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A Court of Action

Essay by   •  February 20, 2011  •  Essay  •  376 Words (2 Pages)  •  931 Views

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Love Canal in Niagara Falls, N.Y., is one of the country's most notorious hazardous waste sites. It wasn't the first but in 1979, the heavy contamination at Love Canal, and subsequent environmental health risks in the community, caused then President Jimmy Carter to issue a state of emergency for the town. Over 300 families were moved from their homes. Love Canal spurred scientist, industry leaders, government officials, and grassroots activists to take a stand and act on behalf of our environment. In 1980, immediately following the Love Canal disaster, Congress asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to create the Superfund program to help address the containment and cleanup of toxic wastes that had been buried long ago.

Since Love Canal, hundreds of toxic sites have been discovered around the nation, and more recently, books and popular movies have tried to address the issue. One such book is A Civil Action by Jonathan Harr which is centered on a lawsuit filed by a group of citizens in a small industrial town called Woburn north of Boston in Massachusetts. The citizens filed suit against two corporations (W.R. Grace and Beatrice Foods) who operated near by plants and was believed to have contaminated the cities tap water for over the past 15 years until the wells were shut-down after it was discovered that they were heavily contaminated with trichloroethylene, commonly known as TCE, an industrial solvent used to dissolve grease and oil.

The story traces the formulation and outcome of the legal complaint filed by eight families in east Woburn, Massachusetts, against three local industries for the improper handling and disposal of toxic chemicals. The complaint alleges the toxic chemicals entered the groundwater flow system, were pumped by two municipal wells that supplied water to a local neighborhood, and that the consumption of the contaminated water caused leukemia, liver disease, central nervous system disorders, and other unknown illness and disease. The book chronicles the triumphs and tribulations of the plaintiffs' attorney, Jan Schlichtmann, his colleagues, and the eight Woburn families, as they contend with the legal strategies of the defendants' lawyers, the acquisition and presentation of scientific data to prove their case, and with the rulings of the federal court system.

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