June 1, 1997 in Nation/World

Seniors Fight Plan To Import Nuclear Waste

Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Revi
 

A Colorado corporation’s scheme to haul nuclear waste from the East Coast through Spokane to a uranium-mill pit west of this community is not just some abstract environmental issue.

It poses a very real health peril.

It jeopardizes this area’s economic future.

It could adversely impact home values.

It places this area’s acclaimed quality of life at risk.

It might even create more potholes in Spokane’s crumbling streets.

That is the thrust of arguments set forth by an area seniors organization that is attempting to marshal broad support among other community groups for a united stand against importing any more nuclear waste.

“We already have Hanford (the atomic works) nearby,” says Ed Lewis, a leader of the effort. “And we already have more unfilled potholes than we know what to do with,” Lewis adds.

But Dawn Mining Co., whose principal owner is reputed to be the wealthiest gold mining company in America, says it needs the $20 million it could earn from disposing of the East Coast waste here to help clean up other contaminants at its deactivated uranium mine near Ford.

According to published reports, the plan entails shipping in 30 million cubic feet of what has been called “slightly contaminated” waste from disposal sites along the East Coast. Some have sought to minimize the danger.

But Mayor Jack Geraghty cut through the rhetoric. “If it isn’t toxic,” he said, “why are they moving it?”

Precisely.

Nevertheless, state officials granted out-of-state interests a license to import the toxic waste. The Spokane City Council voted 4 to 1 to ask the state to rescind Dawn Mining’s license. County commissioners voted unanimously to ask the state to revoke Dawn’s license.

Local government officials say they are powerless to halt the threat.

So the Senior Legislative Coalition of Eastern Washington stepped up. President Ross Boreson appointed a task force to investigate ways of getting Dawn’s license revoked. Lewis is a spearhead of the task force.

Why are seniors taking the lead?

“While seniors as individuals are not directly impacted,” Lewis says, “this transcends narrow individual interests. This endangers our children and our grandchildren.

“We looked at Hanford and the tragic consequences that never go away,” he said. “We cannot sit by and watch Eastern Washington become a toxic waste dump for the U.S.

“If there is no danger - no consequence - why is the East Coast willing to pay this mining company so much to dump this stuff on us?”

A coalition letter to Gov. Gary Locke says Spokane’s citizens are “profoundly disturbed” that their children and grandchildren might become new generations of nuclear down-winders.

“We know that you will not want to expose your new daughter to these dangers,” says the letter to Locke, himself a new father.

“Central to citizens’ concerns is the feeling that governmental control and oversight will be lax at best and/or lacking at worst,” the letter says. “Public hearings were NOT held in the Spokane area. These hearings, complete with adequate scientific input, are absolutely necessary if your constituents in this region are to accept and live with the decision.”

Meantime, the seniors coalition has begun mailing letters to community organizations. “We’d like to work with a broad alliance,” says Lewis. “There is talk about a petition and demonstrations.”

Seniors demonstrating might get news media attention.

Letters are going to chambers of commerce, real estate groups, PTAs - “in all about 40 to 50 groups in this first phases of mailings,” Lewis says.

“It’s up to the people of Spokane to recognize that we have a dangerous situation here,” he urges, “and to help stop this from happening. It’s their health and happiness we are concerned about.”

For more information or to join forces with the Senior Legislative Coalition, call Ed Lewis at (509) 466-2854 or Joyce Wright at (509) 533-6610.

, DataTimes MEMO: Associate Editor Frank Bartel writes on retirement issues each Sunday. He can be reached with ideas for future columns at 459-5467 or fax 459-5482.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Review

Associate Editor Frank Bartel writes on retirement issues each Sunday. He can be reached with ideas for future columns at 459-5467 or fax 459-5482.

The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Frank Bartel The Spokesman-Review


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