as it its wet kilns remain idle, TXI is pursuing a renewal of the permits allowing them to burn hazardous waste. Seven of the ten kilns in Midlothian are wet kilns – ones built in the 1960’s and 70’s with an obsolete technology that the industry discarded long ago. They operate without basic pieces of modern environmental pollution control, including “scrubbers,” because of their “grandfathered” status.
A bill introduced by State Rep. Vicki Truitt (R-Keller) in the state legislature this year would direct the Texas Department of Transportation to purchase cement only from newer, less-polluting dry process kilns for its projects in North Texas in an attempt to encourage a modernization or replacement of Midlothian’s wet kilns.