While many adults wonder what to do, National City students challenge the Navy's toxic dumping practices.
by Masada Laverne Mitchell, ecofeminist
ith pen and computers in hand, the students of Na- tional City Middle School's Star program showed just how bright they can really shine.
When I presented the class with a video news clip from Channel 10, showing an old toxic waste dump from World War II used by the Navy, the class was overwhelmed with measured alarm. The Site was paved with concrete in 1975 and used as a parking lot. The dump site contained banned pesticides, DDT, volatile compounds, extremely high levels of lead and PCB's over 100 times the amount allowed by the Environmental Protection Agency. On top of all that was infectious wastes from the five Navy medical and dental clinics hazardous chemicals and toxins too numerous to list here.
The Navy report read like a nuclear weapons arsenal. The cleanup, which was supposed to be done in seven weeks, starting in Oct. 1996, has not yet been completed due to newly-discovered radioactive metals found a few months ago. Radioactivity can last for thousands of years, depending on the type of isotope.
The navy should be ashamed of itself for putting that contamination and radioactive garbage in National City. I wrote and told them so. But this time, I got help from the students I now call the "Junior Environmentalists of National City."
The third-graders of Mrs. Wilkerson's Olivewood Elementary class were the first ones to write letters and draw pictures of sick marine and wildlife, telling the navy to stop poisoning our planet. Joy Williams of the Environmental Health Coalition provided us with facts to show that National City has San Diego County's third largest share of hazardous waste. This is lamentable, especially with all the schools in our area.
Toxic poisoning has left a lingering legacy in our beautiful city. A few years back, National City middle school had to be evacuated twice when a fire and explosion sent toxic gasses into the air. Mr. Ernie Anastos, principal at the school with a great love for children, is now planning to raise environmental awareness for Earth Day in April.
In addition, some students at nearby Kimball Elementary, and adults who live close to the cluster of industries on the west side of National City Blvd., are suffering from chronic illnesses.
The eighth grade Star students' level of intelligence and devotion to our community is a reflection of the great wisdom of their teacher, Mrs. Laura Marugg, who patiently guided the students in proper letter composition. The young Stars' inquiring minds challenged the Navy's environmental incorrectness with thought-provoking questions about the increased potential for birth defects in humans and wildlife, and contamination of ground water. They asked why the Navy put that radioactive "trash" so close to where people work and live.
The letters were sent to the Dept. of Toxic Substances Control in Long Beach. As a result, a representative is going to come visit the school to discuss toxic pollution. We rewarded the students' efforts with a little party.
The letters were shown to the Chief Librarian, Anne Campbell, and were presented to the City Council and Mayor of National City. At that time, the council was also asked to investigate other possible places radioactive material may have been dumped and "covered up." Copies of letters from both schools are kept in a special citizens response file at the National City Library for viewing by the public.
Yes, we pledge allegiance to the earth and all the life which it supports. One Planet, in our care, irreplaceable, with sustenance and respect for all.