Organic Consumers Association

Tell Your Senators: Don’t Put a DowDupont Lawyer in Charge of Cleaning up Dow’s Toxic Waste Dumps!

Peter C. Wright is a lawyer who has spent his entire career helping Monsanto and Dow avoid cleaning up their toxic pollution.

Now, Trump wants to put Wright in charge of—guess what?—forcing companies like Monsanto and Dow to clean up their toxic pollution.

TAKE ACTION: Please tell your Senators to stand up for the environment by voting against Peter C. Wright.

Trump has tapped lawyer Peter Wright, to serve as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) assistant administrator for Land and Emergency Management—the office that oversees the Superfund hazardous waste cleanup program.

Wright’s current employer, DowDuPont, is listed as the responsible party for more than 100 toxic Superfund sites that the EPA is trying to get cleaned up across the nation.

Wright has a long history of being on the wrong side of the chemical safety debate. One of his favorite defense strategies is to argue that dioxin, a known carcinogen and Monsanto and Dow pollutant, isn’t really as bad as the EPA makes it out to be—even though scientists place dioxin “among the most toxic chemicals known to man.”

And dioxins can end up in the food supply. The Michigan Department of Agriculture reports

Low levels of dioxins are found throughout the environment as a by-product of combustion and chemical production processes. They can be detected in air, soil, water, sediment, fish and other foods like meat and dairy products. Some dioxins may be toxic and have the ability to cause illness or adverse health effects.

Wright dismisses reports that exposure to dioxins poses a health risk. He even published an article in a law journal, “Twenty-five Years of Dioxin Cancer Risk Assessment,” where he contradicts the World Health Organization and EPA, claiming that:

Over the last twenty-five years, dioxin has joined DDT, PCBs, lead, and mercury as an iconic environmental chemical. Yet, there is meager evidence that exposure to dioxin at the trace levels encountered in the environment has caused any observable harm to the short- or long-term health of the human population. Dioxin is unique in many respects because it is highly toxic to a variety of animal species but not to humans. Indeed, as has been widely reported, an exceedingly high dose of dioxin was not fatal to the current president of the Ukraine.

Wright’s “alternative facts” about dioxin go against well-established science. Only someone who spent his career working for DowDuPont could use the dioxin poisoning of Viktor Yushchenko to make the case that dioxin isn’t highly toxic to humans. It was widely reported at the time that “just six drops of pure dioxin in Yushchenko's soup could have been enough to produce his symptoms - just a couple more would have killed him.”

A toxic legacy

One of the tragic results of Wright’s work on behalf of Dow is the breast cancer cluster in Midland, Michigan, home to Dow’s global headquarters. Residents there are exposed to the highest levels of dioxin pollution in the country. Yet Dow continues to block cancer victims’ efforts to seek justice. And, Wright is proud of that!

According to Wright’s LinkedIn page, prior to joining DowDuPont in 1999, Wright was an “environmental attorney” for Monsanto from 1989 to 1996.

If you’ve followed our Monsanto Makes Me Sick campaign, you know about the health risks of exposure to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide.

What hasn’t gotten as much attention is that the process of making glyphosate generates waste and pollution that is as toxic, or even more toxic, than the herbicide itself.

Glyphosate is produced from elemental phosphorous that is mined from phosphate rock buried below ground. This mining process generates a carcinogenic radioactive by-product known as phosphorous slag.

Since the 1950s, Monsanto has obtained its phosphate from mines in Idaho, near the town of Soda Springs. This small community of about 3,000 people became a Superfund site in 1990, during the time Wright was Monsanto’s Superfund attorney. Harmful onsite pollutants include cadmium, selenium, and radioactive radium all of which can cause serious health problems, including cancer, in humans.

‘Not under control’

The EPA calls Superfund sites that haven't been cleaned up "not under control." Monsanto’s Soda Springs site is a shocking example.

The EPA has never required Monsanto to stop mining, so the pollution in Soda Springs continues. “Contaminants of concern” continue to leach into the town’s groundwater.

In a 2017 investigation, Bart Elmore, an environmental historian at Ohio State University, described the scene at Monsanto’s Soda Springs slag dump (pictured on this page):

I stood just beyond a barbed-wire fence at about nine o’clock at night and watched as trucks dumped molten red heaps of radioactive refuse over the edge of what is fast becoming a mountain of waste. This dumping happened about every fifteen minutes, lighting up the night sky. Horses grazed in a field just a few dozen yards away, glowing in the radiating rays coming from the lava-like sludge. Rows of barley, for Budweiser beer, waved in the distance.

Since 1996, “an estimated 600 head of livestock, including horses, cattle, and sheep, have died after ingesting plants or surface water containing high concentrations of selenium.”

In 2015, Monsanto reported mercury emissions topping 875 pounds, as much as a good-sized coal-fired power plant.

A dirty career

This is Wright’s dirty work. He has proudly made a career helping Monsanto and DowDuPont avoid cleaning up their toxic waste—now Trump wants him to be in charge of that project for the entire country, including all of the sites that Dow and Monsanto poisoned with dioxin contamination in the process of making and storing Agent Orange.

Not only that, but Wright, like many other appointees at federal agencies under Trump, will likely be granted an “ethics waiver” that will allow him to decide how the EPA deals with these Superfund sites he defended for Monsanto and DowDuPont.

TAKE ACTION: Please tell your Senators to stand up for the environment by voting against Peter C. Wright.


 

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