Are U.S. Citizens Really Independent?
On the Fourth of July, I was trying to read a fiction novel. This is something I haven’t been able to do since the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services recognized my report that a Center for Disease Control-defined pediatric cancer cluster exists in a 5-town area of the beautiful seacoast of New Hampshire. This resulted in being asked to be a member in Governor Hassan’s Task Force to investigate the cancer cases and a story unfolded about possible connections to environmental triggers in our area. In turn, this resulted in my being elected to the New Hampshire House of Representatives in November 2016.
What troubled me on Independence Day was the fact that although Task Force members, Conservation Law Foundation, and 10 area legislators sent a letter to state and federal regulators, the public is still not being told that they may be exposing their children or animals to toxins in the seacoast brook, river or other surface water body that they are playing or fishing in.
In fact, Michigan would tell you it is not safe to eat fish taken from most of the surface water bodies in the seacoast based on elevated concentrations of perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs); one of which, PFNA was detected in Berry’s Brook in Greenland at the third highest concentration (170 parts per trillion) of anywhere in the world. Yet, state and federal regulators remain mute on this issue.
I can’t help but think about my recent experience in the legislature where the very regulators tasked with protecting the public fought my legislation openly in hearings and in the hallways of the state house. The amendment brought to the senate committee hearing House Bill 463 which by the end only said that the commissioner would look at the science used by other states to adopt PFC standards and come up with standards that “reasonably protect public health, particularly prenatal and early childhood health.” Makes sense, right? The bill, as amended, was voted unanimously in two senate committees and twice on the senate floor.
In the end, although state regulators publicly stated they were supportive of the legislation, one committee of conference house representative stated that he had just had a conversation with the assistant commissioner who was not supportive of the bill. This happened all along the way as the amendment progressed through the Senate committee. Earlier, Mike Wimsatt, director of the Waste Management Division of NHDES thwarted a deal that had been struck between Senate Majority leader Jeb Bradley-R as soon as the assistant commissioner went on vacation. Why? Aren’t they tasked with protecting the public?
I think the reason for all this lies with corporate interference in the process. The Business & Industry Association of New Hampshire (BIA-NH) launched an assault on this amendment in the senate committee. One of the biggest members of the BIA-NH is Saint Gobain which is responsible for one of the biggest PFC drinking water contamination issues in our state.
As I tried to enjoy my novel on the 4th, I suddenly realized that families were fishing and recreating on the Merrimack River which is directly adjacent to Saint Gobain and I don’t think that anyone has sampled the river for PFCs.
This sudden realization came to me as I viewed a news story that someone sent me relating to the toxic situation in Cape Fear, North Carolina. The other realization was that not only had samples not been collected in the Merrimack River for the long chain PFCs, which has been the focus of state and federal regulators, we have next to no information about the distribution, health effects or bioaccumulation factors in fish and wildlife for the shorter chain molecules (GenX) that Saint Gobain implemented at some point in the last 10 years. However, early indications are that they are not safer and in fact are harder to remediate once released to the environment.
Thomas Jefferson asked, “Are [later generations] bound to acknowledge [a national debt created to satisfy short-term interests], to consider the preceding generation as having had a right to eat up the whole soil of their country, in the course of a life . . .? Every one will say no; that the soil is the gift of God to the living, as much as it had been to the deceased generation; and that the laws of nature impose no obligation on them to pay this debt.” Here, Jefferson asserts that all generations, old and new, have an equal right to the use of topsoil, and that for an older generation to deplete the soil of its resources is to deprive the people of the future of their right to the land. As with topsoil, so with other resources; when we use up and pollute our water, we deprive the next generation of their right to clean, safe drinking water.
Clearly, state and federal regulators are violating our right and future generations rights to clean water according to Jefferson’s ideals. Regulators are violating our rights doing by being complicit with, through inaction, corporations like Saint Gobain in Merrimack, the Air Force (who contaminated drinking water and citizens at Pease) and Coakley Landfill Group (where drinking water of almost 3oo homes are threatened by contamination from the superfund site in Greenland).
This is clear evidence that we are being governed by the interests of corporations, threatening our most valuable resource, our drinking water. While Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence in response to the infringement of Americans’ rights to representation, perhaps we need a new Declaration of Independence from corporate interests to protect ours and our future generations’ right to clean water and a clean environment.
We are being “Governed Under the Influence” and it is time to Declare Independence from Corporate Rule.