25. EPA Fiddles While Illegal Incinerator Pollutes
Sources: THE NATION, Date: 9/27/93, Title: "ETA.
Fiddles While WTI. Burns," Author: Liane Clorfene-Casten
Researcher: Jesse Boggs
SYNOPSIS: On the banks of the Ohio River, near the town of East
Liverpool, Ohio, there sits a hazardous waste incinerator -- one of
the largest of its kind in the country. It illegally burns unidentified
wastes in violation of countless Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
regulations, in spite of campaign promises by Bill Clinton and Al Gore
to block its operation. The incinerator also operates against the advice
of the Ohio Department of Natural Resources because it is located within
a few hundred feet of private homes, in an area with flood hazards and
air inversions that prevent pollutants from escaping.
$160 million incinerator operates in defiance of opposition from scientists, environmentalists,
government experts and local activists. Additionally, it has failed to pass three
trial burns which have indicated that it releases dioxins at two to five times
the legal levels. Why, one might reasonably ask, is it there?
Senator Howard Metzenbaum (D-OH) is convinced it is there because of
deals made between EPA officials and the company that runs it -- Waste
Technologies Industries (WTI). Writing in The Nation, investigative
journalist Liane Clorfene-Casten provides evidence that the incinerator's
"charmed regulatory life" is a product of political favoritism,
lax and even illegal regulatory activity, and highly questionable courtroom
Example: Financier Jackson Stephens, chairman of Stephens Inc., one
of the nation's largest investment banking companies, based in Little
Rock, Arkansas, founded WTI in 1980. In 1988, he gave $100,000 to the
Republican Party and hosted an inaugural bash for President George Bush.
Four years later he raised $100,000 for Bill Clinton and extended a
$3.5 million line of credit to his campaign through one of his banks.
Example: A secret memo written by EPA attorney Nancy-Ellen Zusman lists
a "schedule of items to be accomplished" in order to get the
incinerator started. It includes a timetable for bringing the illegal
incinerator on line and modifications to a flawed 1983 permit. After
reading the memo, Senator Metzenbaum protested loudly in a communiqué
to then-EPA Administrator William Reilly: "The memo makes clear
the position of the U.S.E.P.A. all along is to give W.T.I. the go-ahead....
I don't believe I have ever seen such irresponsibility on the part of
Ohio Valley residents went to court to block the incinerator. A Federal District
Court, in spite of its own findings that "the operation of the WTI. facility...
clearly may cause imminent and substantial endangerment to health and the environment,"
nevertheless permitted WTI to conduct an eight-day trial bum, noting the cost
of delay to WTI outweighed the risk of harm to the community.
All this prompted
EPA official Hugh Kaufman, a longtime critic of the project, to comment, "The
W.T.I. case is a symptom of a national problem. The E.P.A. process for regulating
waste disposal is riddled with deceit at best, and fraud at worst." Kaufman's
voice is a lonely one in Washington. Neither the President nor the environmentally-concerned
Vice President seem inclined to make any moves regarding WTI. Meanwhile, the incinerator
continues to spew toxins from its stacks, heedless of the protests of Ohio Valley
residents and curiously ignored by the major media.
COMMENTS: Liane Clorfene-Casten, author of The Nation article,
reported that while several media sources dealt with the story before
she did, it was mostly in bits and pieces. "However," she
added, "Network TV failed to cover anything and most of the major
daily newspapers refused to cover it at all after my publication (in
The Nation) -- despite the fact my piece was comprehensive and data
was available for anyone to continue investigating, especially since
the story is on-going, a constant drama."
feels there is much for the public to learn from greater exposure of the WTI issue
since it "is a powerful lesson in environmental corruption .... The national
public has a right to know the EPA, and our national leaders, are corruptible.
Human life is fodder for the power seekers. It's a fundamental civil liberties
Clorfene-Casten feels that the primary beneficiary of the limited
coverage given this subject is the "incineration industry whose hunger to
build more and more burning machines (which at this point are totally unnecessary),
is only matched by the EPA's perverted enthusiastic support for this flawed and
"The polluting industry is not reined in by the
EPA but fined. As a result, thousands of people living in incinerator communities
across the country are at high risk for cancer, birth defects, impaired childhood
development, infertility and other reproductive effects, suppression of the immune
system, neurological disease or impairment, hormonal alterations and toxicity
to the lungs, heart, kidneys, liver and skin-for long-term health effects.
"The food chain is profoundly affected as well. Documents tell
us the EPA technocrats know this but will not act. And since the mainstream
media has already bought into the lie that 'dioxin is not as dangerous
as we once thought it was,' the mainstream press won't discuss the hazards
of a dioxin spewing machine without admitting what they are not prepared
to admit; in smaller doses than once believed, dioxin is very toxic,
is carcinogenic, and is capable of serious hormonal damage.
"In general, media has a tendency to cover up for all our presidents
-- from Kennedy's sexual exploits to Bush's connection to Iran-contra
and more, and Clinton's criminal consent to burn thousands of barrels
of Agent Orange in Jacksonville, Arkansas. (It's an on-going dioxin
producing machine.) Either we have some warped idea that we need to
protect the `morality' of the presidency, despite the evidence of dishonesty,
payoffs and compromises, or the corruption is so pervasive, everyone
connected gets protected.
"The American people are mostly shielded from the truth
of how the compelling, intoxicant of power translates into dreadful, unethical
and life-threatening tradeoffs. The law doesn't count. The Justice Department
will not prosecute certain environmental criminals. People pay the price. WTI
protesters are given little more than bureaucratic runarounds in Washington. They
go from the Justice Department to the FBI with their petitions, and nothing ever
"I'd love to see this story told on network news, but reality
tells me to forget it. WTI burns merrily along. On 12/10/93 WTI malfunctioned,
pouring forth unknown, fugitive emissions: 'black clouds of smoke hovered
over the smokestack.' Then, WTI took its sweet time in alerting the
EPA. The local health officials were appalled by WTI silence. Since
that time, Ohio EPA understood WTI might fail another trial burn, so
on 12/17/93, in an effort to avoid a possible failure, the Ohio Agency
told them not to conduct it. Ohio EPA knew there were sufficient problems
and didn't want them to risk it."
In response to
a letter by EPA's Bob Sussman (The Nation 12/6/93) criticizing Clorfene-Casten's
article for being "fraught with error," she responded "Well, since
the EPA itself admitted it violated the law, and since the attorney general of
Ohio stated clearly the same in 1993, and since EPA whistleblower Hugh Kaufman
officially petitioned Janet Reno for a criminal investigation, specifically citing
Val Adamkus of Region V and Sussman, I'm not concerned. The drama continues as
does the poison."