The Gilmer Mirror Internet Edition

 

Wednesday December 13 2006 10:12:26

 

Sideglances

By SARAH GREENE

FRUIT OF THE ORCHARD: Environmental Justice in East Texas. Photographs by Tammy Cromer-Campbell; essays by Phyllis Glazer, Roy Flukinger, Eugene Hargrove, Marvin Legator. University of North Texas Press. Hardback, 9 1/4” by 9 1/4,” 130 pp. $29.95.

 

Texas 155 between Big Sandy and Interstate 20 is a busy highway. There is nothing much to attract the attention of the many passers-by to the entrance of a closed-down plant with a few insignificant buildings.

 

What lies below is another story — well told in this important book.

A toxic waste facility opened just south of Winona in 1982. Area residents were told that salt water from oil fields would be injected into wells and fruit orchards would be planted on the acquired acreage.

 

Phyllis Glazer, Dallas resident whose family bought a ranch near Winona in 1988, moved there in 1990 with her youngest son; her husband commuted from Dallas for weekends.

 

TAKING HER son to school one day they passed through a “toxic cloud” of chemical smoke. Within days, her throat and mouth were ulcerated. On investigation, she found that Winona residents had been reporting bad health effects for years — increased cancer rates, birth defects in both humans and animals.

 

Unable to get her questions answered by the company, Mrs. Glazer founded Mothers Organized to Stop Environmental Sins (MOSES). She soon met Wanda Erwin, whose family had left Georgia after slavery was abolished and bought 300 acres next to the Gibraltar Chemical Resources facility. She reported how she and her sons and her animals had all suffered ill effects since the plant opened.

“I knew that I had to get Wanda clean water. I knew in my heart that my wonderful friend’s family was being slowly poisoned,” Mrs. Glazer writes in an introduction to the book, which is an outgrowth of her determination as a citizen-activist.

 

IN 1994 Mrs. Glazer asked a Longview photographer, Tammy Cromer-Campbell, to take pictures for a poster MOSES would use in picketing the Texas attorney general, who they suspected was going to settle his lawsuit against Gibraltar without doing anything to protect the community.

 

The poster child was Wanda’s youngest, Jeremy, who didn’t have to be told to look sad for the camera.

 

Mrs. Glazer believes that the effectiveness of the poster was a factor in getting the company to settle its lawsuits with Wanda’s family and the attorney general. The company sold the facility but the fight continued.

 

Declining to give in to threats, Mrs. Glazer, her family and MOSES in October, 1996 were sued by the new company under the RICO (Racketeering Influenced Criminal Organization) Act. MOSES counter-sued for filing a frivolous lawsuit, and within six months the company announced it was shutting down the Winona facility. Negative publicity was cited along with loss of money.

 

Fruit of the Orchard is a book of photos with four short explanatory essays besides Mrs. Glazer’s introduction.

IN A TIME when anybody with $100 to spend can take technically excellent digital photographs, some serious photographers are turning to other types of cameras to achieve their desired effects.

 

In his essay Roy Flukiinger, Senior Curator of Photography at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at UT-Austin, explains why Tammy Cromer-Campbell chose what is basically a toy — a cheap, plastic 120—roll-film made-in-China Holga camera — to photograph the scenes and people around Winona.

Her pictures “contain all the light streaks, lens flare, vignetting, variable focus, distortion and movement that we have come to expect of Holga images,” Flukinger writes, and he thinks this distortion “forces our misty gaze back inward to her selected subjects.”

 

In her essay Ms. Cromer-Campbell gives brief sketches of the families of the people she photographed and their health problems, and describes the MOSES Stand for the Children Day rally held in Washington, D.C. on June 1, 1996. The group had made an earlier trip there financed by Don Henley, famous musician from Linden and environmentalist who focuses on Caddo Lake and other East Texas sites.

 

ONE OF THE photos closes in on a child holding one of the “wasted babies” dolls Mrs. Glazer created to help educate the public on Winona’s problems. Ms. Cromer-Campbell writes admiringly that Mrs. Glazer “depleted her inheritance to save the poor minority community in which she lived. Her father escaped the Holocaust and he instilled in his daughter the preciousness of life and liberty.”

Back in Dallas, Mrs. Glazer continues her crusade. In 2001 she received treatment for a brain tumor.

 

Eugene Hargrove, University of North Texas professor and founder of the Center for Environmental Philosophy, explores the problems involved in preventing future Winonas, making the point that it is hard to demonstrate a “causal connection” between polluters and the apparent damages they cause. An underfunded Environmental Protection Agency, he writes, has “no significant resources” to devote to small rural places like Winona.

 

ADVISING against the temptation for communities to recruit dangerous facilities for their economic benefits, he writes that if everyone decides they don’t want such facilities, “things will have to be done better.”

 

Dr. Marvin Legator of the Division of Environmental Toxicology at the UT Medical Branch in Galveston lists a half dozen toxicological myths that discourage victims of chemical exposure from seeking relief. He credits Phyllis Glazer, “one of our present-day environmental heroines,” as being instrumental in the Winona facility shutdown.

 

In her introduction Mrs. Glazer writes that no orchards were ever planted at the site; instead trucks came from all over the U. S. and Mexico to dump their “deadly, untreated contents into the deep wells, which passed through one of the largest drinking water aquifers on the North American continent.”

That would be the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer, which underlies all of Smith and Upshur Counties and is the source of the deep wells that supply Gilmer’s water.

This book, then, whatever its national significance, has compelling interest for this area.

The Gilmer Mirror

The Gilmer Mirror Internet Edition

 

Wednesday December 13 2006 10:12:26

 

Sideglances

By SARAH GREENE

FRUIT OF THE ORCHARD: Environmental Justice in East Texas. Photographs by Tammy Cromer-Campbell; essays by Phyllis Glazer, Roy Flukinger, Eugene Hargrove, Marvin Legator. University of North Texas Press. Hardback, 9 1/4” by 9 1/4,” 130 pp. $29.95.

 

Texas 155 between Big Sandy and Interstate 20 is a busy highway. There is nothing much to attract the attention of the many passers-by to the entrance of a closed-down plant with a few insignificant buildings.

 

What lies below is another story — well told in this important book.

A toxic waste facility opened just south of Winona in 1982. Area residents were told that salt water from oil fields would be injected into wells and fruit orchards would be planted on the acquired acreage.

 

Phyllis Glazer, Dallas resident whose family bought a ranch near Winona in 1988, moved there in 1990 with her youngest son; her husband commuted from Dallas for weekends.

 

TAKING HER son to school one day they passed through a “toxic cloud” of chemical smoke. Within days, her throat and mouth were ulcerated. On investigation, she found that Winona residents had been reporting bad health effects for years — increased cancer rates, birth defects in both humans and animals.

 

Unable to get her questions answered by the company, Mrs. Glazer founded Mothers Organized to Stop Environmental Sins (MOSES). She soon met Wanda Erwin, whose family had left Georgia after slavery was abolished and bought 300 acres next to the Gibraltar Chemical Resources facility. She reported how she and her sons and her animals had all suffered ill effects since the plant opened.

“I knew that I had to get Wanda clean water. I knew in my heart that my wonderful friend’s family was being slowly poisoned,” Mrs. Glazer writes in an introduction to the book, which is an outgrowth of her determination as a citizen-activist.

 

IN 1994 Mrs. Glazer asked a Longview photographer, Tammy Cromer-Campbell, to take pictures for a poster MOSES would use in picketing the Texas attorney general, who they suspected was going to settle his lawsuit against Gibraltar without doing anything to protect the community.

 

The poster child was Wanda’s youngest, Jeremy, who didn’t have to be told to look sad for the camera.

 

Mrs. Glazer believes that the effectiveness of the poster was a factor in getting the company to settle its lawsuits with Wanda’s family and the attorney general. The company sold the facility but the fight continued.

 

Declining to give in to threats, Mrs. Glazer, her family and MOSES in October, 1996 were sued by the new company under the RICO (Racketeering Influenced Criminal Organization) Act. MOSES counter-sued for filing a frivolous lawsuit, and within six months the company announced it was shutting down the Winona facility. Negative publicity was cited along with loss of money.

 

Fruit of the Orchard is a book of photos with four short explanatory essays besides Mrs. Glazer’s introduction.

IN A TIME when anybody with $100 to spend can take technically excellent digital photographs, some serious photographers are turning to other types of cameras to achieve their desired effects.

 

In his essay Roy Flukiinger, Senior Curator of Photography at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at UT-Austin, explains why Tammy Cromer-Campbell chose what is basically a toy — a cheap, plastic 120—roll-film made-in-China Holga camera — to photograph the scenes and people around Winona.

Her pictures “contain all the light streaks, lens flare, vignetting, variable focus, distortion and movement that we have come to expect of Holga images,” Flukinger writes, and he thinks this distortion “forces our misty gaze back inward to her selected subjects.”

 

In her essay Ms. Cromer-Campbell gives brief sketches of the families of the people she photographed and their health problems, and describes the MOSES Stand for the Children Day rally held in Washington, D.C. on June 1, 1996. The group had made an earlier trip there financed by Don Henley, famous musician from Linden and environmentalist who focuses on Caddo Lake and other East Texas sites.

 

ONE OF THE photos closes in on a child holding one of the “wasted babies” dolls Mrs. Glazer created to help educate the public on Winona’s problems. Ms. Cromer-Campbell writes admiringly that Mrs. Glazer “depleted her inheritance to save the poor minority community in which she lived. Her father escaped the Holocaust and he instilled in his daughter the preciousness of life and liberty.”

Back in Dallas, Mrs. Glazer continues her crusade. In 2001 she received treatment for a brain tumor.

 

Eugene Hargrove, University of North Texas professor and founder of the Center for Environmental Philosophy, explores the problems involved in preventing future Winonas, making the point that it is hard to demonstrate a “causal connection” between polluters and the apparent damages they cause. An underfunded Environmental Protection Agency, he writes, has “no significant resources” to devote to small rural places like Winona.

 

ADVISING against the temptation for communities to recruit dangerous facilities for their economic benefits, he writes that if everyone decides they don’t want such facilities, “things will have to be done better.”

 

Dr. Marvin Legator of the Division of Environmental Toxicology at the UT Medical Branch in Galveston lists a half dozen toxicological myths that discourage victims of chemical exposure from seeking relief. He credits Phyllis Glazer, “one of our present-day environmental heroines,” as being instrumental in the Winona facility shutdown.

 

In her introduction Mrs. Glazer writes that no orchards were ever planted at the site; instead trucks came from all over the U. S. and Mexico to dump their “deadly, untreated contents into the deep wells, which passed through one of the largest drinking water aquifers on the North American continent.”

That would be the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer, which underlies all of Smith and Upshur Counties and is the source of the deep wells that supply Gilmer’s water.

This book, then, whatever its national significance, has compelling interest for this area.