Statement Of Farley Toothman
Environmental Protection Agency
Aging Initiative Public Listening Session
April 23, 2003
Greene County Commissioner
Greene County Commissioner
Protect Older Persons from Environmental Health Threats
Good afternoon. I'm Farley Toothman, a former coal miner and lawyer - and for eight years now, I have served the public as a member of the Board of Commissioners . of Greene County, Pennsylvania. Greene County is the southwest corner of Pennsylvania.
I enjoy saying that Greene County is: "Just North of Almost Heaven, West Virginia," "Home of Old King Coal" "Mary, Who Had a Little Lamb" and the headwaters of our beloved "Old Muddy" -- the Monongahela River.
We fueled the fires of the industrial revolution with our coal, coke, and early oil and gas .. and at this last "Turn of another Century," Greene County continues to serve the region and nation by mining coal to generate cheap electricity used to fuel the spark of the Internet -- and our technology focused economy - and our daily way of life from here to our Nation's Capital . and even the White House.
I commend the EPA for focusing on the health and safety of our older Americans, and understand today's hearing to be part of the "Aging Initiative" examining the susceptibility of older persons to environmental health hazards -- and what interventions can be undertaken to reduce the exposure.
Thanks to the University of Pittsburgh, the Carnegie-Mellon University, the Center for Disease Control, and the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies for their recent public meeting on the issues of their institutional research and recognition that our sicknesses can be linked to the environment in which we live. At the end of today, any day, every day, what in the World, can be more important to each of us than the health of people who make up our communities?
The "quality-adjusted years of life formula" that is being considered, is surely "fuzzy math" - and isn't any way to define our "assisted living" communities. Pappy - please forgive them, for they have forgotten that..youth, shows but half. I'll remind them of the wars you fought. Our Grandmas and Pappies aren't "old nags" . at some feeder lot auction!
I'm not unique in having a self serving interest in today's issue -- I too, hope to be an old man some day. And though my wife, the mother of our four children, doesn't often say it, I'm sure she too wants to be an old woman. maybe -- just later, than sooner. I still want to be an old man even if you're tell me today, that I'll be a poorer old man, because of the costs of having cleaner communities for everyone.
All that, is to extend "the Glad Hand" of Greene County to each of you. And, I ask each of you ... to walk with me . walk the mile..in my shoes. through my Bobtown, Nemacolin, Carmichaels, Waynesburg, Mather or Aleppo. Let's campaign door-to-door for a few minutes.
We are rural, hardworking, God fearing, farmers and coal miners. Welcome to the Wild, Wild West ..of Pennsylvania. No need to be afraid of us, even though we've always been the poorest folks in this common wealth of Pennsylvania. We were built as that melting pot of working class, company towns, which are now without companies. But you know it. We still owe our soul to the company store. We are now communities of struggling families called the working poor and retired workers of bankrupted shell corporation which are racing away from their gob piles and bankrupt retirement accounts. In spite of our worth, we should be equally valued in our Nation's debate.
Our Coal is mined now, not by legions of men of yesteryears, but by huge robot longwall machines remotely controlled from Germany. These same foreign industrial folks are currently buying our country's largest water suppliers, while we fight the world -- for someone else's oil.
One in five of my constituents is a senior citizen. Four out of five of us - hope to be! Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles, aged 65 and older, have much of the primary responsibility for their grandchildren, nieces and nephews who live near them - or with them. And, just like your community, by year 2030, our senior population will more than double. Did you remember that there are no doctors delivering babies in Greene County any more? At best, rural health care is either not available, or not affordable - but what's the difference?
My Greene County, at first sight, is a beautiful place.
But upon closer inspection, it is the "Black Eye and Black Lung" of this nation's energy policies. Come take a peek at our acid mine drainage and the hundreds of acres of strip mines converted into grandfathered bunkers protecting flyash from view, but not from the microscope. Arsenic is leeching into our water, and Mercury is rising in our Air. I know it - cause new science tells me so.
According to the EPA itself, and other State data, essentially all 42,000 of my County residents face a cancer risk greater than 100 times the goal set by federal law. Millions of pounds of toxic chemicals are released into the local air, water, and land each year primarily by just two sources: two of the dirtiest power plants in the United States of America. Our six struggling little water companies don't even test for the Toxins that the power plants register in DC - as being emitted. In fact, DEP will confirm that none of the 500 water providers located between the West Virginia boundary and the Point in Pittsburgh, have a consistent schedule and high standard of testing for the things we know already are somewhere around here - and cause cancer.
We know how to avoid the issue don't we? If we're afraid of the answer, jjust don't ask the question! Or maybe more to the point, don't provide anyone else with facts enough to ask the right questions! Thomas Jefferson would find talk dismissing the new scientific evidence as - disturbing! He once said that, " I am not apt to be alarmed at innovatins recommended by reason, but rather by those whose interests or prejudices shrink from the advance of truth and science. Awell placed Board member with a corporate tax deductible contribution buys more than enough time for industry to write another chapter in Rachel Carson's backyard view of a "Silent Spring." Funeral homes ..are doing very well, aren't they?
What am I to do when scientists tell me that my streams are not capable of sustaining life - ".and that they are only getting worse." Its a cocktail of heavy metals and/or human and animal feces where e-coli bacteria either can't live - or, it RULES! Oh, let's offer up a "toast" today as we go down these Three Rivers that surround Pittsburgh - and what they endure. And how about another "toast" to the people trying to live out their lives, young and old, wanting to be at home in these Valleys - yet condemning downstream communities to a sentence of ".up the river." From my kitchen faucet, public water that comes from the Monongahela River and tested by an EPA Certified lab, contained chlorine so powerful that it tested as Chloroform. I'm a little sleepy right now, but I'm beginning my own "awakening" - and shaking you, to wake up too. Chloroform in our drinking water is NOT an acceptable response to bacteria in our water. Either way you want it, be happy! Don't worry!
My southwest corner of these Penn's woods is ranked in the Top 10% of the dirtiest/worst counties in the US, based on environmental releases, non-cancer risks such as asthma, and cancer risks such as the growing incidents of Lung Cancer, Prostate Cancer, Breat Cancer, Colorectal Cancer and Cervical Cancerr. According to the American Cancer Society, each year an average of 265 new cases of Cancer are registered in Greene County. Please come join me at our Cancer Society's "Relay for Life." Meet the faces of pages of names who have survived the horror of cancer another year. On your way back home, you may want to stop by in the evening - to enjoy the glow of the luminary sandbags, burning - for those who didn't. Don't believe me, thought? Ask your doctor. Search this tangled Web on your own. You might even see a reflection of your own neighborhood - in the mirror.
The life of a person in any of our communities is too valuable to discount -- at any age. Our coal is even too valuable in the long run, to waste on electricity that's too cheap to appreciated - but it sure turns us on! We ARE ready to pay the higher price for clean coal technologies and other sustaining energy options. Wasn't it my grandmother who taught me that an once of prevention - is worth a pound of cancer. Seniors..are NOT to be disrespected like some an old Nag ..at a feeder lot auction.
I believe "Homeland Security" must include the enforcement of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, and the Safe Drinking Water Act. Old Mother Nature dictates it that way -- we sure don't.
Couldn't this be our call to action? Couldn't we, as a region, use a "stadium credit," or two, or three, or an "airport maintenance hanger credit" or even a "meglev credit" to pay the bill? Couldn't we be better at who we really are - rather than building industrial parks bigger than our britches?
I support EPA's Cumulative Exposure Project. As you may know, it analyzes contaminants in air, food, and drinking water as a "Community Specific" study. It recognizes that ".the practice of risk assessment is evolving away from the potential of one pollutant, in one environmental medium, for causing cancer ... toward and integrated assessment involving suites of pollutants, in several media.. that may cause a variety of adverse effects on humans, plants and animals. The Cumulative Exposure Project estimates national exposure levels for 23 chemical contaminants found in public and private drinking water supplies. This study assesses exposure to more than 100 pollutants across the multiple exposure pathways, using data from the three national studies as well as data collected in the community through other environmental assessment efforts.
And finally - hear this again. Let us have learned from a former President's call to leadership with the following challenge from a different day: "We choose to do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard . . . because the goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills . . . because the challenge is one we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone .. and one which we intend to win."
Thank-you much. and, good night! Greene County'll try .. to leave the lights on for ya!