INTERVIEWEE: Sue Pope (SP)
INTERVIEWERS: David Todd (DT) and David Weisman (DW)
DATE: October 14, 2000
LOCATION: Midlothian, Texas
TRANSCRIBERS: Lacy Goldsmith and Robin Johnson
Please note that the recording includes roughly 60 seconds of color bars and sound tone for technical settings at the outset of the recordings. Boldfaced numbers mark the time codes for the VHS tape copy of the interview. “Misc.” refers to various off-camera conversation or background noise, unrelated to the interview.
DT: My name’s David Todd. I‘m here for the Conservation History Association of Texas and we’re in Midlothian, Texas. It’s October 14, [year 2000] and we’ve got the good fortune to be talking with Sue Pope. She’s been working on issues involving air quality and public health and particularly problems that are caused the cement kiln operations in this area. I just wanted to take this chance to thank you for telling us about it.
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SP: Thank you for being interested.
DT: Sue can you start at the beginning and tell us how you first became interested in environmental issues and what your introduction was?
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SP: Well I—I’m really ashamed to admit that I wasn’t really aware, nor concerned, about environmental issues until things that we couldn’t explain started happening to the—my relatives in and around my neighbors and our—our livestock. And we’ve lived in the area for over twenty years and then, all of a sudden, something’s totally different and having such a adverse effect on anything in and around it. A neighbor of mine came to the house one day with a little leaflet that she had gotten from another neighbor and they were citing that hazardous waste was being burned in our community and that…
DT: What year was that?
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SP: I have to stop just a minute.
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SP: Okay. I have no sp…
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SP: Okay, now, then, what was your question?
DT: Talking about how you first got involved and interested in environmental issues.
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SP: Yes, I got, you know, like I said, I had got this brochure that my neighbor brought down there and it—it detailed the different compounds—some of them—and the heavy metals that were being incinerated. And—and it also mentioned that it could effect the hormones in our bodies and I was seeing a lot of reproductive problems with my mares. So I got in touch with this organization that had been formed of local citizens and they had a meeting at the high school and we had, oh, I think, five hundred people present and a lot of the experts and—and people from the state—and it was just, from that point on, a learning process.
DT: What was the name of this organization?
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SP: The organization that had been formed at that time was Citizens Aware United For a Safe Environment, acronym being CAUSE. And we worked diligently for about three years and then we realized that we weren’t getting very far with our problem, you know, informing and trying to change it and that we needed to reach out to some of the people other than those just in Midlothian proper. And, basically, with the wind patterns and what have you, it was affecting them as much, if not more. And so we—I think it was about 1993 we formed a ci—a citizens group, Down Winders at Risk. And it’s still functioning. We have a web site and we’ve networked with people all over the world. We haven’t been able to stop our problem but we’ve been able to help others prevent theirs.
DT: Can you talk a little bit about what your problem is here?
DW: And maybe just for the audience who’s out of state, where we are and what is the industry, what is going on here?
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SP: Okay. As you can see, behind me is a cement plant and they’re accepting waste from all over the nation and sometimes other countries. It’s trucked in here. It’s shipped, you know, and it comes in by rail and it’s a—really a loophole that was afforded this industry back in the late ‘80’s. And they are not subject to standards and regulations of companies at a commercial waste incinerator. These people are the TX—well, I’m not going to say the plant name—but the cement industry now can take waste from all the generators and burn it without having the responsibility of cradle to grave, you know, tracking. The cement plants are paid to accept this waste. They charge less than commercial waste incinerators so, therefore, it’s a win-win for the cement plants and the generators of waste.
DT: What kind of waste are they accepting here?
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SP: Hold on just a minute. My lips won’t stay off my teeth.
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SP: At f—there was over a hundred—there’s well over seven hundred some odd wastes that they can accept—that their permit allows them to handle. And they’re toxic, reactive, corrosive, ignitables, and chlorinated, metal-laden waste.
DT: And they’re mixed and stored on site? Is that right?
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SP: They now have the ability to store and blend waste from whatever’s brought here or whatever they are dispatched out to pick up.
DT: And did they ever have upsets or problems when they mix and blend or burn these wastes?
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SP: Yes, I mean, it’s human nature, it’s—it’s run by people and—that there’s all types of dangers handling that type of—those types of materials. Are we getting a visitor?
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SP: Give me another question, can’t think right now about that one.
DT: Can you describe some of the problems they’ve had sporadically like when they have an upset? And also the kind of problems they have chronically? You know, day in and day out with their plant and the emissions.
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SP: I—with the operation of the plants and all the waste coming into this area, it’s—it’s a—a big danger of being trucked as far as spills and evacuation. There’s so much to be considered when you’re handling all those. And emissions, when they’re starting up are greater and then there’s upsets during operation that emissions sometimes are a hundred times what there are during normal operation. And it’s just—I’m sorry, just give me another question.
DT: Maybe you can talk a little bit about the industry and how it obtains some of the special exceptions and loopholes and why they’re treated differently than most incinerators.
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SP: Okay. Basically, you know, when the incinerators were being built it—it was taking too much time to build them and permit them. And someone got the idea at EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] in about—in the late ‘70’s that, let’s put some of this waste in the cement kilns because they have such a high BTU [British Thermal Unit]. I mean, you know, their firing temperature is immense. And they were just thinking that everything would be burned up. And so they started letting the companies take the waste in the ‘80’s and there was—they gave them—when they applied, they gave them a [Resource Conservation and Recovery Act Hazardous Waste] Part A permit and they didn’t have to have the [Part] B till later on, which was much more extensive and—and called for test burns and what have you.
DT: And then the way they treat the waste, how would it be different from how an incinerator would be burning waste?
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SP: Okay. At a commercial waste incinerator, when they accept waste it’s—it’s mapped throughout the process. It’s—there’s a grid that, you know, it’s like a cemetery. They know where every body’s waste is and EPA rules are you’re supposed to have responsibility from cradle to grave of—of your waste. Well this way they don’t. It’s all blended together and then when—after the incineration process is done and the cement is made, then the ash—the resulting ash, just like you would have, you know from your fireplace or something, it’s just thrown back out here in this quarry. It’s just being blown around on a windy day or what-have-you. And it’s very concentrated with metals and dioxin.
DT: And what sort of health problems have you seen in the Midlothian area from possible exposure to these chemicals?
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SP: Well respiratory problems are very, very prevalent. I mean, we have so many children that have respiratory problems and asthma and so many young—y—youngsters on steroids. I mean, this is damaging their body for, you know, here on out. And we’ve noticed like at our place that the livestock was having reproductive problems. And then the—the area around here has four times the amount of Down Syndromes that would be, you know, a—thought to be average, you know, in—in the United States. There’s just a lot of red flags that go up and—I’m sorry.
DT: When you heard of some of these health problems and you alerted the government, what sort of reaction have you had and who have you talked to?
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SP: Well, years ago, I was approached by some of the people in the community to help fight the third plant being built here. And I said, “What’s the big deal, you know? It’s not going to hurt anybody. The government is going to protect us.” So, I mean, you know, I wasn’t against anybody making money, so fine? Well I should have been involved and—I can’t even remember your question now and I’m sorry.
DT: We’re just asking about who you wanted…
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SP: Oh, okay.
DT: …to talk to…
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DT: ….which agency…
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DT: …and what their reaction was…
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DT: …when you brought up your concerns?
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SP: When I became in—concerned I didn’t know there was even an agency other than EPA. And then somebody s—from the organization said, “Well, we’ve been going down to Austin and lobbying, you know, our Congressman and our Senat—state Senators.” And I thought well I’m just going to help do that. And we went down and I was very naive in thinking that if we went down there and honestly told them what was happening, they’d do something about it. I’d give them, you know, two to six months. The problem would be over. I don’t think so. It’s gone on into the tenth year now. We even went down there and had tent city.
DT: Tell us about that.
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SP: That was something that was—I guess, I wasn’t a snob but I certainly wasn’t a demonstrator, you know, and it—it—I was very self conscious about doing it all but I thought it—this needs to be done. So we took a bunch of tents down there and when it was the—right there on Congress we put the tents on the Texas Air Control Board—or—or the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission’s front yard. And we had that there. And we had a little tent, we had tables, we passed out brochures, we stood on the steps and gave them to the officials and—and the representatives as they were coming in and out. And they looked at us like we were crazy. And this one man said, “Who—who hired you to do this?” I said, “Nobody hired us to do it, you know, it’s going on in our community, we’ve got to get it stopped.” And we had a little fake graveyard and we had headstones and that, “You are next,” and “Die-ann Coughin,” and it, you know, it—it was a really good group of people coming together to—trying to make a difference. But, it didn’t work.
DT: And you also worked through the system, didn’t you? You fought a permit for a number of years and hearings.
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SP: Yes, we—we even went to the PTA—the local PTA. And then we introduced resolutions at the state level to—that cement kilns burning hazardous waste should have to adhere to the same standards and—excuse me, I got to get a drink. What I think I’m going to do is put this gum in my mouth and maybe it will
—like I said, we went to the PTA [Parent Teacher Association]. We went to the state convention and presented our resolution, and zap, here was the industry. They had brought people in as representatives and through parliamentary procedure got it tabled indefinitely. So we were really shot. But the next state convention, we were there and we knew parliamentary procedures forwards and backwards. And the industry was there and they rented numerous booths. They were just, you know, campaigning to bomb us out. But that was one of the really high points in our effort. We were able to present our situation to the individuals that—are, you know, common mothers that care—everything. And it had nothing to do with politics. It had nothing to do with greed. It was just look, this is endangering the health of X amount of children, it’s not right. And we got the vote and they went to the Legislature with the resolution and it’s still on the books. That is their position.
DT: I guess in endorsing your opposition…
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SP: Oh, right, um hum.
DT: …of cement kilns burning….
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SP: Uh huh, that’s their policy, that they think that any cement kiln burning hazardous waste should have the identical standards and regulations as a commercial waste incinerator.
DT: Were there other environmental groups you’ve managed to get help from?
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SP: When you work in something like this, no one group does it. It has to be just an influx of people coming together. And I’ve met so many different wonderful people. The American Lung Association has come forward and—and really introduced legislation in—in everything to help our—our problem. The Sierra Club, both at the state chapter and the local chapters have helped. Greenpeace has helped us, Don Henley, the Beastie Boys. It’ll—and the umpteen jillion garage sales that we’ve done to pay for our hearing that went on for well over a year. I think it was, supposedly, the longest permit hearing in the State of Texas history. And we were in there and it cost so much money. And we knew they’d get a permit but we thought that it would be a modified permit, that the—w—they would require certain stipulations and they didn’t. And that was the most heartbreaking thing of all of this. So, we have appealed, and we were denied an appeal, and we appealed the appeal and now we get to appeal. But this is not over yet and I think that some day this will be the same thing as it has been with the cigarette science, asbestos, all of that. You know, they said it wasn’t hurting anybody but it is and it would.
DT: Can you speculate why the permit was issued and your objections were overruled?
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SP: The permit was issued because that—well, lobbying—it’s just all politics. It’s all politics and greed and they’ve got far more mon—ch—money than we do.
DT: Have you met some of the people—the lobbyists or the folks from the industry and talked to them? What are they about? What are they like? What are their points?
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SP: I met and heard many of the employees and—and their officers. And I feel that they know what they’re doing but basically they’re just blinded by greed because this is a very lucrative business. There’s millions in it. And, to this day, these industries will not diffi—differentiate between what they make from cement and what they make burning waste.
DT: Do you think that the business is more about burning waste than making cement?
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SP: There have been—in time—in the ‘80’s, you know, there was kind of a—a recession and that’s when most of the burning started. Now we’re in a bigger boom—an industrial boom—and they—they just can’t keep up with progress, you know, with all that’s—all the construction that’s going on. So we’re—what’s frightening is, you know, nothing at la—lasts forever and when the—there’s not a lot of construction going on and we’ve got these facilities here, will they go back to burning waste? Will every cement plant across the nation burn waste? Not just in this state but they’re also trying to do it in other countries.
DT: And there are a couple dozen cement plants now is that right in the United States that burn waste?
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SP: Yes, there’s a—when we started on this issue, there were approximately thirty plants in the United States that were burning waste and we formed a national coalition and we helped each other. What we found out was passed along back and forth, you know, and—and we lobbied. We went to Washington umpteen times. And I—I’ve sat down with Carol Browner.
DT: Tell us about some of your meetings and the hearings that you’ve gone to in Washington.
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SP: In Washington—let’s see, I—I met with Carol Browner [Clinton-appointed EPA Administrator] here in Dallas shortly after she was appointed. And she was here on the South Dallas RSR lead smelter issue and I got in there with her to speak to—with these—these people. And I ha—I gave her a petition about yea thick, with eleven thousand names on it, asking them to do something on our issue. And then we met with various people under her in Washington. And it’s been slow but hopefully I di—I just don’t know, you know. I—I’m very, very concerned that this will be done in other communities later, even more so than it’s being done now if we don’t get stopped.
DW: Are these cement kilns here major local employers and, if so, do they tell you you have to make the decision of jobs versus the environment? Like, “Well, if you don’t want to work here, we’ll just take our cement factory and go somewhere else.”
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SP: Oh, yes.
DW: Tell us if that’s made people in the community be polarized or pitted (?) against them?
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SP: The town—it is totally divided. I mean, there—there are those that are concerned about the health problems in the community and then there’s others that just (sniffs), “Oh, that terrible odor smells like money.” And it’s—it is jobs versus health and that’s just not right. Give me some more questions. I don’t think I finished that one for you.
DT: Can you talk about the Chamber of Commerce? What has their view been?
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SP: Midlothian’s a small town and the plants—they employ a great deal of the people here. And if they’re employing, you know, there’s not but like five thousand people within the town, maybe they’re not employing you but you’re related to someone else. And they say if they don’t get to continue doing this, there won’t be any of these jobs and that’s just hogwash. I mean, I think every body knows that up to date technology and trying to do something right will—there’d be jobs for those people. I mean, when you do something right it—it’s—it takes longer and it takes a little bit more money but it pays off in the end, so…
DT: Have you had any people who work in the plants who agree with you either tacitly or in an outspoken way?
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SP: We have a lot of people that come to us and they are very concerned about this but they’re not in a position to be visible and they will give us information and—see I just can’t even keep a straight thought—I’m sorry.
DT: No, that’s fine. But, what sort of concerns do they come to you with?
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SP: Like, some of them will come and—and tell us about mishaps of handling the waste, where one gentleman just got mad and walked off and left it pumping. It ran all the way in the quarry. And, I mean, that leaches into the water table. There’s just, you know, they want you to know—a lot of people want you to know what’s going on but they can’t be visible because they know and they have been told if they are ever a part of or a member of our organization, they don’t have a job.
DT: And have some people had those threats carried out against them? Lost their job or been harassed at work for getting involved?
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SP: No, I don’t recall any employee for them directly being involved with us. It all has to be behind the scenes because it’s—it’s—they just don’t want to take that—that chance. And let…
DT: Maybe you…
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SP: …me—I’ll give you an example. There’s one particular man that lives very close and his child has leukemia. He cannot afford to be open because he don’t want to lose his job. He don’t want to lose the insurance for his sick child, so…
DT: And how is the company, you know, one of these major companies here treated you? Have you felt any pressure from them or have they tried to monitor what you do and what you say to whom?
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SP: Well, we always feel that they’re very interested in what we’re doing, where we’re going, what we’re saying and what we’re doing.
DT: How flattering.
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SP: Um hum. And, I mean, it’s like sometimes—it—you have a party line but you don’t really have a party line. And you can—in—during the hearings we heard some of the things that we had said verbatim, word-for-word that we had had in conversations with others. So there’s no doubt it, you know, it’s—it’s, I guess, to their best interest to be very aware of what goes on with us.
DT: And do you think they got instances of conversations you had by tapping your lines? Can you give me any examples like that?
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SP: Well, I think the most blatant time that I felt like I was really being monitored at my own home and I had some information and I needed to get to another person. So therefore, I would go down the road and use a neighbor’s phone. And that particular day I went down the road and just as I turned in their driveway, there was a man up on the telephone pole and he just slithered right down and threw his little cleats in the back of that pickup and he was gone. And I drove in and I said, “Need to use your phone.” She said, “Oh, great, go ahead.” And I picked it up and it was dead. And she said, “I just used it a little while ago, it can’t be dead.” We walked back out there and this—this plastic box type thing is just swinging from the wires up there. He never came back. He wasn’t a telephone man. We called the telephone company the next day and they had a bucket truck come out there to do what he was doing with those cleats on. So someone knew that I was even using a neighbor’s phone rather than my own. And that was just one of three instances.
DT: Have you found that you have any opponents that you can really pick out? Or is it just sort of a faceless company?
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SP: Oh—oh, a counterpart?
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SP: I c—well…
DT: Is there a trade association that you see?
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SP: Yeah, there’s….
DT: Or certain PR people?
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SP: Well, for years, the executive with the company that did their public relations dealt with us. But when it came time to acquire this permit and we were going to the adjacent cities and asking them to support and donate to the cost of the permit, the industry hired a—a gentleman to—a spin doctor. And, oh, he spun all kinds of tales and he wove so many lies for them. He was a pro and it was just, you know, it was one-on-one with him.
DT: Can you tell me about the time there was a radio program, and one of the industry officials was on there and you phoned in?
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SP: Right, there w—they were having people call—call in with comments on the public radio station. And this particular day the—the executive for one of these plants here was on there and he was being honored and—and—because he had done so much in the past for Head Start for the children in—in—in public broadcasting—broadcasting Sesame Street, Big Bird and all that. And so I called in and told him that, you know, we were really pleased with what he was doing for the children but that my concerns were that he was having lead in the emissions from the plant around here, which would have a direct effect on the children’s mentality. And he said, “No, we don’t,” and, of course, I cited to him the amount that they emit. And he just lost the concept that he was on radio and he just shouted at me, “But you can’t prove it.” And then we quit talking. But that’s their—their issues. You can’t prove it but it shouldn’t have to be our responsibility to prove it. They—it should be, I mean, they said, “Let’s use science.” Well, citizens’ groups can’t develop science. Industry’s the only person—or the government—has the ability to develop the science that we need and industry’s not going to do it, so…
DT: Have you managed to find some technical people to help you? I mean, this is a pretty complex issue and you….
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DT: …probably know a lot of lay people who are concerned but maybe don’t have the lingo and jargon down.
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SP: Right. There have been representatives of the Lung Association, you know, that they—they have the science of what certain things do to the lung tissue, that there’s ex-state agency person that—Neil Carmen—he has given us the exhausted amount of—of information and then there’s Dr. Paul Connett up—up north that, you know, he has released—and—and Barry Commoner. There’s just people scattered everywhere that, you know, have been willing to give us the information that we need, that i—it’s just not in the Martha Stewart handbook of being a stay-at-home mom.
DT: Maybe you could talk a little bit about that. You were a mom and, I guess, not as interested in some of these things—concerned with raising your family—and then you became an activist. Can you talk about how that’s changed your life and your attitude?
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SP: Right. I—I was never—well, when we moved from North Dallas, wanted to come out—our child—and have a—a country environment and the air quality was getting real bad over there. And I had a child that was having problems and so we just picked up and moved out here and everything was great for quite a while. And I—the environment and situations—pollution all that—it just wasn’t on my priority list. You know, I was just so busy being a mother and raising horses and just too busy to be concerned about what was happening. And then when it affected my family, my husband, my mom, and my dad, and my aunts and even the animals that we were trying to raise, it—it was unbelievable. You just couldn’t believe that this had happened.
DT: Can you talk about some of the effects on your family and your animals?
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SP: Well one day Sierra Club was—the—some of the members had come up from Austin and we had a—a meeting over in Ft. Worth and they were going to come back to here. And we came—the highway—and you could see all of it going on, you know, the stacks were just dirty, filthy. We had two vans and everybody in the vans began to be coughing, all that s—you know, my chest is tightening. And I went home and my mom was not good that day. And she had had some problems, she—respiratory problems for quite some time since this all started. And so anyway I got sick that night and she did too. And the next day I had to put her in the hospital and the next day she was dead. It—it was that, you know, all of us were affected but she couldn’t—she just couldn’t withstand what she had been exposed to. And, with the horses, we would see physical signs, you know, the necks swelling under the jowls, all being congested and then we started having a lot of babies that were born prematurely and would have respiratory problems. It wasn’t like they had any type of infection. They had difficulty breathing. And some of the birth defects and—a lot with the cattle.
DT: What sort of birth defects were you seeing?
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SP: Like with one of the calves, it only had one eye. And some of the horses were born without eyes. And twinning in horses is very uncommon but we had—and—and it wouldn’t be maternal twins, it would be fraternal twins. You know, like one would be red, one would be black or bay. And a lot of the—the lab work showed that—that—that the thyroid glands were not functioning. And this is, you know, basically a master gland for animals and for people. And also many of the—the problems coincided with what—the animal problems coincided with what the people were feeling. You know, like flu-like symptoms, you know, your eyes burning, your te—chest getting real tight and coughing and just no energy. You’d just have to lay around and this would be depending on which way the wind was blowing that day.
DT: Did you ever have success asking for an epidemiological study? Can you talk about your efforts to get one?
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SP: When the children—when the Down Syndrome children were discovered, they weren’t discovered by the state, the mothers themselves put it all together. They—they have an early childhood intervention to help children that are, you know, impaired. These mothers would say, “Well, I’m living here, I’m living there,” and then we got—it was like there was twenty woman—of them around in the area. And so the state was brought in. The state said that they would do a study on these children. They never did it. They didn’t pull one vial of blood. They didn’t come and talk to these—well, they did speak to some of the parents but nothing was done. Then it—we were told that they—that people went to the Department of Health and industries had said, “You know, you need to get this study over with and if you can’t, we’ll talk to the governor.” And then we thought well. Then I decided to go to EPA. Let’s do an animal study and this was the first—this was shocking to me. It was to be the first animal study that EPA had ever conducted in the nation.
DT: For the effects of burning…
00:43:49 – 2105
SP: Um hum.
DT: …hazardous waste in cement kilns?
00:43:52 – 2105
SP: Uh huh. Right, burning waste, how it was affecting livestock and, you know, pets and whatev—and—and they wouldn’t allow the pets to be a part of this study. They went and—and they—only people they contacted were landowners and a lot of this land around here is leased by people. And anyway far down the—I’m sorry. Well into the study, the EP ah—EPA office was visited by Joe Barton and we were told that Joe Barton was the person that—that asked the study to be discontinued and it was stopped.
DT: And what’s his role?
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SP: Joe Barton? He’s the—Congressman Joe Barton for our area—for the—the Ellis County area.
DT: Have you spoken to him? Has he had any reaction to the concerns around here?
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SP: Yes, Congressman Barton and I have had a number of talks and he is inclined to take the position of the cement plants. Ironically, Joe Barton went to college on a cement kiln scholarship. So that’s where his loyalties are and—and he has told me that this is jobs. And I told him that I didn’t think someone’s jobs—someone’s job should be another’s health problem or a disease, so…
DT: I understand that you’ve gotten involved in other air quality problems beyond the cement kiln and hazardous waste issue, that you’ve moved on to a broader agenda, is that right?
00:46:26 – 2105
SP: Down Winders at Risk, right now, is working with some other groups to form an alliance, the Blue Skies Alliance. And in that there’d be SEED [Sustainable Energy & Economic Development Coalition], and Public Citizen, and Clean Water Action and American Lung, various organizations like that—Sierra Club.
DT: And that’s to work on the Dallas-Ft. Worth…
00:46:53 – 105
DT: …non-attainment problem?
00:46:55 – 2105
SP: This was a move that we thought that we needed to take, you know, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. And we went through everything for the hearing and based all—all of our efforts on that for a number of years. Well they had gave them the permit. So therefore, we thought we have to go at this in a different manner. And we went to Dallas and Ft. Worth, Denton and Collin Counties, because they’re non-attainment. And we were able to prove through the TNRCC’s [Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission’s] website that the pollution here is going into the non-attainment areas. So we launched an effort to try and make this county non-attainment so it would be under the same regulations. But just so—so far, it has not happened yet. But we—we were told if they see this, that and what have you, then it would be automatic. Well it has not been ou—automatic to include this county and I’m sure Mr. Barton’s part—part and parcel of that also.
DT: Maybe we can back up more and look at, sort of, the environment in general and the future prospects. Can you talk about what you see as future challenges for people concerned about the environment?
DT: I just had a couple more questions. Maybe you can talk about either what you think about the big environmental issues these days.
00:48:56 – 2105
SP: I—I have seen a number of young children, or—I say children—young people—they would come to me and say, “I want to write a paper on this issue,” and we’ve had countless students come. And it—it was very gratifying to see that some of them delved into it so deeply, that it—it made an impression on them and the path that they will take in their lives. Like one of the students now wants to be an environmental int—attorney. And then another child, she wants to be in environmental science and I feel like—that I—I really think and hope that the children that are growing up today know so much more and they won’t make the mistakes that we did and they’ll do a much better job. Every day the whole world becomes more aware of the real importance and—and—as to what our actions are causing. And it’s just, you know, it’s been a wakeup call for a lot of people, including myself, and I think it’s one of the major challenges to our young people and our entire nation.
DT: And the young people you’ve met who are working on these issues, are they optimistic or pessimistic? I mean, given your experience and frustrations?
00:51:03 – 2105
SP: No, you don’t want to tell them too much about the downside because they’re new blood. They’ve got so much energy and—and so many doors that were closed to some of us will be open to theirs or they’ll kick it down. I mean, you know, they’ve got spunk and—and it’s just like cigarettes when I was growing up, that was the thing to do. Nobody knew what it was going to do to others. And these kids today, they’re living this and they know what’s going to happen if they don’t get in charge of this and turn it around.
DT: Do you have advice for these kids?
00:51:48 – 2105
SP: I think it’s—advice that, you know, y—y—continually told, well this is okay and that’s alright and this won’t harm you—they need to inform themselves. Just because somebody says, “Oh, well, the emissions were at this and that on that particular day,” don’t take those words. Find the answer out yourself. Because lots of times you just think, “Well, they say it’s alright.” But it’s not alright. And—and don’t take anything for granted. Just delve into it real deep and be proud of what you’re doing.
DT: I have one more question. I understand that you’re family has deep roots in the Midlothian area and I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about your feeling about this place and your connections to it, what it means to you.
00:52:51 – 2105
SP: Well when I was a little girl, we would come to my granddad’s farm and—and he bought—oh, I guess it was about fifteen hundred acres at that time. And when he passed, he left so much to each child he had. And then we bought a little section that was landlocked and we brought our only child and he’s raised here, educated here and, you know, some people are, I guess, like gypsies, but we’re not. We’re just really deep rooted. And I said, “Daddy, we need to go.” My dad’s—my mom is gone, my dad, he’s eighty something, and I said, “Let’s just sell everything and—and find us another place.” And he said, “No, can’t leave, wouldn’t know where everything was there.” And then I’ve known people that left here and went somewhere else and, behold, they had a problem. There was another source of pollution that was affecting their life. So I g—you can’t run from it. We’ve all got to face it nowadays and take care of it.
DT: Well said, thank you very much.
00:54:14 – 2105
SP: You bet.
End of reel 2105
End of interview with Sue Pope