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9117: Philadelphia Ash: from Haiti to Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma?! (fwd)
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
SEPTEMBER 25, 2001
TASK FORCE FORMING TO OPPOSE CHEROKEE NATION TRASH DEAL
(Tahlequah, Okla.) A task force of concerned Cherokee Nation citizens,
community residents and tribal representatives from the United Keetoowah
Band of Cherokee Indians is forming in opposition to a deal in the works
between the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and contractors for the infamous
"Haiti ash barge", which has floated the globe for nearly seventeen years
looking for a burial place.
"This trash has sailed the whole of Earth and has been rejected by even the
most impoverished and corrupt of nations. It has been tied to drug dealers
and corrupt military leaders in Haiti and organized crime in the U.S. How
is this going to look if the enrolled membership of the Cherokee Nation
allows it to be buried here?" said JoKay Dowell, a native American of
Quapaw, Peoria and Cherokee descent and longtime community organizer living
near Tahlequah, where the federally recognized Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma
During the 1980's the city of Philadelphia burned its municipal waste in
large incinerators but soon realized that incinerating trash causes more
problems like where to dispose of the ash that routinely contains toxic
heavy metals and dioxins.
In 1986 Philadelphia contracted with a company to remove some 14,000 tons
of incinerator ash that was loaded onto a ship called the Khian Sea and
headed to the Bahamas but was turned away by the Bahamian government. It
also sailed to, and was turned away from Puerto Rico, Bermuda, the
Dominican Republic, Honduras and the Netherlands Antilles before it was
mislabeled as topsoil fertilizer and allowed to dock in Haiti in December
All along the way Greenpeace took note off the ship's activities and
alerted the citizenship of those countries as to what the cargo really was.
Once in Haiti, almost 4,000 tons of the ash was unloaded before the Haitian
government stepped in. The ship fled in the middle of the night with
10,000 tons of the Philadelphia ash that was eventually illegally dumped
into the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.
Back in Haiti testing was done on the 4,000 tons left behind by the Khian
Sea and was found to contain lead, cadmium and other heavy metals as well
as dioxins. Fearing the U.S wanted to use their tiny island country for a
trash dump the Haitian government had the ash dug up and returned to the
U.S. after ten years.
Once its waste was back in the U.S. Philadelphia still refused to accept
responsibility for it. Waste Management a huge company that operates
landfills in the south has refused to bury it in one of their facilities
permitted to receive incinerator ash.
Most recently, January of this year, a plan to re-incinerate and dispose of
the ash in a Broward County, Florida landfill met with massive community
opposition and was cancelled. The ash barge now sits in a Florida canal
awaiting a final resting place.
Dowell, a former employee of the international environmental organization
Greenpeace found out about the proposed deal with Cherokee Nation after
Greenpeace was contacted by a representative of the Cherokee Nation
landfill to inquire about any organized opposition.
Dowell then contacted Cherokee Principal Chief Chad Smith to find out if he
was aware of the negotiations for the controversial incinerated ash.
"To my disbelief, he told me he did know about it. I asked him how they
[CNO] could uphold themselves as stewards of the environment and even think
of bringing in this waste. I tried to make a case for community input but
he said it wasn't open for community input. That it was a business deal of
Cherokee Nation Industries and nobody's business." said Dowell.
Since then Dowell has notified residents living near the landfill and
Cherokee citizens. She is organizing a committee called Don't Waste Indian
Lands to alert Cherokee citizens about the proposed deal to bury the waste
in the tribal landfill and to organize opposition to allowing the waste to
come into Oklahoma.
The committee will also distribute information to interested community
members and is urging Cherokee citizens and community residents and other
Native Americans to join in the effort by calling the Cherokee Nation in
Tahlequah or Oklahoma legislators. Dowell said the committee will be
working in alliance with the Indigenous Environmental Network, Greenpeace
and other area citizen groups.
According to Jamie Clinton, Cherokee Nation landfill manager, the tribe
went to Florida where the ash barge has been docked for almost two years
and spent $5,000 to test the waste, which he says in comparison to other
municipal waste landfills, exceeds standards for safety.
"Nevermind that."says Dowell. "What is considered 'safe' is controversial
in and of itself. It wasn't safe enough for Waste Management to keep it
even though they have landfills throughout the south. It's not safe enough
for other states like Louisiana, Georgia or Florida to take it. I wonder is
it safe enough for Chief Smith to bury next door to his home in Sapulpa?"
"This is an issue of environmental justice or maybe I should say injustice
in this case." According to Dowell, Cherokee people and others living near
her already share a disproportionate burden of potential health risk from
living near hazardous sites.
"To the south of us is the contaminated site of the former Kerr McGee
uranium processing facility. To the west is Fansteel a thorium-contaminated
site. Then Cherokee Nation owns a landfill to the east that has caused
changes in the nearby creek water according to area residents. All they
think about is money not the people," she continued. "While Chief Smith is
proposing to change Sequoyah Indians' sports team logo because it is
racist, he also proposes to us that it is acceptable for Indian people to
become the big cities' dumping grounds. We won't buy it."
"Indian land is not a trash dump for the rest of society. Our tribal
leaders cannot build tribal economies by turning Indian lands into
society's dumping grounds. It's Philadelphia's trash. Let Philadelphia
take responsibility for it. "
For more information or to join Don't Waste Indian Lands committee call
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
PRESS CONTACT: JoKay Dowell
Park Hill, OK 74451