St. Lawrence County Fails To Ban Open Waste Burning


On Monday, March 18th, 2002, the Services Committee of the St. Lawrence County Legislature decided by a 9 to 5 vote to halt the process of creating a county-wide ban against open waste burning. Cancer Action NY had carefully and extensively educated these political leaders upon the adverse effects of said waste burning. The question of why the lawmakers of St. Lawrence County refused to take so reasonable and necessary a step as enacting such a ban must be answered.

Several major reasons for this failure to act for the protection of the public health can readily be distinguished. The resistance of the stakeholders in the animal foods (dairy products and beef) industry to any effort to address the dioxin contamination of animal fats issue is clearly the most significant impediment to change. There are numerous farmers who serve as members of the County Legislature. A division existed between them as to whether the open burning problem should be dealt with in a forthright manner, or should be minimized and avoided. Those farmer Legislators, who recognized the need to eliminate open waste burning, were unable to convince their fellow farmers, Legislators and County residents alike, that avoiding the problem would only allow it to worsen.

Another considerable hindrance to progress was the weakness demonstrated by many County residents, who, despite the fact that they disapproved of this toxic habit of their neighbors, were not willing to take a public stand for elimination. Why are so many Americans so fearful? A social class system consisting of employment related cliques, every bit as stifling to community life as the caste system of India, is much to blame for this sad state of affairs. Only when the leaders of the cliques have decided that an issue is likely to increase their dominance, does it become safe for those lower in the hierarchy to take a position. People fear that if they take a stand without the clique system leading, they will lose status.

Finally, the failure of the New York State Department of Health, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the United States Environmental Protection Agency to participate in the effort to eliminate this health problem limited progress.

Hopefully, we will somehow find the strength to take those public actions, which are necessary to the protection of the environment and our health. If we are unable to do so, chronic diseases, including, cancer and asthma will continue to plague us.

For further information:
Donald L. Hassig,
Cancer Action NY
St. Lawrence River Valley/Adirondac Greens
(315) 393-1975;