Toxic Schools and the Stimulus Package
Did you know that there were no federal and very few states laws that ban the building of schools on or near contaminated areas? I know I was shocked when I first learned this and every time I ask that question I get the same kind of response that I had. Are you kidding me?
Thirty years after the crisis of Love Canal closed two elementary schools due to contamination, the EPA has finally begun developing guidelines on where you can and cannot build schools. It has taken thirty years for our federal government to act on preventing schools from being built on or near contaminated areas, but these are just guidelines they aren’t laws. States and school districts have to actively adopt these guidelines when they come out later this year in order to make sure they do any good.
As the Senate debates the stimulus bill on Capitol Hill this week, I keep thinking about how great it is that there is a flood of aid to the education system included. But I also wonder given that $20 billion is earmarked for school building and renovations, if these new schools are built on or near contaminated areas, what good are we really doing for our children or our community? We don't just need new schools, we need healthy and safe schools.
This time of uncertainty has provided us with an opportunity to correct the mistakes of our past. School districts and states must adopt responsible school siting policies that prevent schools from being built on or near contaminated areas in order to truly lift up the education, economic possibilities, and health of their community. Our country will fail in its effort to grow stronger over the long haul if we continue to send children to toxic schools.
So today I ask that you call on your Senator and urge him or her to introduce language in the final version of the stimulus bill so that states and school districts must adopt responsible school siting policies for all new buildings.
The Center for Health, Environment and Justice has set up a take action page that provides more detail on the issue along with model school siting legislation and ways to spread the message of this important issue. Check it out:
For a toxic free future,
Center for Health, Environment, and Justice