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Environmental Disasters and Ways Companies Cope with Them Research Paper

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Updated: Jan 20th, 2020

Love Canal, New York

Love Canal exists in the southeast of New York. It has a history of chemical contamination having operated as a dumping site for harmful chemical effluents emerging from for Hooker Chemical Company (the company used Love Canal as a dumping site for harmful effluents).1 The company, currently, called Occidental Petroleum Corporation, had operated for several years as one of the major oil and gas manufacturers in US.

It used the site in early 1900s and later sold it to Niagara Falls School Board in 1950s at a minimal cost. The school intended to build a considerable institution on the land. Nonetheless, it was clear that the site contained dangerous chemicals buried in the area several decades ago.

Issues erupted in 1970s rendering the case quite serious. After media revealed the information about the past effluent deposition, there was a public uproar with health concerns on cumulative effects of such chimerical on the inhabitants of the area and beyond. The matter worsened forcing the government, environmental agencies, and other activists to take immediate action.

Contamination involved in this case incorporated accumulation of heavy metals and other lethal discharges from the then Hooker Chemical company. The residents prospected danger thus alarming the community after Niagara Falls Gazette investigated and reported on the matter.

The company was blamed of negligence in its waste disposal mechanisms. On damages, the incident fronted various health risks to the residents of the area and beyond.2 The cumulative effects of harmful chemicals in the body are disastrous. Prospected dangers incorporated cancers, miscarriages, birth defects, toxic chemicals in the mothers’ milk, nerve disorders, and other life complications.

Having raised the public concern, it was important to get rid of the chemical before their dangers could be experienced by masses.3 This led to the cleanup program, which incorporated expertise from relevant disciplines.

CERCLA (an act established to legitimize and source funds for the clean-up) helped situation by empowering the health agencies including EPA to organize the clean-up mission and detoxification of the chemicals.

Bhopal, India

In Bhopal, India (disaster), there was a massive leakage of a poisonous gas (methyl isocyanate) leading to instantaneous death of thousands of people, massive atmospheric contamination, and other related deaths witnessed later after the incidence. The incidence occurred in December 1984 (at night 2nd) after a company (UCIL) based in Bhopal (in Madhya Pradesh state, India) had a gas leakage from its premises.4

Allegedly, the leakage was connected to poor maintenance of gas pipes and improper cleaning processes as well as inability to use safety measures. The gas diffused into the surrounding environment intoxicating the residents of the nearby area causing instant deaths, injuries, and other cumulative effects mentioned earlier. These constituted the damages that the incidence caused.

Methyl isocyanate is a dangerous gas with lethal impacts when inhaled into the body. Higher levels taken once might cause instant deaths or kill later depending on the health condition of the concerned victim.

The company management was accused of negligence and inappropriate release of the gas into the environment, an incident which killed thousands of people.5 Later, some of the UCIL‘s management crew were convicted and jailed.

The clean up processes incorporated the use of detoxifiers and other viable methods, which could eradicated the gas and other contaminants in the area. Consequently, the company (UCIL) was closed for years in response to the aftermath.

Specialists from various parts of the world were assigned to investigate the matter and aid the normalization the area to favor inhabitation again. This indicates the problems faced by the India in the incident’s aftermath.

Times Beach, Missouri

Times beach has a history of soil contamination dating back to 1970s when a contractor (waste shipper-Russell Bliss) was outsourced to spray used oil on the dusty roads of the area. This was meant to reduce the levels of dust emission. The method had previously worked for Bliss in his home. The alleged contamination was from Dioxin and PCB (Polychlorinated biphenyl), which are very dangerous chemicals to human life.

Since Bliss also used to haul wastes for a pharmaceutical and chemical company (NEPACCO), sprayed oil mixed with Dioxin and PCB (unintentionally). This led to the death of several animals and people. As at then, there was limited knowledge on the cause. When an alarm was raised, investigations staged by EPA, experts, and other activists revealed that the area contained higher levels of Dioxin contamination.

This was threatening to the residents of the area. The levels of the harmful chemical were too high to restrain. People were advised to relocate from the area to avoid cumulative health effects of the chemical. As at 1985, the area nearly attained full evacuation. EPA had announced the dangers that could occur to the residents if they continued to stay in the area.

Precisely, contamination involved Dioxin and PCB (contaminated the land), which are dangerous chemicals when released to the environment. The damages noticed were deaths of some people, animals especially horses, prospective miscarriages, physical deformities, and other relevant concerns.

On clean up, EPA proposed full evacuation of the area, sourced for CERCLA funds (Superfund) provided in such circumstances, employed detoxifiers to eradicate the chemical, used the area for other activities before it was finally declared habitable.

Libby, Montana

In Libby, there is a considerable mining of vermiculite ore as one of the economic activities in the area. As at 1999, deaths relating to asbestos contaminations were reported. The soils of the area have been contaminated with asbestos thus causing serious health threats to the entire residents of the area.6

Investigations had revealed that the air breathed in the region has a considerable amount of tremolite asbestos, which has threatened the lives of many workers in the area. Medically, asbestos is a dangerous compound with devastating cumulative effects in the body. It is advisable for people to vacate areas contaminated with the compound.

The matter has fronted a massive concern from health activists, EPA, and other health agencies who understand the lethal effects of asbestos. Allowing asbestos to be released into the air is unethical and devastating. This can be controlled through the ratification of appropriate measures. Precisely, contamination involved in Libby was that of asbestos. This raised a massive concern over the matter.

The damages were deaths, illnesses related to asbestos contaminations, miscarriages, prospective medical complications, and other related problems. On the clean up, EPA launched a detoxification program in 2000.7 The organization has endured to remove asbestos-contaminated soils from the area in order to render the place habitable.

Lessons from each site

Evidently, each site fronts different lessons helpful in the entire context. Firstly, it is important to protect the environment in order to save humanity from unwarranted deaths emerging from ignorance.

This is an important provision as evident in the Times Beach’s case. Ignorance can cost numerous lives hence should be eradicated within the community. Additionally, it is important to be cautious when dealing with dangerous chemicals and gases. Negligence is a serious phenomenon, which should be eradicated once and for all within communities and among the workers of different companies.

This is evident in the Bhopal India’s case discussed earlier.8 If employees never embraced negligence, then thousands of people who died instantly and other subsequent death registered in the case could have not occurred. This is a critical provision in numerous contexts especially on such critical conditions like the one’s mentioned above.

It is important to agree that disasters are inadvertent or unplanned; nonetheless, proper care should be taken whenever a person, an organization, or an entity deals with harmful compounds. A mere mistake can cost numerous lives as indicated earlier. This is a serious consideration to be observed by any entity.

Additionally, some harmful compounds do not kill immediately; however, they have serious cumulative health problems, which cannot be underestimated. This is evident in the asbestos’ case in Libby, Montana. People died later after inhaling the compound some years back.

This indicates why environmentalists and government agencies charged with the mandate of protecting the environment should condemn and eradicate all environmental hazards within the society. Evidently, the mentioned incidences could have not happened if the concerned individuals were cautious and health conscious.

Whether such events will still be happening in the future

The events noticed in the case are astounding and condemnable. However, there is a possibility that such incidences might occur again unless the concerned companies and other parties become responsible enough, proactive, and mindful to the environmental issues. There are some companies, which operate minus the required accreditations, certifications, and measures embraceable to eradicate disasters.

This is an important provision when considered in the industrial contexts. Industries must be responsible in order to help in curbing such disasters. It is from this context that the argument on the witnessed contaminations and other characterizing factors emerge.

It is evident that negligence within companies that manufacture lethal products or whose production processes lead to the release of harmful wastes can similarly lead to such events.9 From this context, it is possible to argue for the possibility of other similar events or disasters.

Such events require that all stakeholders in the society ranging from environmental agencies to manufacturing companies should observe some caution and embrace viable environmental practices with the intent of eradicating such similar disasters.

Additionally, having designated waste deposition areas for harmful compounds will equally help. This is applicable in the Love Canal’s case where harmful compounds were disposed careless without considering the aftermath events of such irresponsibility.

Additionally, it is agreeable that such incidences can reoccur. Some organizations do not abide by the stipulated environmental regulations set in their localities. This indicates why some organizations do not conform to the stipulations regarding waste disposal and environmental protection efforts. Such negligence contributes considerably to the environmental challenges witnessed globally.

It is considerable to embrace environmental policies in order to prevent the reoccurrence of such events in the society. Governments should tighten the implementation of environmental policies so that organizations, which break such law, can face the full force of law. This will render every party environmentally responsible. It is the responsibility of everybody to ensure that the environment surrounding him or her is clean and habitable.10

This requires that people should report any incidence of environmental contamination to the relevant authorities for appropriate action to be taken. There is a considerable possibility of such events reoccurring unless people remain responsible and environmentally mindful.11 It is from this situation that the whole augment regarding the reoccurrence of such disasters lie.

Although the incidences were quite devastating, people have the right to condemn such incidences. Preventing such occurrences is possible; however, when negligence, impunity, irresponsibility, and laxity remain rooted in the concerned people/entities, such incidences will reoccur with meticulousness.

It is important for people to focus on the environmental protection measures and minimize emissions of toxic gases into the atmosphere and reduce deposition of harmful wastes on land, water bodies, and other habitable areas.

Bibliography

Button, Gregory. Disaster culture: knowledge and uncertainty in the wake of human and environmental catastrophe. California: Left Coast, 2010.

Collins, Craig. Toxic loopholes: failures and future prospects for environmental law. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

Hernan, Robert. This borrowed earth: lessons from the fifteen worst environmental disasters around the world. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.

Kahn, Matthew E. “Environmental Disasters as Risk Regulation Catalysts? the Role of Bhopal, Chernobyl, Exxon Valdez, Love Canal, and Three Mile Island in Shaping U.S. Environmental Law.” Journal of Risk and Uncertainty 35, no. 1 (2007): 17-43. Web.

Logue, James N. “Disasters, the Environment, and Public Health: Improving our Response.” American Journal of Public Health 86, no. 9 (1996): 1207-10. Web.

Lowen, Rebecca S. “The Road to Love Canal: Managing Industrial Waste before EPA.” Technology and Culture 38, no. 1 (1997): 269-270. Web.

Macey, Gregg P. “Environmental Crisis and the Paradox of Organizing.” Brigham Young University Law Review 2011, no. 6 (2011): 2063-2114. Web.

Miller, Taylor. Environmental science: working with the earth. Belmont: Thomson Brooks/Cole, 2005.

Peacock, Andrea. Libby, Montana: asbestos and the deadly silence of an American corporation. Boulder: Johnson Books, 2003.

Vallero, Daniel. Paradigms lost learning from environmental mistakes, mishaps, and misdeeds. Boston: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2006.

Footnotes

1 Matthew E. Kahn, “Environmental Disasters as Risk Regulation Catalysts? the Role of Bhopal, Chernobyl, Exxon Valdez, Love Canal, and Three Mile Island in Shaping U.S. Environmental Law.” Journal of Risk and Uncertainty 35, no. 1 (2007): 18.

2 Daniel Vallero, Paradigms lost learning from environmental mistakes, mishaps, and misdeeds (Boston: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2006), 198.

3 Robert Hernan, This borrowed earth: lessons from the fifteen worst environmental disasters around the world (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), 198.

4 Taylor Miller, Environmental science: working with the earth (Belmont: Thomson Brooks/Cole, 2005), 403.

5 Rebecca S. Lowen, “The Road to Love Canal: Managing Industrial Waste before EPA.” Technology and Culture 38, no. 1 (1997): 269-270.

6 Gregory Button, Disaster culture: knowledge and uncertainty in the wake of human and environmental catastrophe (California: Left Coast, 2010), 194.

7 Andrea Peacock, Libby, Montana: asbestos and the deadly silence of an American corporation (Boulder: Johnson Books, 2003), 228.

8 Gregg P. Macey, “Environmental Crisis and the Paradox of Organizing.” Brigham Young University Law Review 2011, no. 6 (2011): 2063.

9 Andrea Peacock, Libby, Montana: asbestos and the deadly silence of an American corporation (Boulder: Johnson Books, 2003), 228.

10 James N. Logue, “Disasters, the Environment, and Public Health: Improving our Response.” American Journal of Public Health 86, no. 9 (1996): 1207.

11 Andrea Peacock, Libby, Montana: asbestos and the deadly silence of an American corporation (Boulder: Johnson Books, 2003), 228.

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