Ohio Valley Environmental Coalition
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Dioxin press conference

June 9, 2000
Photo by Laura Forman

OVEC Board members Missy Anthony and Lew Baker address the press about dioxin. They are standing in front of Amherst/Plymouth Wildlife Management Area, near Poca, WV, the site of a 1950’s Monsanto chemical dump. Area residents, many sick with cancer and others who had recently been offered a buyout from Monsanto, attended the OVEC-organized press conference. These residents have been asking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the WV Division of Environmental protection for help for years.

On the same day the press conference was scheduled, the EPA was to release a draft reassessment on dioxin, six years after its release was first expected. The report upgrades the deadly chemical to the status of a “human
carcinogen,” noting that a minimum of 4,000 people in the United States will get cancer from dioxin—that’s at least ten new cases of cancer each day. Besides cancer, dioxin can cause a host of neurological, reproductive and developmental disorders at levels found in almost every person in America.

The EPA’s report says the levels of dioxin in the environment have declined since the 1970s as tougher pollution control measures have been implemented. Citizens note that their activism has helped shut down sources of dioxin. Despite reductions, dioxin persists in the environment and concentrates as it moves up the food chain. In humans, it accumulates in fatty tissues and is passed on to children en utero and through breast milk.

In the late 1950s, at a Heizer Creek site, Monsanto dumped about 170,000 cubic feet of waste from its Nitro-area operations, where the company manufactured the herbicide 2,4,5-T, a primary ingredient in Agent Orange. Dioxin is an unwanted byproduct of various manufacturing processes, including the manufacture of 2,4,5-T. Monsanto also dumped waste at the Manila Creek site in the mid-’50s. Monsanto’s production of 2,4,5-T for Agent Orange climbed throughout the 1960s and peaked in late ’60s when WV Governor Cecil Underwood was a vice president of the company.

Residents who live along the Heizer and Manila Creeks in Poca have long suspected that dioxin is poisoning their community. Monsanto, EPA and the state Department of Environmental Protection have done little to clean up the area, although as early as the 1970s downstream fish where found to have excessively high levels of dioxin.


Missy Anthony and Lew Baker address the press
outside an old Monsanto Agent Orange dump.

 

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