Thursday, May 23, 2024

May 23, 1983, Oak Ridge City Council Meeting on Y-12 Mercury Pollution

President Kennedy said that any problem that can be created by humankind can be solved by humankind;

Our problems are manmade--therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man's reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable--and we believe they can do it again.

(American University, June 10, 1963).

It was 41 ago tonight. I was at the podium at the City Council in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, cross-examining Department of Energy and Union Carbide officials about the world's largest mercury pollution event, long kept secret from Americans, and even our Presidents.  

Oak Ridge City Council allowed  me 20 minutes.  

None of this "three minutes is all you get" malarkey and rough guff stuff that we get from stuffy elected Dull Republican officials in North Florida.  We don't solve problems if we can't talk about them, or if our officials have biased blinders on.  Dull Republicans think they're so cute when they limit public comment. They're not one bit cute. They're making monkeys of us all.

Our government and its criminaloid contractor emitted 4.2 million pounds of lethal mercury into workers’ lungs and brains, and into the East Fork PoplarCreek and groundwater of the state of Tennessee – a tort, a crime and a sin.

JOE LA GRONE was the new DOE Oak Ridge Operations Manager, sent to “manage” the expected public outrage. In hindsight, he did well, and it’s a shame there was not more outrage upon our learning that the world’s largest mercury pollution event was perpetrated by the U.S. Government and Union Carbide, its longtime mendacious contractor for five nuclear weapons plants in three states, with some 20,000 employees being exposed to what Dr. Michael Bruner called a “witches’ brew” of chemicals. It happened in America, with Americans poisoning Americans in secret, claiming “national security.”
After his presentation, I asked JOE BEN LAGRONE whether, if the Soviet Union had dumped millions of pounds of mercury all over Oak Ridge, that would not be considered an “act of war?” 
I also asked LA GRONE, whether “being DOE means never having to say you’re sorry?” 
I questioned the ethnocentric nature of Oak Ridge managers, who disdained testing turtle meat, even though low-income African-American residents caught and ate turtles from the East Fork Poplar Creek. I questioned the lack of scientific validity of DOE’s studies. I questioned the conflict of interest nature of self-monitoring of environmental pollution.
In all, at the May 23, 1983 Oak Ridge City Council meeting, I questioned LAGRONE & Co. for about 20 minutes, all of which was transcribed in the minutes of the Oak Ridge City Council. Looking at those minutes today, 40 years later, I am reminded that there is no limit to what one can accomplish if you research, ask questions, and don’t take "no" for an answer. 
(Here in our local governments, citizens are often ordered not to ask questions by maladroit mendacious officials like uneducated, unsophisticated, uncouth St. Johns County Commissioner CHRISTIAN WHITEHURST, who did so at the May 17, 2022 Commission discussion of a clearcutting abortion wrought by his sneaky political boss, State Senator TRAVIS J. HUTSON's SilverLeaf development expansion.  As the late William F. Buckley, Jr. once asked, "Why does baloney reject the grind4r?") 
Before I left Appalachia for law school in Memphis, Mr. LaGRONE had ordered Union Carbide to incur overtime, providing me with 30,000 pages of documents establishing that workers in Y-12 buildings 9201-4 and 9201-5 breathed in as much as 30-60 times the then-prevailing health standards for mercury, without respirators.
In the best tradition of diplomats from Thomas Jefferson to Richard Holbrooke, I stood up for our country and her principles against those who violated human rights and devastated our environment. Sorry if that offends. 
The City of Oak Ridge, Tennessee will never be the same again thanks to the ethical employees and residents who “blew the whistle” and stood up to authoritarianism and its Environmental Racism. Massive cleanups at all Department of Energy nuclear weapons plants followed, costing hundreds of billions of dollars, creating jobs, saving lives, in eleven states.
Likewise, the City of St. Augustine, Florida and St. Johns County, Florida will never be the same again thanks to the ethical employees and residents who “blew the whistle” on pollution, civil rights violations and mismanagement problems. 
Our City of St. Augustine government is being transformed before our eyes and is becoming something to be proud of, not ashamed of – that’s a good thing, and great progress.
St. Johns County -- change is in your future. 
There were times in Oak Ridge – and in St. Augustine – when friends warned me that my life was in danger. But as the great American patriot, Nathan Hale, once said, “My only regret is that I have but one life to give for my country.” 
There are still a hostile few who think citizens should be “seen and not heard” and should “know their place.” 
Since-fired St. Johns County Administrator HUNTER SINCLAIR CONRAD told me  during 2021 and 2022 budget hearings, "I don't have to answer your questions," stating he "work[s} for the Board of County Commissioners. What a vacuous vicious varmint. 
Help is on the way.
Earlier this month, our Commission has honored my 2016 request to answer budget questions at GTV-televised meetings.
Pray for the tortured soul of HUNTER SINCLAIR CONRAD, and those tedious toadies like him.
I pity them, for they “know not that they know not that they know not,” as my former environmental whistleblower client and mentor the late EPA, HUD and FBI Senior Special Agent Robert E. Tyndall (Retired) put it best.
The owners and controllers are wrong -- this is our place, our town and our time -- we’re going to make this a better place.
Defeat the cat's paws and oligarchs.
We did.
Yes we can!
Yes we do!

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