Residents of central and southern Indiana called for increased environmental oversight during community organization Hoosier Action’s COVID-19 vigil and call to action at the Statehouse Tuesday.
Martinsville resident David Schell said authorities need to remedy toxic plumes at the city’s Superfund site, which Schell believes are linked to the death of his niece from a rare form of cancer.
And Mary Hess, a leader with Southwestern Indiana Citizens for Quality of Life, said legislators need to pay more attention to bills that protect citizens from environmental hazards, rather than focusing on corporate rights. Hess has been active in campaigns against the proposed Riverview Energy coal-to-diesel plant that would be located in Dale, one mile from an elementary school and two nursing homes.
Her group is helping to appeal the air permit issued to Riverview by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.
“We the people will demand our representatives take up bills that protect our health, environment and increase funding for IDEM,” Hess said. “After all, that is their job, to protect us from harmful industries. Our quality of life depends on it.”
Hess said she is disappointed in the lack of hearings for environmental bills this session, considering that Indiana is now ranked first in the nation by the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory for toxins released per square mile.
Burke held a picture of his niece Jennifer Burke, who died last August. She had worked for many years in two places located on the Superfund site in downtown Martinsville. The site is contaminated by toxic plumes originating from a former dry-cleaning and laundry business.
“There’s not just one plume, there are four,” Burke said. “There is something toxic there. Something needs to change soon.”
Other Martinsville residents have raised concerns about the number of people who have died from rare cancers in recent years.
Hoosier Action is a non-partisan, member-led, statewide community organization. Over the past year, members spoke with more than 100,000 people across the state about their experiences during the pandemic.
Based on those conversations, the group focused its legislative activities on bills regarding healthcare, quality of life and environmental justice.