Interviewee: Kerry Dressier
Interviewer: Jessica Smith
April 12, 1994
S: I will be interviewing Kerry Dressier. She is an environmental activist and a
member of the Florida Defenders of the Environment. Today's date is 12 April
1994. The time is now 2:45. My name is Jessica Smith and this interview is
taking place in the Florida Defenders of the Environment building, located at
2606 NW 6th ST.
Please state your full name.
D: Kerry Ann Dressier. Would you like my maiden name also? [It is] Radcliffe.
S: When, and where were you born?
D: I was born 10 May 1947 in Malden, Massachusetts. My mother is Australian
and my father is North American.
S: What are their names?
D: My mother's name is Sylvia Evonne Margaret Vauchitson Radcliffe. My father's
name is Walter Arnold Radcliffe.
S: Can you tell me a little bit about your early childhood and your education?
D: I was raised in a small town called Clifftondale, which is about seven to ten miles
northeast of Boston, Massachusetts. I attended elementary and junior high
school there. My family moved to Tampa, Florida in 1960, when I would have
been entering the ninth grade. I completed the ninth grade and four years of
high school in Tampa, Florida. I graduated from Chamberlain High School in
Tampa. I went to the University of South Florida for one year. What else do
you want to know about my childhood?
S: [I would like to know] anything you would like to tell me.
D: Let us see. I was not involved in any sort of outside activities or environmental
activities as a child, as I had some physical problems; I was born without certain
tendons in my ankles so I could not walk well on even ground, or anything. So
my career aspirations were more towards medicine. And indeed, when I started
at the University of South Florida I was studying chemistry. However, that was
the time of the Vietnam War. A lot of other things were going on then and a lot
of people who started in one direction never got there they sort of got
sideswiped. And I was one of them. I ended up dropping out after one year. I
was doing all right, but I got married instead. My first husband was in the air
force and I traveled a good deal with him. Actually, we ended up going to
Panama. I was divorcing him then in Panama. I do not remember the year but
my children were three and four at the time; they were born in 1968 and 1969, so
I can figure it out. [It was] about 1971 [that] we went to Panama.
First, can I take offense that you call me an "environmental activist"?
D: I do not consider myself an activist.
S: I am sorry.
D: Perhaps "environmental educator" [would be better]? Almost anything [would be
better than] "activist"; that has a connotation of someone who goes out in the
street and raises flags and is not taken very seriously.
S: I apologize for that.
D: You do not have to apologize; I think you can just understand what I am trying to
do, so I thought I would put that in.
S: So, what did you do while you were in Panama?
D: I was thinking about things that have influenced me to sort of get into the
environmental field. Even though I was not involved in environmental issues
when I was young this was during the early 1960s when I was in junior high
[school] in Boston I was an excellent student. I was [at the] top of my class.
When I was in the eighth grade my science instructor, who was a late-middle
aged woman, said we were going to take a special test, that "Harvard University
was coming around to test us." And those students that did exceedingly well
were to be put into a special class. (This was the first time that people started
playing around with these special classes.) [The classes would be] during high
school and it would be accelerated science it just seemed perfect for what I
would like to do. I was the type of person who had my own microscope and was
always running experiments and was always in the science fairs. So I took the
exam. And they were only going to pick two people from each school district.
In my class, I won; I was the highest. And one other fellow from another class
across town, who was also from our county, was going to be in it. I remember
when I did not know this at the time the teacher got up to announce the
winners. She announced my name as having gotten one of the highest grades,
and this other fellow from the other side of town. And then she said that the
runner-up was going to be this other boy in my class by the name of Alan. And
then she said in the same spiel before the whole class, while she is telling me
how I did "so well," and this and that, she says, "And I really think it would be
very good for you to give up your spot for Alan." And I am sitting there sort of
nonplused because I wanted this so badly [and] I had worked so hard. And I
[had] thought, "I am vindicated; I have really done a good job." And she tells me
that, [while] I am the highest one in this area and this school, I need to give up
my position for Alan! And I said, "Why?" And she says, "Well you are never
going to do anything with it. You are female. And Alan is an excellent student
[who] is probably going to go further with it. So it would be to his advantage to
take this course." I can remember being just brokenhearted. And not being the
type to speak out, I just sort of sat there. And the more I thought about it after I
had gotten home, [the more upset I became]. I was so upset. We moved that
summer, so push never came to shove. But by the time summer had arrived, I
was seriously thinking of maybe standing up and saying, "I wanted to be in that
special class." But that was the whole idea; not everyone was like that, but that
was much more common when I was in junior high school. You would not see
that today well, perhaps not as much. But it really hurt. And I guess I started
feeling that I could not do things.
And I went on to high school at Chamberlain and I ended up taking every science
they had there, I think just for spite. I took chemistry and I took physics and I
worked on the weekends at a hospital in Tampa. I do not remember the name
of it now it was a county hospital.
At that time we had a lot of people coming over from Cuba. (This would have
been in about 1963). And physicians, some of whom had gone into politics (you
know how they mainly migrate out of being a doctor to another field), would find
themselves of course leaving the country rather quickly, [and] without any
resources. [They would] find themselves in the United States, where they were
not an __ of the city anymore or mayor or something. They had to look for
another way to support themselves so they of course went back to medicine.
Well I think for once the A.M.A. [American Medical Association] was bright in
making certain that these once-physicians went back through an internship,
rather than just giving them a medical license. Because I saw some pretty bad
ones when I was working there. But as part of this I guess it was a future
doctor-type thing club from school, I would go over there on the weekends. I
worked in the emergency room. And then I took an interest in laboratory work.
So this is all inside things nothing really to do with the environment. But things
were a lot, shall we say, "freer" then, and I was allowed to do things that you
would probably die if you heard about now. I delivered a baby before I was
fifteen. I was taught to suture wounds. I can remember being in an emergency
room when stab victims were brought in, holding my hand over gaping wounds,
and this sort of thing. It was quite awesome for a teenager to go through. But it
made me very serious, too; I think I grew up a lot faster. In any case, there was
another fellow there who really wanted to work in the emergency room. And as
usual I felt that, "If he wants to work there I should maybe find another place to
be because there was not room for both of us." So I made friends with
somebody that worked in the laboratory. And the laboratory only had one man
on during the weekends and he worked by himself. He had plenty of time to sort
of take someone on and teach them so he taught me how to do all of the different
laboratory tests. And as I did each one satisfactorily and practiced it for a while,
the county medical examiner would come over and examine me on it. He would
test me and see how well I did. And if I did well he would certify me to run this
particular test. So by the time I was seventeen years old I was running all of
these tests in the county hospital: urine analysis, C.B.C.s, chemistries and
drawing blood all of those things that I would have had to be a medical
technician to do. But he checked me out on everything first, and everything I did
was checked for a long time. So I think I did a good job. But I always had this
interest in science.
And then when I started college [I] really thought I was going to become a doctor.
It was just a serious of accidents, I guess, that kept me from it. The first
semester I was in school I was in an automobile accident. I got a concussion
and my eyes were bad for months. It is not very easy to try to study; I was
taking twenty-one hours at that time. And I had things like advanced chemistry
(which is a special course) and calculus and physics and behavioral sciences. I
ended up having to drop a lot. I kept my chemistry, [but] I dropped physics and
calculus. And I took English and behavioral sciences by exam, because there
was just no way I could read; my eyes were not focused. So the next semester I
was in, having been pretty discouraged having to drop courses the first semester,
my next door neighbor was involved in a fatal accident. The husband was killed,
the wife had a nervous breakdown. And she had three children under the age of
ten. So she took to her bed. I was already the eldest of four and my mother
became ill. So I had to live at home to go to school because it was not
considered proper for me to go away to school. So before I could go to my
classes I had to take the children next door to their private school, I had to make
sure my brothers and sisters were dressed and on the bus, and then I could go to
school, as long as I was home in time to make dinner for both families and do the
cleaning and the rest of it. And it got to be so difficult that getting married looked
really good. And [so] I made one of the biggest mistakes in my life and ended
up thinking it would be easier to get married than to stay where I was. And I
think that had a lot of influence on why did [get married]. Of course, I could not
do as well in school; I just did not have the time to study and I did not have any
privacy. I envied those kids who could go away to school. But my parents did
not believe in giving money to go away for college, or to help me through college.
I started college on a scholarship I got for a science fair project; I won the
county science fair in Tampa when I was a senior. So that money was just
about gone by then. Of course it was a lot cheaper, too. I could go for $13 per
credit hour, which sounds pretty good now.
S: It does.
D: Well the University of South Florida was pretty small then, too. Anyhow, I ended
up getting married and found myself in a position with a husband who did not
believe that I needed any more education than I already had. And, being so
poor that I immediately had to take any job I could find, I taught myself how to
type in about three weeks. I took the typing exam for the federal services so I
could get a job and work as a secretary for a year or two. I gave up all
aspirations of going to medical school, I guess. I had two children, divorced him
in Panama, and started back to junior college in Panama called Canal Zone
College. And of course it was not an easy time. My children were very young
and I had not done any math or science in over ten years. (It was about ten
years that I had been married.)
So when I started classes I did not do very well in my calculus class to say the
least even though calculus was one of my favorites. I had a very good
instructor, Mr. Gordon Small, who called me in one day. He said, "There is no
reason for you to be flunking every test I give you. This is ridiculous; I ask you a
question in class and you know it. And I know you are working hard. What is
wrong?" So we started talking. I told him I was in a bad situation. And he
said, "I'll tell you what. I think you really need to get out and away for a while.
You need to take some time for yourself." I never knew what that meant! He
said, "Don't worry about your grades. I do not care if you flunk every quiz we
have. But whatever grade you make on the final, that is it." I think I flunked one
more exam and then I started doing very well. I ended up with an A for the
semester in calculus. And I got an A in calculus II.
I started hanging out with Gordon. He was a butterfly collector. He had what
was considered the best private collection of butterflies in the world. His
butterfly collection was of Panama, Costa Rica, and mainly South America. And
he is an old bachelor. He really enjoyed having somebody fawn over him a little
bit. So I baked him some brownies and took them over to the house. And in
exchange he would play the piano for me. (He was a concert pianist at one
time.) And he taught me about music and he taught me how to mount
butterflies. And I would try to identify them. Well in Panama the Smithsonian
Institute has a research station. So he would take me to the library and he said,
"Now, you have to learn how to do this so you can identify butterflies for me."
And I think that the first chance I ever had to do something, [I did it]. I was still
doing something for somebody else, but it was my choice to do it; it was not
something I had to do. And I enjoyed it very much. And I still had an aptitude
for science, which I was beginning to discover again. But this was the first time
it was an outside science. We would go out in the field and chase butterflies and
get bitten by anything that crawled or slithered or flew. I have very light skin and
I think that is why they take me along. Because when I am along, nobody else
get bitten by anything. But my first introduction to the outside world was not in
Massachusetts (which was probably just as well)--but in a lush, tropical
surrounding. My idea of nature is sort of skewed; I think of nature as being a
jungle. And so up here, this place at times looks very desert-like to me. I was
down in Panama for six years before I returned to the States for a visit. I can
remember flying in over Miami airport and thinking, "My God, this is a desert.
What have they done to this place? It is ugly. The trees are so short and there
is no greenery." It does not look that bad on the ground, but it looked terrible
from the air.
Well in any case, I started spending more time my free time over at the
Smithsonian. Gordon wanted me to talk to one of the professors there Robert
Gressler so we could go into the field with him. He was one of the few people
who really worked in the field all of the time. He enjoyed it. He was a
masochist I think, really. (You have to be to enjoy that!) [laughter] But
anyhow, he knew Panama like the back of his hand. So Gordon asked me to
get Robert to take us into the field. I did so, and he agreed to take us. But he
did not like to waste time. He is a biologist and he works in orchids. So if you
are looking for orchids you do not stand still and try to swat them with a butterfly
net; you have to keep on moving. Gordon was smart enough to know this. But
also he knew that if he tried to stop and collect something, one or the other of
them was going to be very frustrated and he would not get another invitation out.
So he took me along and my job was to follow Bob all day long and think that
we were really enjoying the day while Gordon could sneak out the back way and
stay in one spot near the car and collect butterflies. So we did this and it almost
killed me, because I do not think I saw anything but the top of Bob's shirt all day
long as he would be disappearing around a corner or climbing over a site over a
rock. And we crossed rivers and went up the sides of mountains. I could hear
his machete clearing a path up ahead but I did not see much of him. And I was
miserable: I was getting eaten up by anything that was around; I was thirsty; it
was hot and very humid; and [I was] just covered with sweat. It was a really
miserable day. But I thought, "Boy, Gordon had better give me an A for this."
And the day finally ended when it started raining. I finally caught up to Bob and
he said, "Well, we'd better get back because the river can swell." Well we
crossed a small stream [that] was maybe about 100 feet wide, but it was only
about four-six inches deep on the way in. When we got back to where we had
left Gordon, he was not there; he had already heard the lightening and
thundering and gone back to the car. So we had to cross this stream. But it
was not a stream anymore; it came almost up to Bob's waist. And [the river]
was so fast and so furious that Bob had cut a stick to get across it. And it
knocked him right off of his feet. (He had told me to wait on the shore while he
started to cross.) And he started going downstream. Well, I knew that we were
about one-half a mile from the ocean and that, by the time [the river] hit the
ocean it would lose a lot of its strength. He looked sort of funny and I looked at
him and said, "You can swim, can't you?" And he just sort of looked at me and I
realized that he had not answered the question. So he started trying to push his
way towards an eddy that was a couple hundred feet downstream, and I got far
enough out [to where] I could pull him in. And we were stuck on that side of the
river for [what] must have been a couple of hours. There was just no way to get
So we sat and talked a lot. I really enjoyed talking to him because I had not
seen him all day; we had not had a chance to talk. And he is hard to reach in
the office. Being [that he was] a very important scientist, I did not feel like I
should be involved anything. And we started going out in the field a lot.
Gordon and I would go out with Bob quite frequently then, and got to know a lot
of Panama. And I really fell in love with the jungles.
And then when my divorce was finally final, I received the unwelcome news that I
could no longer stay in Panama because I would no longer be sponsored by the
military. So I went in and told Bob that I would have to be going back to the
States. He was very disappointed; he wanted me to stay. I said, "I can't; I am
not sponsored." And he said, "Well, you could always marry me." And this is a
man that I had been out in the field with a lot but I was not dating Gordon, I was
not dating Robert, I was not dating anybody. I just wanted to get the hell away
from anything male. He was a very nice person and he said, "Well we get along
fine, why don't you marry me?" And I said, "Forget it! What rock did you come
out from under?" He said, "Don't take me wrong; I just think we really get along
well together, and I do not want you to leave." So push came to shove and I did
not want to leave. I decided that I would stick around for a little bit, and I did
eventually move in with Bob. That was eighteen years ago this coming June.
We got married about a year later and we still go into the field together all of the
time. And we have not had a first fight yet, so I guess it works out pretty well (if
you get along under those conditions). I would hate to have everybody go
through that in order to get married but it seems to work. I know other students
who have come down and gone into the field with Bob and come back and
decided to change their professions.
The idea I wanted to bring across was that I saw, I think, the earth at its best.
That is the way I was introduced to it. And so I sort of took a lot of it for granted,
too. I was just discovering a new world. I would help at the Smithsonian.
During this period I was going out with Gordon and Bob because I knew a lot of
Panama then. And when students would come or doctors would come from
other parts of the world to do some investigation, if nobody was around to take
them into the field, I would volunteer. It got me away from home and gave me a
chance to take someone to another area of Panama--especially if they were
paying, because I did not have any money. So I sort of signed on as chief cook
and bottle washer for any expedition that came my way. People from the BBC
would come through, or David Attenborough from the BBC, and photographers
from other parts of the world. I worked with a professor from the University of
Michigan on frogs and I learned a lot about science and a lot about the world.
And I washed a lot of dishes and a lot of [laughter]. I dug a lot of
four-wheel vehicles out of the mud. Because one thing Panama has is that red
mud like you have up in Georgia. Only it is about two feet thicker, I think, and
there is constant rain. It was an interesting time in my life; I enjoyed it very
much. Bob and I continued doing that after we married. He works in orchids.
And since I was not going to get into medicine, but I was sort of starting my life
over again, I sat down in order to logically think [out] what I wanted to do. I did
not want to give up what I had gotten back. I had worked hard for it; it took me a
long time to learn how to think and talk again. All I could say was what was
ready for supper, and talk to the kids, etc.
So he had asked me to do some photography for him because he did not like to
carry cameras; he was too busy running up the side of a mountain. And they
could get in the way. And you really had to watch them carefully; you could lose
things. So we made a deal (actually, we made a deal long before we even
moved in together): he would supply all of the film in the cameras if I would do
the pictures he needed. Because in orchids, pictures are a great deal of what
you do. The orchids would not survive long enough to get them down to sea
level in Panama City if we were up in the mountains. Or they would not survive
in a backpack, or however else we would carry them out of where we would find
them. And I can remember being very poor at photography when we first
started. But I figured if anybody else could do it, I could do it. And I got some
books and sat down and taught myself how to be a photographer. At first I had
only two or three shots that would be good out of a roll [of film]. But pretty soon
the numbers got higher. Until now, I do fairly well. And since I was doing that, I
also learned to work in the darkroom. The Smithsonian had a darkroom
available and I sort of was their volunteer specialist in darkrooms for about ten
So during this time we traveled around the world. My backpack of cameras has
been around the world two and one half times. That was the safest way to carry
them (in a backpack). So I had been in the rainforest and almost every place in
the world. Except, I have not been to Borneo yet. I would have liked to have
seen that. We worked in New Guinea for a while and Australia and India and
Malaysia [and] quite a few places around the world especially where they had
tropical rainforests. My husband's specialty is the classification of orchids so
that was a good excuse to see what they were like in other parts of the world.
And the more you photograph, the closer you are looking at things, and the more
you can appreciate them. And so everything [simply] looked "green" for a while.
But now I can pick out different types of "green". I do not know the names of
the things but I have a good appreciation for them.
During the same time over that ten year period or so we saw a lot of
destruction. Every dry season we would see the burning start; we could just see
it from horizon to horizon. They would be burning all [during the] dry season in
the tropics. We would go back to places where we had been weeks before and
they would be burned. And the whole species of orchids would just be wiped out
because it was it was a small area and endangered species of butterfly orchids.
And that was heartbreaking. We would work with the Indians in the eastern part
of Panama near the Columbian border. And it was amazing to me how far we
would have to walk to forests because of course the Indians would use it. The
Spanish (or the Panamanians) were opening up areas of the __ very quickly
and they were trying to push a road through. And wherever there is a road you
have people cutting in order to feed their family. And the soil is very poor in a
tropical jungle because the constant rains leech out anything from the soil. And
so all of these huge, huge trees I cannot describe the size of a tree in a
rainforest, it is incredible would have very shallow roots. Even the plants
would develop other ways of getting nutrition because those trees would take
everything there was to maintain themselves.
So one thing we studied for a while was what we called "trash basket plants".
And these were plants that, growing in a rain forest, would have a sort of upright
habitat. They would look almost like a cup; the leaves and branches would go
upwards. And that way they would catch leaves and debris that would fall from
things that were bigger than that. And this debris would rot and compost in this
cup of leaves. And you would have your own microcosm in it. So what we did
for about six months maybe longer was find these different types of plants
and put a big plastic bag over them to trap everything that was in there. We
would cut them off and take them home to count the different species and
insects. We found snakes and all sorts of things, living in just these little tops of
plants. Some of the [plants] would be two or three feet in diameter, but not very
Oh, there are lots of little projects we have worked on over the years, I guess.
Some of them I like better than others. I remember one time [Bob] wanted to
investigate the largest cockroaches in Panama. And he thought he could
contain them. But he was wrong. And they were big suckers! Maybe not as
big as the Madagascaran ones, but they were big enough so that I did not
appreciate them getting loose in the house, or anywhere else. I much preferred
it when he worked on things like __
S: Something easy and controllable.
D: Yes, something less "yucky". Anyhow, I guess the more we saw in the tropics or
traveling [the more disturbing it was]. Like in Malaysia (that was a terrible thing)
while __ tin mines, you could travel for miles and miles and it looked like the
gates of hell. All you saw on either side of the road was this churned up earth
and puddles and lakes of water no green. It was all brown and black and [the]
smoke hung a sort of red pall to the air. And this factory building was
somewhere in the middle of it. And as the price of tin would go up, they would
go back over where they had mined before. And so they kept churning up all of
this area that had tin in it. Because they would develop better ways of mining it
better ways of extracting it from the soil. Of course, these were deep mines
and very extensive. It was just terrible.
[There were] other places in Malaysia. We were collecting at the top of a
mountain in the __ Highlands, [that was] just absolutely gorgeous. [It was]
one of these miniature forests that had stunted because of the constant
wet--what we call in Panama, "Bajareque" ("nothing missed"). So in fact, it was
called a forest, but all of the trees were stunted--they were maybe six or eight
feet high. And you actually ended up walking on the branches rather than
walking on the ground. And this was just filled with one of those beautiful big
mosses. And you had the Pampies, the little cup-like plants that have insects
going to them. And they use the decomposing insects that get caught in the
liquid at the bottom of the cup to sustain the plant. [There were] just all sorts of
neat, wild things up there. [There were] beautiful, beautiful Orchids Corianthis.
I took lots of pictures.
We came back and about eighteen months later we went around the world again
and it was gone. We got up to the top of the road and it was just flat there
was no hill there. And in its place they had a helicopter landing pad and a hotel
going up. And they cut paths through this little forest. We found beer cans and
toilet paper from the workers, and just everything was smashed down and gone.
I heard that the hotel did well for about five years, and then I think it is either
closed now, or is about to close. It was a very short-lived project. (This was
back in the early 1980s.) And yet, they destroyed something that took millennia
to build. God knows how long if they will ever replace it again. That sort of
made us more and more depressed. We were loving Panama but we could see
the destruction; it was getting faster and faster.
So I guess we started thinking about deciding to retire. We started thinking
about coming back to the States because we could buy someplace here and we
could control it; we could keep it from degrading. So we came up here on
sabbatical in 1981 for six months at the University of Florida. And we found
some property. We were not really looking for it it found us. [It is] about
twenty acres about seventeen miles out of town. So we purchased that and
started building a house, thinking we would retire back here in another five years
or so. But we did not last five years. Three years was about all we could take
and then we had to find an excuse to come back to our property here. Because
the more [destruction] we saw down there, the more we wanted to be back here.
And we sort of thought of the United States as not having the serious problems
we saw in other parts of the world. But it had them. And it was not until we
came back here that we realized how many it had. I do not think we had been in
the house six months or so, when the Jacksonville-Tampa toll road project was in
the newspaper. I was reading about it because they said it was going to be
coming very close to our property. I thought, "My God, we have gone through all
of this, we finally have a place, we have put every penny we own into it, and now
they are going to turn it into a rest stop?" I did not need this.
And I had noticed in the paper that one of the women who was protesting this toll
road had a name that sounded familiar: Fiona Sundquist. And I thought, "Gee,
don't we know a Mel Sundquist or something?" And my husband said, "Oh yes,
he has visited in Panama. You do not know Fiona, but we do know Mel." In the
newspaper, she was talking about how the new toll road was going to wipe out a
good deal of property from the University that was now being used as research
property and a lot of research would be wiped out. [And] I thought, "Do we really
need this toll road?" Well, it was [apparently] going to save five minutes driving
from Tampa to Jacksonville. That is important, you know.
D: You add those five minutes up and you would have enough time to stop and take
a quick smoke or drink a coke or something. And I had driven a number of
times from Tampa to Jacksonville and I did not feel that 301 or any of those
roads were that bad. So I guess that is why I felt that I might get involved -
especially if they were going to take my house. So I called Fiona and I said,
"You do not know me and I do not know you, but your husband knows my
husband. And I am interested in the toll road." So she and I met with a couple
more of her neighbors and we formed a group called "Concerned Citizens of
North Florida". And we only had two weeks to do something before this whole
thing was a done deal; it was a very quick type [of] thing. But the DOT
[Department of Transportation] was going to be holding a "show and tell" to
demonstrate where the toll road was going to go at three different places:
Middleburg, Gainesville (the next night), and Ocala (two nights later). Fiona
turned out to be a photographer and natural history writer. So we had a lot in
common. She could not believe that first thing. I said, "Why don't I go, just for
the heck of it, and drag a camera along?" (Because that is second nature [when
you have been] a photographer for ten years.) So they had all of these big wall
panels of that area of the state. And the corridor that they were anticipating to
put the highway through was several miles wide. It was a very nice exhibit
because it gave you the property numbers; you could find out where yours was,
down to naming them. But it was difficult for people to go in and see this and
take away any information. There was nothing that was handed out. It was just
a "come-in-and-see-if-we-are-going-to-get-you-or-not" type of thing. And very
few people showed up that first night. So I expended a couple of rolls of film,
took them home and called [Fiona] and said, "Boy are we going to get busy." I
have a darkroom at home so I went in, developed [the film], and printed it out.
The next day I took 8X10 prints up to her house and we decided that we were
going to make as many copies as we possibly could and pass them out at the
meeting that night in Gainesville. We must have been making hundreds of
copies; we got as many copies as we could of all of the various areas divided into
what would fit on an 8X10, so people could see what area was going to be taken.
And a lot of the small towns were going to be the root of this DOT monster.
That night we showed up with a little table out front and patiently took the names
of people who were interested and passed out these sheets of paper. The
Gainesville [meeting] was much better attended. And we passed out our sheets
of paper and had people sign a petition and we got close to 6,000 signatures
before the two week period was up. We took it up to the DOT offices in Lake
City and they put a hold on [the highway]. So we felt very proud of ourselves.
And that was my first "outing", shall we say.
[End side A1]
D: I guess in that case you might have called me an activist, because I definitely
was proactive then. And we continued working [together]. Fiona was married,
as I said, to a scientist from the University of Florida. He is a biologist who
works on tigers and lions and big cats. Of course my husband was an associate
for the University; he was a botanist. One of the other women who joined us -
her husband was a historian at the University. And we knew a lot of people at
the University at this time. So we sort of sat down to think of what we could do
that would be effective in this case. After the first rush was over we gave
ourselves some breathing space so we could then find a way to deal with the
problem. And we talked to a lot of our friends who were at the University. And
they are not what you call "activists". People with Ph.D.s do not normally get out
in the street or get that involved with things. So we decided that we would rather
look at things in a responsible way, just to see if it was really needed, to see if
they were doing the work properly. If we were going to have a project we
wanted it to be the best project possible. If it was needed we wanted to make
sure it went through the safest areas doing the least amount of damage. We
were out to stomp the toll road, yes but only to the point that we would then
have a chance to sit back and look at it. Because they had not asked for any
__ input before that, and we were bound and determined that we were going
to have it. So we formed a group that was called the "Technical Advisory Board"
as part of the Concerned Citizens of North Florida. They were not all University
people; there were people from the water management district there were quite
a few names on that, because it was not known that they were on the board.
[There were also] planners [on the board]. There were lots of interesting people
who wanted to know a little bit more and have a little bit more input into what was
going on. And we would hold meetings at the University and go over problems.
Each person would look at a project from his own particular perspective. And it
sort of made us unique; we were not out there fighting things, we were out there
examining things and trying to get a good name for doing good work. We found
out the people we had to deal with. And we did not just go up there and yell at
them. We requested information, we discussed things with them. If we were
talking about resources that were needed or the economics of something, we
would get a resource economics professor to talk to them. We were talking
about a particular area needing to be saved. We did not just say that it was our
backyard and we wanted it saved, but we would get people who were doing
studies in that area and [demonstrate] why it was an important area what
endangered species were there? And I think we got a fairly good name for
ourselves with the state, because of the attitude we took and because we always
put everything we did in writing. When we had something to say we backed it up
with references [and] we backed it up with people they could call to verify what
we were saying. And pretty soon they would call us and ask us to review things.
And that group the Technical Advisory Board is still fairly active, when we
need people to look at a project. We have now gotten a number of people from
the University who are very excited about that because they have seen that they
have been able to do something and [have been able to] accomplish something.
One thing we got asked to look into was the extension of the turnpike. Would
you like to hear that story again?
S: Yes [I would].
D: I do not want to bore you. [Well], I got a phone call from a group of citizens that
lived in a housing project that was going to be "split asunder" shall we say, by the
extension of the turnpike. But by then the DOT was a little bit smarter; they
would give you two or three different corridors so you never knew which one was
going to get it. But they were going to get you. And apparently it had gotten to
the point they were not just talking about it [where] they had already
commissioned and gotten an environmental impact statement (which I shall refer
to as EIS to save my tongue) and they were going to hold a meeting. I think it
was someplace west of Ocala; I have forgotten now. And this meeting was
going to be in a junior high or an elementary cafeteria ("cafetorium" is what they
call them), where they were going to present this environmental impact statement
for the public to look at. It sounded so good in the papers: "We are going to
have an open meeting for citizen involvement. We are going to have legal
transcribers there that will take down questions and answers, so that everything
will be done [correctly]. We have learned our lesson. We will have citizen
input." [However], they neglected a couple of little things. They neglected to
say that they only had two copies of the environmental impact statement and that
it was approximately ten or twelve inches thick. And the [DOT representatives]
were going to be there from seven at night until ten. Of the 600 people who
showed up to look at these two documents that were eight inches thick, I do not
think it was realistic to expect one person to review this document and to say
anything coherent let alone 600 people. And all you got was a lot of very
However, before I knew what a farce it was going to be--we had heard about this
before [I obtained my own copy of this EIS]. [It was] through a friend on the
water management board [that] I found out that they had a copy of this EIS And
so this person said, "I can get you a copy if you want to duplicate it, and then you
can have a good long look at it." So in a period of about four or five days before
this meeting, we made about one dozen copies of this huge document. We
parceled it out--each [group] got its own special section for comments on the EIS
I suppose it does not matter if I name who did this because it is not public
record. A group named Crystal, __ Hanover, & Ray was the consulting firm
that did the EIS And we did not know anything about them and they did not
know anything about us--at that point. But we had a meeting the day before this
other meeting was to take place at _ had very people; they were
just so upset. Because these guys had never really even looked at an EIS
before. They had not been involved to see what it was. "I would not accept this
from an undergraduate," they were saying. It was a horrendous mess. "Who
thought they were going to turn this in? People were getting paid for this
document?" And you had a bunch of really pissed off people. Anyhow, each
one of them had taken time off and written an analysis of this. But more than
that, they had written a set of questions that they wanted answered. And so,
being the most ineffective looking person myself- being a middle aged
housewife I was the one elected to go to the meeting with my little recorder and
series of questions that I was supposed to pump them with and hopefully get
answers to on tape. They did not want anyone to go who knew what they were
talking about; I was just supposed to be reading these questions off. And I was
very effective at that, because I really did not understand half of what I was
supposed to be asking. So I went to the meeting and I recorded it. I think I still
have the tape someplace. And I asked questions like, "I see in your
environmental impact statement that you examined every area of this
twenty-mile-long, three-mile-wide swamp for endangered species of plants and
animals." A fellow who was there said, "Yes, I was the coordinator of that
project. I and my helper did that; we walked every inch of the way." I said,
"Could you tell me a little bit more about how you did this?" And he said, "Well,
we went to the University of Florida" and that is supposed to impress you right
there "and we took color photos color photos, we spared no expense of
every species of endangered plant. We developed these [pictures] and we
duplicated them and we took these photos into the field. And we walked
[around] looking for these plants. We did not find any; we put down what might
maybe occur there, just in case, but we did not find any there to worry about."
So I told the meeting that he had said this. And my husband, who is a botanist
and had worked at the herbarium, thought he would check this one out. So the
next day he asked the fellow who runs the herbarium Ted Kirkins if these
people had indeed been over, and where they would get colored photos of the
endangered species is there a living collection? And he was told, "No, there is
no living collection. But yes, those people were here. They were here in the
first week in December. They came in, wanting to see all of the endangered
species that we have on file. And I helped them get them out. I told them that
they would not be able to find any now because this was not the time of year.
But they took color photos in one of these herbarium species." If you have ever
seen a pressed flower that you have kept around for umpteen years, you know
that they all have about the same color. So it does not make any difference if it
was colored black or white or yellow; that is about what they look like. And it is
very difficult to tell what they look like unless you are an expert; one flower looks
mighty like another if it is only a tiny fraction of an inch thick and it is dried and
brown. But they did they took color photos of all of these specimens and the
dates when they could be found, and then they deliberately went into the field
when they were not there. We knew when they went into the field because we
knew the date that they had gone to the herbarium. We knew they took the
pictures, how long it would take to get the pictures developed, the earliest time
they could have gotten in the field, and when they told us they turned it in. And
they had a less than two week period that they could have walked this twenty
mile long, three mile wide corridor with these color photos, to find these plants.
[And all] within a period of time when they could not have been found. We
figured they were pretty smart.
It was much the same for the animals. The people who worked with animals
had given me some questions to ask about the type of trapping that they did,
taking a census of the animals. They asked me to have him describe this, and
so I did. And he gave a description. And when I __ back I said, "Well, that is
not what they did. Because there is a specific definition for this type of census.
And what they did was not that." So they understood perfectly why they had not
found any of these animals, because they had not known how to look for them
(or they knew how not to look for them). And that did not give us a lot of faith in
EISs. And that lack of faith has continued to this day. We wrote something like
a twenty page review of the document and signed it with all their names and sent
it to the DOT And that project was put on hold. We never received a letter
back from the state. They never addressed any of the comments that we made,
which we feel were very legitimate. Thirteen other Ph.D.s thought they were
legitimate too! They went ahead and considered that their only public review
period. After all, we did have a public meeting, so they did not have to have
another one (even though we turned comments in). And they are progressing
with that; they are going to go ahead and do it anyhow. I am not sure where
they are going to put it at this point, but it was a good experience in how you can
do everything right and still not get everything out of it. We stayed involved in
transportation issues. We had one person by the name of Ray Leneer who
followed them very closely. And as other problems come up, other people have
asked us to look at things. Well we do that as a group; we find someone who
can look into it and give us a review of it. So I think that __ has a unique way
of getting input from a lot of people who would not normally do it, except if they
were working as a consultant for somebody. So this has been donations of time
and energy and expertise that I think have been very welcome over the last few
years. So that is C.C. and F.
I suppose I should talk on what has happened since then? I can remember
thinking, "I am glad the toll road is dead, because now I can get back to having a
real life again." Boy, how naive can one be?
During this period that the turnpike eventually was, shall we say, "out of the
public eye" for a while now it will come back, and those people will get it built
where they want it built, and we will not have a chance to have input the next
time; we have educated them on how to get around us, I think. I had gone up to
a meeting in Starke, where the state was proposing to put a hazardous waste
incinerator. And I did not know anything about hazardous waste at the time, but
I thought if the state was going to put one there, it needed to be taken care of.
So I was not worried about that. But boy, this toll road was a nasty business. It
was going to ruin Starke, and they needed to know about it. So I listened to a
speaker Dr. Paul Connick who teaches at a college in northern New York
state (he is a chemist). And he is a very charismatic man a very good
speaker. Without talking down to people, he educated us on what half of this
waste is, and the differences between theory and practice the theory of how to
take care of it and what you should do about it, and what actually happens to it
(or what happens when you put a bunch of people [together] who do not share
the same "attention to detail" as those persons who have designed the project).
It was an extremely enlightening meeting that scared us all half to death. And I
never did mention the toll road because I sort of felt silly when these guys were
going to be sitting next to one of these damn hazardous waste incinerators.
So I went home that night thinking, "God, I just do not know what to think." I did
not even talk to him [Bob?] that night; I was just so stunned by the whole thing.
Because I had [taken] enough chemistry, I understood that these things were
hazardous; I did not have a sort of savoir faire attitude towards chemicals. I had
worked in enough laboratories I understood that you had to care for them
properly and take care of yourself. I just never dreamed that people did not
know this and that people were not doing what they said they were doing, and it
was not being done. That was something out of the Dark Ages. I did not sleep
all that night, wondering about what I could do. And I guess the next day, I
thought, "Now that I know this is happening, I cannot, in all conscience, not do
whatever I can do." And I guess I have sort of a knack for understanding
technology. Maybe [it is] because I lived for so long around scientists and I had
a bed for science when I was growing up I do not know. But I am good at
explaining to other people what is going on. And I thought, "Maybe that is what I
can do." And in order to be able to sleep again, I figured I had better find out
exactly what is going on.
So I started driving up to the Department of Environmental Regulation in
Tallahassee. And I asked "Who is in charge?" and "How was this raised?" And
I met a person by the name of Raoul Clarke, who is the administrator for that
section. And I said, "I do not know anything about this but I am really upset and
I want to learn." He was very pleasant considering how naive I was very
pleasant. He started giving me materials to read and I started haunting his
offices and the library up there. And as things developed, I started getting more
and more knowledge about that [hazardous waste incinerator]. And at about
that time, not only did we have the Starke facility (which was planned), but
another facility was being planned in Polk County. And this was by Florida First
As time went on I was gaining more expertise and at least understanding what
was going on. And so I was told about a public meeting for this new facility in
Polk County. I thought, "Well, I will go down, just to see what is going on." And
the DER let me know about meetings that were going to be held with Florida
First, examining their application to put a hazardous waste incinerator there.
And since the state had never gone through this before, this was going to be a
learning process. That sounded good to me because I knew that I did not know
anything about it. And so I started going to these meetings that were held about
once a month, for a couple of years, where you would have representatives from
various DER offices on one side of the table, and the representatives from the
processing company on the other side of the table. And in between you would
have this huge seven or eight-volume stack of materials on how they had
planned this incinerator. They would then take it apart page by page, word by
word. And I thought, "If nothing else, I will learn about the facility and I will be
able to see what the DER knows about it." (By this time I did not really trust the
DER to protect us.) And the environmental groups that were forming to protest
this facility were giving me the option of coming to these meetings too. I came
to one and wore a T-shirt that was protesting it, and [I] got up and said, "You are
not going to protect us," and [I] walked out. And I thought, "That is not the way
to do it; we are just antagonizing these people." And since then, they have been
to one or two meetings over three years, but none of them have stayed for more
than an hour or two. And these meetings would go from nine in the morning
until five at night. So if nothing else, I learned how to keep my eyes open. And
I went to all of those meetings. I was very impressed with how diligent the
various examiners for the DER were; they put in a lot of time and effort. What
they did not understand, they questioned. Things they did not like, they would
bring up and fight over in these meetings: "Well, I think that you need to have
more protection here," and "I think you need to have that there." And in some
ways it was a borrowing-type thing: "I will do this but we are not going to do that."
I started understanding enough to take notes. So I would go back to these
groups and say, "They are doing a good job here but I think that if you pushed
over there, maybe you could get this and DEP" DER at the time "thinks that if
they do this it will be safer for you." And so they would start fighting for that and
it would a help to DER and it would be a help for them if they wanted to live in the
area. And they were vehemently against this facility.
I worked with Greenpeace one year they came down here. They were going to
take a bus tour all through Florida, to various parts of Florida that were having
problems. And at that time, the fellow from Atlanta who was working on
hazardous wastes I had met [him] at one of these meetings and he knew I was
active in things asked me if I wanted to go along on this tour. He said, "You
can come along and learn how we do things [and] meet a lot of people around
the state. We will ask you to talk; just talk to them about what you are doing."
And so I thought, "This is going to be neat." So I checked out onto one of these
buses and traveled with them for a couple of weeks. And we went to all of these
podunk towns around Florida. People would be lined up at these meetings.
And some of the things they said, I think I would agree with. But if I did not
agree with them, what I could do is I could tell them how they had the choice of
becoming educated and making up their own minds about what was going on.
So whether it was a medical waste facility or a hazardous waste facility or a toll
road or whatever I ended up speaking more to the women in the group. After
all, I was a housewife, I had two kids, and I was just coming out of a long period
of not having any involvement in anything like this. I was awakened to the
problem. If nothing else, I wanted to protect my children. And there was not a
woman there who did not want to do the same thing. There was no reason why
those women could not go out an learn as much as they wanted to learn and
make up their own decisions. If they thought a place was a bad facility they
ought to research it to where they felt comfortable with it, or they ought to fight it
one or the other.
And it was good for me to do because I got to see a lot more of the problems in
Florida. I got to meet a lot of people and I saw how much misunderstanding
there was in the general population about particular things. And I got to know
the people at Greenpeace. I have a lot of respect for them. And I am not
above calling them in, because they serve a very vital purpose for us. If you
have a small town [where] everybody knows everybody else and you are
protesting a facility, there are an awful lot of problems for those people who are
protesting. And they may be perfectly right in protesting they may have every
reason in the world [and] it may be a terrible facility but a lot of pressure is put
on those people because they are going against the grain. There are jobs at
that facility and other people may not understand the problem. And if you are in
a situation like that [where there is a call for protest] you can put a call in to
Atlanta and say, "We need help down here. We need you guys to make a mess
down here and take the flak." Then they [Greenpeace members] would get in
the bus and they would come down and they would have a march in the street
and they would protest the facility. And you see, Greenpeace made it into the
newspapers [then]; it was not your next door neighbor. [Therefore] the [citizens
who wanted to protest] got a lot of attention where they needed it, but they were
not under as much pressure. So Greenpeace was very good about that. Like I
say, I wish they did a bit more educating than they do walking the streets
sometimes, but you have to have those people in the organization to do it.
And they have some very good people. They have Pat Costner from Arkansas
who is their expert in hazardous materials. And she is very, very bright and very
good. I have done some writing for her in the past but she cannot be at all of the
meetings. When she does go she is a very effective speaker and she is very fair
to all sides.
You have a lot of questions, with any of these things. You have questions of,
"Do we have a problem?" and "Does it need to be taken care of?" when you are
talking about medical waste or hazardous waste or a new road. And if you
decide that you do have a problem (that you do have a waste that you have to
get rid of and you do need a road), then you have another decision [to make] on
how to fairly implement either a facility to dispose of these things or where to put
the [new] road. And a lot of people get dumped on, [such as] a black community
or a poor community. What it is, is that anybody who does not have the power
to protest (or has the least power) is the one who is likely to end up with the
facility whether we need it or not. And of course if it is badly needed, then you
have everyone else around you wanting you to get it. They do not want it, but
they know that they need it. And you are sort of put into the position of, "Well, if
I do not take it, if it is not in my backyard, then I am really hurting the environment
anti environment." So it is a bad situation. Of course it would be nice if we
did not make as many of those things, but it is difficult to tell people that. If I
have heard this once, I have heard it fifty times. When you go to a meeting
where a company is telling you they need to put in either a land fill or a
hazardous waste facility, the biggest thing they say is, "But you make the
hazardous waste; we do not make it. We are taking care of your hazardous
waste. I mean, there is not a woman in this audience who does not use nail
polish and nail polish remover." [Personally,] I have not worn it for years. But
they say this and the women start looking around. "Well did you know that nail
polish remover is a hazardous waste? What do you think happens to that
hazardous waste?" And then I would get up and I would say, "When was the
last time you used fifty-five gallons of nail polish remover? Where do you keep
it?" They pushed the blame for all of the waste onto the community, onto the
people least likely to have made the waste. Sure, we all want the technological
products that produce the waste. And sure, we are responsible (in a way) for
having the technology. But they make it sound like we control what is being
sold. And we, as consumers, do not. We are given what we are given period.
And there are safer ways of producing things. We are not given the choice-
[although] we are now, more, but we were not then. "Are you going to buy one
that is less toxic and less dangerous, or this one?" We were not ever given
those choices. We were told, "This is it. Like it, or leave it." Now, since we
took it and we used it, we are responsible for the waste? I do not know how
many times I heard that business about nail polish remover. I never wore it
anyhow, and I do not know a lot of mothers who do wear it. They are more
worried about what to do with the diapers these days! But it is a favorite line. I
think someone somewhere sits and thinks up all of these lines and ships them
out for a price to these companies.
Of course they keep track of us, too. My name must be on a lot of lists. I have
to call and try to get names of people. Someone asks, "Do you know anybody
who is working on such and such a facility in such and such a county?" And I
will say, "Yes, why?" [And they will say], "Well, I would like to get in touch with
them." [And I will say], "Well, who are you? What are your interests?" [And
they will say], "Well, I am interested in getting in touch with them." [So I will
say], "Well, may I have your name and phone number?" And "Click!" they will
hang up. Sometimes you find out that they are compiling lists of people who are
working against facilities in cities or towns county by county and they sell
these lists to people who want to go into business in that state. And then we
find that those people who are on these lists are investigated. Their private lives
are opened up to the press. If you are the type that causes trouble, you will find
yourself suddenly on the front page as having gotten a traffic ticket back in
who-knows-when. Or [as having been] picked up for having a little bit too much
to drink after a party one night. It is a lucrative business for those businesses
that provide the information. And I have had (I guess) about five calls in the last
few years from companies trying to get this information from somebody who is
obviously already on the list! [laughter] So you have to be careful of what you
say, because you can hurt a lot of people. I have friends who have had their
cars bombed, [had] sugar put in the oil, and [had] their cars destroyed. They
have lost their jobs; husbands have been warned to keep their wives "under
control" or they will lose their job. There is a lot of environmental backlash in
Florida. And it is getting worse. This year must be the worst yet. There are
not too many physical problems with environmentalists, but they are just trashing
us up in the legislature. And they take our names in vain a lot. [This is] why I
think I work extra hard at being careful about what I say. And having good
science on my side and there is a lot of bad science as well as good science I
[am] trying to work with industry to make a safer project, as well as working with
communities to help them get rid of a project. We are going to make a decision
if they want a project. I am sort of going from subject to subject, rather than in
S: That is OK; that is fine.
D: I remember once I was working on tires; tires are all over the place. And Pat
Costner (who I told you worked for the Greenpeace) had asked me to write
something on tires for Greenpeace. Well, I write for various organizations when
I have time. But she was going to pay me for this! And since I am a volunteer,
I was willing to put some good time into it. So I went to the University library and
I started digging up everything I could on tires what they are made of and what
the problems with tires are and how they should be disposed of and [how] maybe
they are not a problem. And then I started tracing down the things that you
cannot find in the libraries. Because these are problems of today and tomorrow
not of yesterday. And it takes a minimum of a year to get a book published
anyhow; by the time it gets in there, it is outdated. So I started calling the
various people who research tires and work on tires. Pretty soon I had a good
file cabinet filled with tire and rubber materials. And I wrote a nice little
document for Greenpeace. I was supposed to investigate the combustion of
tires (it is used as a fuel), and whether or not it was safe. It is also used in
roads, and [I was supposed to investigate] whether or not that was safe. And I
got lots of good, useful information. I would send it over to PAT and she would
send it back.
Everything was looking fine until it came to the part [where] I needed to come
down on all incineration of tires. And I could not; if it is done properly, I feel it is
a safe procedure. But Pat wanted me to say something a little bit stronger. So
what I did, was just ship her all of the information on combustion from the various
facilities. [For example] in Modesto, California, they burn tires at one factory.
And they have had some problems with the factory. When you use big pieces of
tires whole tires you have a slag from the metal in the tires. That can cause
the grates to have problems at the bottom of these furnaces, and they have had
to rebuild several things. But all in all, it was working fairly well. What you need
to watch out for in tire facilities, is how they are going to store the tires. The big
problems for the neighborhoods are having a tire fire, which is extremely bad for
the environment and for the neighborhood. And then just a "pea soup" of all
sorts of chemicals gets into the water table. That is very bad. Or [another
problem is] the fact that you [can] have insects breeding in them. And we have
a lot of problems here in Florida from tires that have been imported. We have
had imported tires from countries that have the Asian Tiger Mosquito and now
it is endemic here. It is what they call "a cavity breeder". It can breed in tires or
in a bowl of a tree or in a cup that you leave outside! Of course, everywhere you
look you find these, so these mosquitoes do fairly well. And they have gotten as
far north as Ohio, so they even __ winter fairly well. They came in on tires -
dry eggs imported cases from other countries.
So I sent [Pat] that information and said, "You tell me what you feel about this,
and I will go with whatever you say." And it was never published, because I
assume that she could not find anything bad enough to say about it, so it was
better not to say anything [laughter].
Back in this time I made some contacts with some people working for large
consulting firms on tires. [For instance], Malcolm Pearney is a very large
consulting firm across the United States. And one fellow there Michael
Blumenthal was working on a project of what would happen with -soaked
logs that were found in the rivers of New York. And he called me because he
had gotten my name from somebody because I had worked on hazardous
wastes. ([When] anything is [dealing with] hazardous [materials], they just give
out my name that is the way it goes.) I had asked him, since I had a real-life
professional on the phone, "What do you know about tires? Do you do anything
about tires?" Well at that time, he was not. But I said that I had some material,
and we exchanged a bit of material over the phone. And [I] shipped some stuff
to people. And then he turned out to become really interested in tires and called
me back several times. And then he quit Malcolm Pearney to form this scrap
tire management council (which is now going great guns and has yearly
meetings with all fifty states on how to deal with scrap tire problems). So getting
in on the ground floor with some of these people has been very good, because I
have been able to keep up on the information.
When they had the tire fires up in Canada a few years ago, I had Greenpeace on
the phone trying to get all of my information for the guy (from Canada) that they
were going to interview on Nightline. And then I had the EPA on the line the
same day the one who was going to be the other person on Nightline for
information! [laughter] So it was funny that I was giving the same information
out to Greenpeace and to the EPA. And they did not come out the same on
Nightline let me tell you.
Somebody told me someplace that I was written up as being the "Tire Queen".
[It was] not exactly what I wanted when I was going through high school. I was
never queen of anything, so now [I was the] queen of tires. But Florida has a lot
of tires. You figure that there is one tire discarded every year for every man,
woman, and child in the U.S. That is about 250,000,000 tires a year that you
have to find a place to dispose of. I could talk about tires all day; maybe we
should get off of the subject.
S: No, go ahead.
D: OK. You are going to educate everyone on tires? In Florida we have a
problem of course, with the storage of tires. We did not give support a few years
ago (of course this is now changing) to anybody who wanted to work with tires, to
find new uses for tires. And any small entrepreneur would go bust without a
word, they would go bust. And talking to people from Minnesota and the
environmental regulation up there, they had a lot of tire problems. So I made
some contacts there, [when discovering] how things were going along. People
either wanted to burn [the tires] as fuel, or to use hydrolysis to sort of "melt" them
back into their essential elements. Or you could cut them into shapes and use
them for [various] things: making them as sandals using them as a sole of a
sandal or using [one] as a bumper against a wharf, or something like that.
So I can remember calling a group called the CCHW- Citizens Clearinghouse
for Hazardous Waste which is based up in Virginia. And they are the only
other group I know that really works on hazardous waste. They are very, very
action-oriented. They are activists. Talking to some friends up there about the
problem tires, when I said, "I am looking into the combustion of tires; it is not as
bad as you think it is." "Wrong!" they said. "We do not talk about things like
that. The only prescribed use for tires are as planters, or you can cut them up in
shapes and use them as bumpers on wharfs, or [you can make] shoes, or a
pocketbook out of them. This is the only constructive use of tires that is all
that we are going to permit." I said, "Well, [with] 250 planters a year up
alongside our highways and interstates we are going to have the most beautiful
country in the world. But we are going to run out of room to put these tires [in]!"
And he said, "I agree that maybe it is not so bad. But we cannot tell people that,
because they would let these things in and it would be run badly." So people
were not getting good information even from the citizens' groups they had
called. They were getting only the activist line. And this bothered me. They
did the same thing with medical waste. Shall we get out of tires and go to
S: You can go to medical waste.
[End side A2]
D: OK. [Let me] finish up on tires. People know not to mention that word around
me because I find it difficult to shut up about tires. Well anyhow, I could tell you
that since then, the state of Florida has had what they call a "Technical Advisory
Committee". And that is a much better way of dealing with these problems.
You take a group of people with interests in whatever you are trying to write a law
or a regulation on. People from the scrap tire industry, people from the rubber
industry, environmentalists -just any interested people and the regulators. You
put them in a room and say, "You cannot leave until we go over this." And you
get their ideas on what would be problems with the law, [such as], "Is this
unfair?" Well, you cannot expect the DER to have a expert in everything.
There are experts in laws; they are not experts in each of the separate fields.
So this is an education process for everybody. And I was on the technical
advisory committee for scrap tire regulation here [of] used tires, or whatever
you want to call them. And that regulation was made a law. It has passed and
it is providing funds for entrepreneurs who want to come in with new projects for
uses for scrap tires. It is providing safer regulations for those facilities; they are
already in operation. And I think it would be a worthwhile thing. I am glad we
went through it. I learned a lot of the problems that the various companies have
in maintaining a market some of the problems with different types of processes.
A tire is a miracle of modern science. You have so many chemicals it is like a
witch's brew of chemicals. I should give you a copy of my paper on tires
because I cannot remember it all right now (God help me if I did!). Anyhow,
what you have taken is a hundred or more chemicals, mixed them all together
with your rubber, and you have oxidants, antioxidants, ozonants, antiozonants,
chemicals that make the tire last longer, [chemicals that make the tire] behave
better, [chemicals that make the tire] stick to the road ([or] not stick to the road),
[etc, etc]. You name it each tire is different. The formulations are state
secrets and proprietary. And then you have all of the different types of metals
and belts that they use to make it hug the road or last longer, or whatever. It is
really incredible. And then you vulcanize this whole mess and it really comes
out as a fairly stable thing. You can take a tire and you can smell new tires.
Any time that you can smell something, it is off-gassing something. And there
are some VOCs volatile organic compounds that sort of off-gas the tires, but
they are very minute. You can take a tire and throw it someplace, and as it is
exposed to the sun it uses up its chemicals that protect it from the sun.
Eventually, it starts to break down a little. But it is really a very stable
compound; [it will last for] years and years and years and years.
One way they used to store tires was on the water. So you would have a mining
pit or something (they do this in England) and just throw all of your tires in the pit.
And it was not a bad way; you did not really pollute the water too badly because
tires are so slow at degrading.
Of course, if somebody sets them on fire you have a different situation, because
each tire contains one or two gallons of oil. And it is a wonderful source of fuel.
Not only do you use up the energy when you start a fire, but you set loose all of
these compounds. I could show you a paper the EPA finally put out, after all of
these years, on what happens when you burn a tire. There are [close to]
eighty-three different aromatic compounds that are released, [along with] all of
these metals that are in the tires. It is just terrible! But that is at a low
temperature at a normal fire's temperature. You get a sort of pyrolysis inside
these piles of tires, where you have the heat coming in but not the fire. And it
melts the tires. And then all of this stuff is like a tar that runs out from
underneath these piles of tires. And that is even worse: [it is] this glop, if you
can imagine it, full of all of these chemicals and things, wandering down to your
rivers and streams. But if you take the same tire and you break it up into pieces
and throw it into a cement kiln, it is quite a bit different. Because the cement
needs to have metal added to form what they call "klinker". It is part of the
process of making cement. So it uses the metals in the tire and it can
incorporate sulfur there is a lot of sulfur in tires and the other chemicals into
the cement. And it saves them a lot of money in fuel. It makes a few of the
tires disappear, too. So that is not a really bad way of doing it. It can be done
badly. But if it is set up properly and run properly, it is fairly innocuous. Another
thing you can do is make what they call, "TDF" Tire Derived Fuel. And that
way you break it up into smaller pieces. And you can even take the metal out of
it, but it is a very involved process. Tires are so difficult to deal with. You need
extremely sharp and heavy implements to cut them; you wear out your blades
very quickly. A lot of the landfills in Florida have tire-splitters come in to split the
tires. And it is expensive. Anyhow, then you can burn it in an incinerator at
very high temperatures. If you are replacing some other types of fuel (they burn
tire fuel in some of the pulp and paper factories now), and if you compare the
emissions from what they were burning before in some cases bunker oil or
wood waste to burning the tires, you actually have cleaner emissions. So
there are some places where it is of good use.
The other things they do with tires [are]: they have another process of freezing
them, to make a tire rind. Or they can put it through several types of grinding
processes and then they incorporate it in roads. They do that right here, in
Gainesville; there are two roads in Gainesville that they have used a tire mixture
in. In some areas the road would cost twice as much, but last four times as
long. So there is an advantage to putting it in. Some of the advantages are, if
[the road] is in a cold country, it has a darker color than a normal road and it will
absorb some light to help break up ice and keep the roads warm. Another thing
is that the roads give more during the contracting and the freezing and the
melting. So you have a lot less repairs. There are some roads down in Arizona
that have been down there for over twenty years, with rubber in them. And they
look brand new. Here in Florida, we estimate that it will cost twice as much to
build the road, but it will last three times as long. It is a little bit less than the
optimum, but it is now part of this regulation that went in that all roads in Florida
have to incorporate a certain amount of tire material in them. That is where tires
stand now. Let us get off of tires for a while.
Medical waste. When people started complaining about all of these products of
medical waste, I sort of felt like I had it in me, because I had previous experience
working in hospitals. People are afraid of those things they do not understand.
And anybody with any common sense would be afraid of something like AIDS.
So it seemed like something that, when people would call me up and ask
questions about medical waste, I should learn about.
I was asked to go up to a county commission meeting in Hamilton County. I had
been working on medical waste for several months, so I knew a little bit of what
was going on. And a fellow up there in Jasper he had come from Jacksonville
to Jasper because he was going to put a facility in came to the county
commission meeting dressed in his blue suede coat; he was really something
else. And he talked down to the people there; he said they "did not know
anything," [that] he was going to build this facility and they "could not do anything
about it." It was "so safe," [he said], that he was going to have his son run it.
And he [said that he] would not have his son come over and live on that place
and run it, if he did not think it was safe. The people asked him, "How big is it
going to be?" It was going to be this huge thing. There were going to be tons
[of medical waste processed] every day. [And the people asked], "Well, where
are the materials going to come from?" He said that it was "none of our
business," [that] it was a business deal that was going in, and they could not "do
a damn thing about it." "Who was backing it?" ([Once again]) it was "none of
our business." As long as he was going to put it in, he was going to put it in.
"Well, have you built any before?" [That] was [also] "none of our business." He
was a businessman, he was putting this facility in, they had to look at that
regulation, he had turned in his application, and he was damn well going to build
it! Needless to say, he was not very popular. As a matter of fact, I heard a few
people talk about coming back to visit the next time with guns in their hand. And
they do things like that up in Jasper.
So after he got up and spoke, somebody asked me to speak. I was not sure
that I wanted to at that point in time. I could not say anything negative about it -
except that I did not like the man. But we needed to look at the permit
application to see what he really wanted to do. And we needed to see if we
needed a facility like that. [We needed to see] how he was going to take care of
the waste (what he was going to burn, and if he was going to separate out things
that could not burn). [And we needed to see] what he was going to do with all of
the ash from the facility. Because he was saying that he was going to save that
landfill from "lots of waste". Well, it was not much of a landfill anyhow. He was
going to burn it and was going to reduce it "99.9% there was not going to be
anything left but ash." Well, there has got to be more than 1 % of ash anyhow.
And what was he going to do with the ash? [He said], "Well, just put it back in
the landfill." Well, that is fine if you are burning the waste from the county. But
if you are going to be bringing it in from all over the United States, that ash could
become a lot. Besides, it is more like 15%-20% with the ash, depending upon
how you burn it. So I took a look at the permit application.
Meanwhile, we were trying to find out more about the person. He was busy
suing everybody; he was going to shut them up. He has lawsuits right now
against the state, against the head of the county commission who had the
"audacity" to ask him those questions. Of course, I had fed him a few of the
questions to ask [laughter]. So I felt a little bit guilty about this. Anyhow, I
found out that the man had started something like six businesses and that three
of them had gone belly up and that everything was in his wife's name. He
worked out of his home. And yet, he was going to put up this "multi-million dollar
facility" in their fair city and then plant his son there. Well, if he is anything like
my son, I can understand wanting to get him out of the house; it does not mean it
was necessary to __ place to put him. Something about that blue suede coat
just really turned me off [shudder]. Boy, did he make me __ And [he was
wearing] a pink tie.
After looking at medical waste, I came to several conclusions. Some made
common sense. Any metals that you burn are not going to go up in smoke.
They are going to be either in the ash, or they can be captured in the fly ash (if
you incinerate, which would be in the environmental control's [hands]). I do not
know how much detail you want to go into about incineration.
Anyhow, the idea is that medical waste contains a lot of mercury. You have
thermometers, you have other instruments, you have mercury used in plastic.
About 30% of medical wastes is just plastics. And plastics are made with
mercury and other medals to give them colors (such as vinyl chloride). When
[these metals are] burned, [they are] VOCs [volatile organic compounds]. So
there are a lot of things in medical waste that can cause problems.
The least problem is destroying the germs. One of the easiest bacteria to
destroy is a virus called AIDS, because it has to be kept at a certain temperature
and kept moist in order to survive. [Actually, AIDS is the disease caused by the
HIV virus, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus.] So by the time you throw
something away and it has been out in the weather or out in the sun or whatever,
it is no longer going to be dangerous. In order for medical waste to harm you,
you have to have it in [a] sufficient quantity [so] that, if you get it in your system,
one, it is going to be viable, so it has to be alive. [And] two, you have to get
enough into you through your skin or whatever to give you an infection or
damage you in some way, shape, or form. So anything that you throw away in
the garbage is probably as infectious as most medical waste is by the time it gets
to a medical waste facility. So that was not the top problem with medical waste.
As a matter of fact, people who deal with household garbage [have to deal with
more contaminating elements] you have molds and mildews and all sorts of
things in household garbage. But we take our medical waste and we sterilize it,
we compact it after sterilization, we put it through solutions of chlorine bleach, we
burn it, and then we worry about it being infectious? I do not think so.
But the problems are, burning it so that you have a lot of ash (which can be very
high in a lot of heavy metals). Or your fly ash that is caught in the pollution
control device could be high in heavy metals. Or what has gone up through the
chimney your volatile organic compounds, [could contain] mercury that might
escape and then come down very close to the facility (because mercury settles
back out very quickly). As soon as the temperature drops, it goes back into a
solid form. [So] the idea of bringing medical waste from all over the United
States into a small county that is farmland did not seem to make much sense.
But if you live near 1-10 or 1-75 or if you have a train that goes anywhere near
We have had a lot of projects that have been for putting huge incineration
facilities in Florida. And it is silly, because Florida has so many other problems
that do not lend itself towards incineration. We have very porous ground. We
do not have a bedrock close to the surface; we have sand. [And] if you pour
something on sand, it is going to go through really fast. That means that any
pesticide that you put on sand or any chemical or any oil is going to hit your
groundwater faster than you can talk about it (in many instances). So we have a
mercury problem. We do not know why exactly, but we think that part of it is
caused by incineration (because we have a lot of incinerators). And part of it
may be because of the drying up of the in the Everglades. Mercury
occurs naturally in the soils here--especially in those boggy areas. And as the
___ dries up because we are no longer maintaining the water supply to the
Everglades, and the sun is enough to heat it up and make it volatile. There are
all sorts of reasons, and we do not know the end of it yet. But certainly
becoming the center for medical waste incineration in the United States was not
going to help this problem.
So one thing I have been going for is trying to find out what we need in Florida.
How many incinerators are out there now? Are there better means of taking
care of medical waste? As I became more interested in this problem not just
[concerning] our friends up in the county north of us, but in other facilities in
Sumter County and Hillsborough County and all over, they were just popping up
like toadstools--and the more I found, the more I found that there were solutions
out there. I contacted some of the manufacturers and toured some of the plants
using other facilities, like microwaving. There is a scientist, Seymour Block, at
the University of Florida, who works with a hypochlorite system. They grind it up
and then they treat it with chlorine and then they just dump it down the sewers.
They use a hammer mill; you really cannot recognize it. But there was also a
place for incineration. You do not want to grind up your Josie, or anything left
over from the surgery. And all of the animals that are put to death every week -
that is a terrible situation. They really need to be burned; it is the most efficient
way of dealing with that sort of problem. But you could certainly make it safer to
burn those things. So the first thing was finding out what was in the medical
waste treatment. And that has been a project that several people have worked
on in the last couple of years, as a doctor at the USF Health Center did a
wonderful survey of St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa. And there is somebody
working out at Miami, and at a couple of other places. Once people have gotten
a handle over what is in it. We have found out that a lot of it was plastics -
much more than we thought. That is why it burns so well. And what is in the
plastics that causes the problems? Well, that is something that they are working
on here at the University what is in the plastics, and how we can make the
plastics safer. Well getting the vinyl chloride out would be a big help, [along
with] cutting down on some of the heavy metals. We do not care what color it is;
we just want it to be safe. So you can ask for non-chlorinated plastics. Well
then we went to various hospital administrators people who purchase these
materials and we asked, "Why don't you just use non-chlorinated plastics? We
have good plastics now." There was a time when you needed the chlorinated
plastics for internal blood bags and things like this, because they were the best
that was available. But now we have other things. And I said, "Well, if our
purchasers do not buy it, we do not use it." And he talked to the purchasing
agent and he said, "Well, if I do not know where to find it and it is not on the list
where we buy as a group with other hospitals to get better deals, we cannot get
it." So I talked citizens into becoming involved with facilities that want to put new
incinerators in, [and into becoming involved with] seeing how they can make
them safer. We did this in St. Petersburg, Pinellas Park, and up at Jasper.
Jasper is a different issue because that is a private facility rather than a hospital.
But when a hospital wants to put a new facility in, talk to them to see if they can
make the way they produce their wastes safer. There is a woman in California
who collects equipment from surgeries that are open but never used, and [she]
ships them to Central and South America. Every time you go in for a surgical
procedure, huge amounts of waste are generated before you ever get into the
room. But anything that is generated in surgery is considered a hazardous
waste it is considered medical waste. So you have all the wrappings of all the
equipment that went through all of the sterilizers. You have all of the sheets,
you have the gauge, you have more or less the equipment, and the bags,
and everything. All of these things are put in red bags, as medical waste to be
disposed of as a hazardous material. Sterilized cotton and sterilized papers,
hazardous waste? It does not make sense. And so they have these huge
volumes of materials that they are having to take care of as medical waste, which
really should not be there.
So another thing people have investigated nurses have gotten into this is a
group called "Med Cycle" up in Massachusetts that I was in contact with. They
said, "We just need to change the definition of what is red bag waste." If you are
in surgery, anything that you do before a patient comes into the room, is not
considered red bag waste. So you just have places where you can recycle all of
the things that you are unwrapping, [and] all of the materials. And when you
wheel the patient in, you wheel those carts out. Why call that red bag waste?
There is no way it is contaminated; it is sterile. And then once your patient is in
the room, OK, there is a possibility that something could be contaminated.
Anything from then on you can consider red bag waste. But there is a lot of
material that gets opened up and never used, like suture packs or this or that. It
is signed off to the patient and it will be thrown away, [although] it was never
contaminated or anything. So we need to recycle those things. Maybe we do
not want to re-sterilize them, but maybe we can ship them to someplace that is
very, very happy to get them [because] they do not have those things. There is
a huge amount of waste in hospitals that of course, we are paying for. So that is
one thing: to redefine what is red bag waste. It costs $ .10 to dispose of a bag
of waste. But it costs $1.10 to dispose of a bag of red waste. And you have to
think about that. Why throw a cola can into a hazardous waste bag when you
can put it in a regular cart? We need people to segregate out the waste. You
need to recycle the aluminum cans. You need to recycle your paper. I mean, if
you are working in administration in the computer section, there is no reason why
anything that you are putting out is hazardous waste. They need to look at how
they purchase things, and try to get non-chlorinated plastics.
It would even be a good idea to go back to using some non-disposable items.
There was a reason for using some disposable items. They were easier to
clean. But the reason that most people use them now is, that it is just easier
than changing back. There are facilities here in Florida that produce gowns and
other sorts of materials for hospitals, that they then wash and send back. This
used to be the common thing, instead of everything being disposable. But now
it is considered rare that you have patient gowns and things that are washed and
taken care of. And it saves the hospital a lot of money. Sure, if you have an
infectious disease section, use plates and things that are disposable, if you do
not want to sterilize them. But do you have to do that in the cafeteria? Why
should you have everything in the hospital on plastic plates and spoons and
throw that mess out? Once you have looked at all of these problems in the
hospital, then look and see how much red bag waste you have left. There is a
hospital in Venice, Florida, and a man there by the name of Verl Jones. They
had an incinerator that was not working properly, and they were going to have to
rebuild it. And when he started looking at the things in his hospital to reduce red
bag waste he said, "Well first, let us try recycling and cutting down on waste.
And by the time you got down to analyzing what he had left to burn, it did not
make sense to get another incinerator. So now he takes the little bit of red bag
waste and he ships it out to somebody else. It pays to have it taken away; he
reduced his red bag waste by over 60% in that hospital in less than one year.
And he has maintained it for five years now.
So I met a lot of these people and decided to put something together and have a
conference here at the Trio Center. And that was three years ago. We got a lot
of very good people to talk and had administrators come in from various
hospitals. People from DEP and HRS talked [along with] some of the
representatives of the microwave facilities and the chlorination facility, to
describe what is hazardous and what is non-hazardous, what is sterile and what
is "safe", but non-sterile. And then we invited a number of environmentalists to
come to the meetings people who were protesting facilities, thinking that we get
everybody together and give them all the same information, and then let them
take it from there. And I think it had a lot of positive things come out of it.
Some of the people who were protesting the Pinellas Park facility actually sat
down and talked with the people they were fighting against. And it certainly
educated them a lot. Some other people decided not to build incinerators.
Some more have gone towards microwaving and sterilization, rather than
incinerators. It is a lot cheaper to do that, and you do not have to have as
trained [of a] personnel. One of the big problems with incinerators is that you
have to be able to control it very closely. You have to know exactly what goes
in, to maintain the proper temperatures, in order to get a good burn. And if you
are putting mixed waste in, you do not know what it is and you get cold spots and
hot spots. You cannot control it and then you do not get a good burn. You
have more stuff going up in the air or going into the ash than should. If you do
not take out the hazardous materials you are either putting them in the ash or
putting them in the air. So it is a position that should not be done by the janitor;
it is a position that needs to be done by an incineration specialist. And he
should be paid accordingly. Unfortunately, they are not; they are done by the
janitor. And these things are started and stopped and started and stopped
during the day. And that is when you have periods of disposal. You put more
material in the air, [because] you have poor burns when you are starting and
stopping these facilities than when they are running all of the time. So I guess
that I would find myself on the side of larger regional facilities if you are going
to have an incinerator. And there are certain reasons to have an incinerator.
But each small hospital could perhaps go with something else, like a small
microwave unit, where a certain amount of waste would go there and only things
that were really were better taken off burning, would go to a regional facility. It
would be much cheaper for them. Of course that is not a very popular
And that brings us back to our dear friend up north of us [the man in the blue
suede coat] who wants to put in this huge mega facility and bring stuff in from all
over the United States. That is where I think I draw the line. [But] he has a
very good set-up plan for it. He has put on paper something that probably
should get a permit. He is going to use incinerators built by Mr. John Basic,
from somewhere in Illinois. He is an excellent technician who produces
excellent incinerators. They will have proper pollution control devices on it and
they will be well-run. So maybe that should get a permit. But on the other side
of it, they are going to be bringing material in from all of these hospitals that they
have no control over. So they are going to be bringing everything. The people
in the community that are around this facility, if it is built, will not have the benefit
of being able to say that the materials going in were as safe as possible, that the
mercury products were not taken out and the plastics were not de-chlorinated.
They will just get the hodge-podge of whatever is shipped in. Plus, [there is] the
fact that you cannot guarantee that it is going to be backed because the man will
not say who his backers are. He obviously cannot afford to build it [and] is just
procuring a permit. This is done very commonly. Some entrepreneur goes in
and makes an application for a permit. Once he gets a permit, he sells the
permit to the highest bidder. And that is perfectly legal. Or he represents
somebody in the first place who sends him in to get it. He takes all of the flak
and goes through the distress of trying to make it through the NIMBY [Not in My
Backyard] or whatever. But once he has got it, though, it is worth money in the
bank to him. He turns around, gives it to his boss, and off he goes. So you do
not know who is going to be running the facility. You do not know if they have a
good reputation, or if they are one of the ones like a facility up in South Carolina
that I visited, that are real horrors. It is run by a Canadian company. I was
there and saw men walking in water [that was] about four to six inches deep that
had syringe needles just floating on the surface. Body parts were found
underneath the incinerator at one time. And the incinerators were always
breaking down because they overstuff it. And so they do not get a good burn;
they get plastic bags out of it that are not even burned! Tell me how you can go
through an incinerator and not burn up a plastic bag. This facility, we have been
trying to stop for quite a while. I went up there and talked to the people and it
was a disaster. It is run by a company in Canada. It was the largest facility in
the eastern United States and it charged the least amount of money, so it got the
most business. [It was in] Hampton, South Carolina. That is the sort of thing -
it is like the dark ages of incineration that we want to keep out of Florida. So
that is medical waste.
Oh, they had a medical waste technical advisory committee. I was on that.
There were a couple of other environmentalists/activists on it who were
protesting other plants in other places. One woman, Pat Mulieri, is a teacher at
a junior college in Pinellas County. She did a lot of work finding out what the
rules and regulations are in every other state in the nation. And she compared
those regulations to what Florida has. She had a lot of serious, good input into
this technical advisory committee. And there were consultants who did nothing
but design the medical waste incinerators. And we were able to have people
come down and address the technical advisory committee about some of the
alternatives. What we want to do is make more of an even playing field so that
people who are putting in these facilities will also think about alternatives to
incineration. And that takes a lot of changing of minds. It is a mind-set. If you
have done nothing but burn for 100 years [it is hard to change]: "It [incineration]
is good and trustworthy. We are still here [and] we have been burning since day
one." And [when you] present the idea of a microwave, even if it only costs one
third as much and is safer, it is just new: "It is all right for the kitchen but I do not
know if we want to go any further than that with it." So we produced a paper [in
this] technical advisory committee. We had been under a moratorium on
hazardous waste facilities and medical waste facilities for the last year. And
they came up before the legislature this time to see whether or not the
moratoriums would continue. We have something like three times the capacity
[of the materials we produce] to burn in this state as far as medical waste is
concerned. In other words, we do not really need that mega facility up there in
Hamilton County. So they have decided to continue the medical waste
moratorium for another year. We decided that we need stricter rules in several
instances: in controlling the ash from the facilities, we need to encourage some
of the alternatives. So I think that was a very successful technical advisory
committee. It did continue the moratorium. The legislature went by on what we
decided, [what we] put into our report to them. I think that about takes care of
that for now. The hazardous waste situation that would rule on I do not
know what is going to happen about that. I suppose I did not talk to you about
the nasty trick they played on Union County.
S: Well tell me a little bit.
D: Well, the people in Union County that I had spoken to really did not want this
facility. They did not even know what it was. It turns out that a consulting firm
called Weston, I believe, did a study for the state on where the best place would
be for Florida to put this facility. And Union County was rated somewhere fairly
low on the list. I think it was number thirteen or number twenty something like
this. But somehow, when push came to shove, poor little old Union County was
number one. And every other place in the state lost. If you are going to have a
facility [where] you are going to move all of the state's hazardous waste to, why
are you going to put it in the most inaccessible place in the state at the very top
of the state? So that means you have to take all of these materials [that] you
are going to bring from all over the states, all the way down to Miami and the
Keys, and you are going to put it on your roads and wheel it all the way up to
Madison County or to Union County wherever you have this facility to get rid
of it. To me, you are asking for trouble if you do that. But the state thought that
this would be a great place to put it. And when it looked like the citizens were
able to get enough people together to causes some trouble for the local
lawmakers and try to get a stop to it, it was decided that, for the good of the
state, we needed to make this a law; that we would site a facility in Union County
if no other private individual put in a facility anywhere else in the state.
Therefore, we have taken it out of the citizen's hands to protest. Whether they
like it or not, it is a state law now that they are going to have a facility unless one
is put in by somebody else someplace else. So that facility is just waiting to
built. Actually, they have gone so far as to try and write a proposal on what they
feel they want to see up there. And then they will put it up for bid. And the
citizens will not have anything to say about it. And they must have spent over
$100,000. We are talking about a very rural farming community that had, I think,
that caught every fish and fried it. The had sales for everything. They had car
port sales. They had pony rides. They had fish fries, chicken fries, bar-b-ques
to earn money to pay for their protest against this facility. And then all of a
sudden it was wiped out when this law was pushed through by Senator
Kirkpatrick, where it was decided that this was the place that the facility should
be. Even though it was fairly low down on the list in the consulting. And I have
never been able to figure out why it made it to the top of the list except that
there were less people there to protest it. You have to wonder if that is really the
best place to put the facility and whether or not we really want it or need it. That
is a good example of people who are effective [and] what you can to do to make
them ineffective again. I do not know; we have sort of jumped around. Is there
anything else you want to talk about?
S: Yes, [there is]. The Pesticide Review Council.
D: Oh my, that is another word you should not have brought up. [laughter] The
"P" word. Well, almost four years ago next Christmas, the then-outgoing
governor Martinez was looking around for someone to put on a pesticide
review council to represent environmentalists. And at this point they were
represented by Dr. Shenkle, who works on ants for FSU. I do not know why
they particularly wanted to remove him from the council or whatever. He was
not what you would call a "working environmentalist" but he is a professional and
is very good at what he does. And someone I do not know who it was (and
they are going to make sure that I never find out) put my name forward to be on
this council. I have often thought it was because I knew absolutely nothing
about pesticides and they figured that was a good person to put in there.
Anyhow, Governor Martinez accepted my [nomination] to go on that council.
And it was seconded by Governor Chiles when he came to [office]. And they
were meeting, at that time, about six times a year. I am the only one on the
council who was female. And I think there may be two other people on the
council who do not have Ph.D.s. Of course, I do not have a bachelor's degree.
So I am at a slight disadvantage to start with besides the fact that I knew
nothing about pesticides. So I think for the first two or three meetings I just sat
through the meetings and felt like I really did not belong there. But in another
way it was good because I think I do represent more people and a different view.
We have all scientists on that council who can convince each other that "science
knows everything and there are no problems at all in the world." So the
Pesticide Review Council is supposed to be where you go if there is a problem
with a pesticide in the state. They have the power to recommend. Which
means they really do not have power at all. They can recommend that pesticide
be removed from shelves. They can recommend research to be done. It could
be a fairly powerful group. I will not say it is, because I really do not think it is at
this point. But I certainly learned about pesticides very quickly, and the fact that
there are a lot of people in Florida who have a sensitivity to pesticides perhaps
more here than in other places because we have a year-round green climate.
Therefore year-round you are trying to make a crab free grass and lawn. And
we do not like cockroaches or mosquitoes so we do a lot more spraying. We do
not have a winter where you can sort of hide everything under snow. And that is
a serious problem for people in Florida. The more we find out and we have
found out a lot just this last year about things we were told were safe. And now,
all of a sudden, people are just beginning to realize that DDT is still there and it is
causing [problems]. Well, in the paper yesterday we saw that alligators are now
unable to breed in Lake Apopka. There was also research that just came out
this last month on young males in China that have the same problem [their]
penises are so small that they cannot have intercourse. We have DDT turning
out as a hormone. A lot of the cases of breast cancer they are finding the
women who have breast cancer have higher levels of DDE (a metabolite of DDT)
in their system. And even though DDT has been outlawed here for years, we
still have a high amount of it in our lakes and our air because nobody ever put
walls up around the United States and the air does not know boundaries. And it
is still in use all over the world, or in a good part of the world, for anti-malarial
strains. It is still being produced and used. And of course it was like finding out
about hazardous wastes: the more you find out about pesticides the more you
[End side B1]
D: I have found out a lot about how pesticides are formulated since the Benlade
problem in Florida. (If you want me to get into that, I will, but that will take
another day.) The surprising part to me is that, as I find out things about the fact
that things are not as well-regulated or are not as well-understood among
regulators as I thought, they are as astonished as I am at the information I give to
them. Some things that have come out [like], when you buy a pesticide you
think you are getting that particular pesticide and that it is going to be a pure
product. We are accustomed to thinking of things like drugs as being pure. If
we buy Coca Cola we expect to get Coca Cola. If we buy aspirin, we certainly
do not want to have weed killer in it. And so if you buy a fungicide like Benlade,
you expect to have Benlade. And Benlade is 50% (what they call) Benamyltech,
a "pure" product, and 50% inert. Well that is a very interesting thing in itself.
What is an inert? Well, if you are a chemist, an inert is something that has
absolutely no physical reaction. You can put it in water [and] it does not become
anything else, it does not dissolve it is inert. It does not do anything in itself.
But that is not the definition that the pesticide industry has. The pesticide
industry says, "If it is inert and it is in a fungicide, it does not work as a fungicide."
So it can be a hazardous or toxic material [that] can do a lot of other things.
But as long as it is not a fungicide it is "inert", because it is in a fungicide. When
you put these products together, you think They tell you that they use a lot of
starch, sugar, or carbohydrates as inert. That sounds innocuous enough. But
we found out that when Dupont produced Benamyltech (the active ingredient)
they [would] then ship it to a formulator, or a company that mixes it together with
these inert to form the Benlade, which is the finished product that you buy. And
I have a deposition so I am not just saying this off the top of my head where
men who do the formulation from Tara Company were interviewed under oath.
And they were questioned about how they do this. And someone was smart
enough to ask the right question (for a change). And they have all of this
machinery that they use for mixing these chemicals together and putting them in
the bags and producing the product. And they do not do just a simple product;
one week they would be working on Benlade. Another week they would be
working on, perhaps, a weed killer. And another week [they would be working]
on another product. So in between they are not going completely change the
machinery they use, so they have to clean it out. So the best (and also
cheapest) way to clean out all of the nooks and crannies of this machinery they
have decided is to run a mixture through to pick up all of the material from the
previous batch they were formulating. So say you were making a weed killer like
Atrosine. You [would] have a product that has this weed killer and you have little
bits of it through your machinery that have contaminated the machinery. So
what they did was run approximately 100 tons of this starch-sugar mixture
through the machinery, picking up all of these impurities, so they could clean it
out to make the Benlade. Well they left with this 100 tons of stuff. And it was
perfectly good stuff until they ran it through the machinery. But now it has
Atrosine in it, which is a weed killer. And by definition of hazardous waste in
federal regulations, if you contaminate a product with a contaminated product,
the entire product is then contaminated. So you have not just 100 tons of starch
with a little bit of Atrosine in it; you have 100 tons of Atrosine-contaminated waste
which is now a toxic product. And you have to dispose of it legally. So that
would mean that you would have to send it to a hazardous waste landfill which
will cost you mega-bucks, or you can send it to a hazardous waste facility, which
will cost you even more. Or, if you are very smart, you make a deal with the
company of the product that you are going to produce next and say, "How much
of this could I put into your product without really changing your product, without
contaminating it? You know, if you were going to use it." And they have figured
out on paper that you could put maybe twenty-five parts per million of Atrosine
into the and it would not really kill the plant; the plant would survive.
So they thought, "Wait, we will just dilute this 100 tons that we have, that is very
slightly contaminated with Atrosine, we will put more starch in it, and we will use
that as the 50% to go with the Benamyltech and we will put it through the
machinery again. And we will not have any waste to get rid of, right?"
Unfortunately, the company could not measure the amount of Atrosine they
actually had. It is a pretty expensive test to run, so they guestimated. And they
just sort of mixed things up and then they would ship it off someplace to be
tested. And if it looked like it was alright they went ahead. If it looked like they
needed to dilute it some more, they would throw some more in. Unfortunately,
this did not work for everything, and they ended up with contaminated Benlade.
And if you have a fungus and you spray it with something that is contaminated
with a weed killer, it is likely to kill the plant, and not just the fungus. People who
tested their Benlade for anything that might be in it, found in some cases over ten
different contaminants in this supposedly pure Benlade. So that leads us to the
thought that this was not the first time this had happened. And perhaps these
procedures are really not as clean as we think [they are]. Because I think of
chemistry from back when I was working in chemistry as [a science where]
you only use the chemical-grade products that do not have these contaminants in
it. So there is a difference between the theory and the practice as I was
talking about in incineration you have the same difference when you think of
another industry. And here we are [with the] pesticide formulation industry.
People who read that from the regulatory community here in Florida were
absolutely astonished: "We had no idea they did things like that! You mean this
is not the pure product?" And if you talked to the people who did the
formulations they said, "Oh, we've been doing this for ages; this is standard
operating procedure. Everybody does that." And then you start thinking about,
"If everybody does it, then none of those products out there are what they really
say they are." And those inert are not nearly as "inert" as we thought they were.
And then you have to start thinking, maybe we need to change the regulations,
or change the way we look at things.
The trouble is, everybody has their own sort of "language" that goes with what
they do. If you are a computer nut, you have your own computer language and
the way you do things. If you are outside of that, it is completely foreign to you.
[Similarly,] if you are in pesticides or chemistry, you have your own language and
your own way of doing things. And if you are out of that [and] you do not know
how the industry is doing something, [it is difficult to understand]. It is perfectly
natural inside the industry, but from the outside you look at it differently.
What else have we done on the council? Well we have not gotten too far on the
Benlade. They have managed to reproduce some of the damage that was
caused in Florida over $100 billion, they assume. We have not done anything
with health effects because we are too close to the issue when it comes to our
own health. There are eighty people who contacted HRS who thought they were
having health effects from the use of Benlade. And there are many more out
there that never contacted a lot of farm workers. And to this day, three years
after we got onto this, nobody has been able to examine those people, nobody
has proven that they have a problem, or where it came from, and I do not know if
we ever will. When we talk about people who are sensitive to pesticides, almost
every person you will talk to will say, "Well, it is in their heads," or "They are too
emotional; you know how women are," or "It has something to do with the
change of life." I do not know how many times I hear that. I guess I am at
about that age [where] they are entitled to say that. But we do not understand
the health problems related to these products. No one is really doing the
research on the Benlade and health problems because you have to have money
to do it. People who are in the HRS here in the state do not have the money
(and they would not know how to attack if they did). The private firms want to
paid up front to do it and we do not know if we value the information out of
Dupont. There are 100,000 pages [that], as a state, we have been suing Dupont
for. They have said that we have won the suit. But there is a counter-suit now;
we have to wait for the appeal, or whatever. We cannot get the information and
yet we are talking about people's health. [We are talking about] people who do
not have the power to do anything about it. And believe me, as a middle-aged
housewife in Micanopy, I do not have the power myself. And it is very frustrating
to me. We have __ who are suing Dupont for damages. And in the same
breath that they are suing for all of these damages (I am talking about their
health problems), they refuse to give out names of the workers they had working
for them. Why? Because if the workers were to know that they were suing
Dupont or that they had health problems, they would have to sue [as well]. But
they would not sue Dupont; they would sue the __ So they say, "Well, we
did not have regular workers; we have people we pick up every day. We cannot
get a hold of them; we do not know where they are." So that means that they do
not have profits? It is a huge problem in the state, as there is in California with
the health of the farm workers.
Do you know that farm workers do not even have the right to know what they
work with? That was passed this session, that if they ask the farmer, within
three days the farmer must [disclose] to the farm worker (or to his representative
perhaps his doctor, if he is in the hospital) a list of the chemicals that he was
using. Well they have a new farm workers law that came out of the EPA that
says that you have to post what you are using on a sign, when something is
being sprayed in there. And yet they do not consider that the farm workers are
bright enough to want to know what they are using. "Oh, if we tell them they will
consider it dangerous and they will get everybody upset and nobody will use it.
If we tell them they will demand this or that." Well, there are new regulations]
out saying that they have to provide goggles or suits or gloves or boots. But you
have to wonder how many of them are actually going to get them, when they do
not even have the right to have bathrooms or running water. [You have to
wonder], if you are working in these fields [of] tomatoes or you are pulling beans
off vines that are sprayed the same morning or twenty-four hours before, and
they are covered with dust from plane-sprayed chemicals. I have seen them out
in the fields; their arms are brown with the stuff when they are rubbing against
the leaves and rubbing against the fruit. Stomping in the dust, the stuff comes
up around them. They are working with bare hands and their arms and it is hot
out there. They do not have any other clothing to put on, or protective
equipment. And you wonder why they have constant minor problems? Their
health has eroded and they are wearing down their immune systems. I am not
saying they are going to die from the pesticide in the field that happens, but
very rarely. But how many have had immune system damage? And how many
have had their quality of life deteriorated because of constant, small dosages?
And we do not know what those long term low dosages do to people.
We know what they do to rats. They do what they call "LD50 tests" on rats.
You feed rats increasing amounts of pesticides until 50% of the population that
you are working on is dead. And that is called the "LD50". [These tests are
performed on] rats and rabbits and mice and hundreds of thousands of these
animals every year. Oh, it takes maybe ten years to get a product into a
registerable form. And [it takes] hundreds of millions of dollars to register these
products. But in the long term, we really do not know what they do to people.
We are just now finding out that the test that they did for the normal person or
even for a normal child has nothing to do with what a baby does with [the
dosage]. There was a study from the National Academy of Sciences last year
about pesticides in the diets of small children. Well, they came and spoke
before the pesticide review council the EPA did on their red basket testing.
They took a normal, well balanced diet and they would test the various products
in a well balanced diet. And they came to the conclusion that they were not
getting any pesticide __ And I said, "I do not know about you, but I have not
seen a child yet that ate a well balanced diet." And they said, "Well, if you do
not eat more than so much of this a day and that a day. . But kids do not eat
like that. And they are much more affected by these things than we thought in
the past. But that is bureaucracy thinking that everything is fine. They have
reduced it to a statistic a statistical risk assessment. And it is fine unless you
are the one in a million or the one in a hundred thousand, or whatever it is. And
it seems to me that those numbers all seem to fall into one [category].
If you have a rural population of farmers or sharecroppers or farm workers that
eat a lot of fish out of lakes that are contaminated or out of the Everglades, you
are going to have a much higher risk of [ingesting] mercury in your system than
somebody who lives in the city and buys a fish that came from the north Atlantic.
Do you know how many lakes and rivers in Florida have restrictions on the
amount of fish that can be eaten out of them (for health reasons)? [Do you
know that] if you are pregnant, you are told not to eat any fish from those areas
at all? If you are not pregnant, you are told not to eat more than one fish per
week. When I see these things in the paper I call them "Signs of our times". I
do not see why people do not get so furious. But our memories are so short. I
remember two years ago [when] The Gainesville Sun had an article on how to
cook contaminated fish. And nobody thought that was strange. I mean, I
expect to get cooking recipes, but "How to Clean a Fish That is Contaminated"?
This is common fare for us now. [The article designated] what parts of the fish
are particularly dangerous, [including] the bones and the dark lines around the
fish, and how to clean it so you are reducing the risk to your family. I never
thought about those things fifteen years ago. When I was growing up nobody
thought about fish being contaminated.
[And] now you see in the paper that fishing has become almost a lost profession
because there are not enough fish left; they have been over-fished to the point
that people cannot make a living doing it. These huge trollers that are going
across the oceans, processing fish and taking up so many of them, have reduced
the species to [the point that] we are now eating what we used to consider "trash
fish" instead of the firmer fleshed fish that used to be the prize fish. You cannot
find that anymore. And yet we just accept these as we accept the 10,000
people that they now think have been killed in South Africa, or It is like
watching the T.V. I do not mean to moralize here, but we have become inert to
the violence, [as] we have become inert to open sex lives. What have we done?
Have we changed so much that we can hear things like all of the dolphins that
wash up on the shore to die, whose immune systems have been ruined? We
have actually managed to change the oceans. [And] that, to me, is just
earth-shaking. And nobody seems to think so? No, a lot of people think so but
they are not shouting it loudly enough. And there are not enough people who
are listening. I do not mean to moralize; I am sorry.
S: That is Okay. It has really gotten scary out here. Because people have just
become so complacent; they really do not care, if it does not effect them.
D: Or they say, "[I] cannot change it, so why worry about it?" It is like, "Okay, I am
going to do the best that I can for my family. Everybody is out there getting stuff.
I am going to go out and get what I can. Money is more important; things are
more important. The guy with the most toys at his death wins." And that [is the]
sort of attitude [we are dealing with].
I think women are better for the environment. I am prejudiced there, perhaps.
But we think more in terms of generations. We want our grandchildren [to have
secure lives]. I have never seen [my grandchildren] [I] may never [even] have
any--[but] I want to know when I die that my grandchildren and great
grandchildren will have a place to grow that is safe. [I want to know] that they
will have food to eat that is good.
I raised my kids in the tropics. They spent a lot of time going with us in the field
and just being in the tropics. And I think, "Their world is gone for them." We
were very lucky that we caught the tail end of it. In ten or fifteen years, they will
not be able to find those places. And we really gave them an appreciation for
something that is no longer there, or will not be there if they want to go back.
And their children will never have a chance to appreciate that, to see wild
animals as we have seen them. It is very sad.
When I was in Costa Rica this past November I saw a harpy eagle. We were
traveling to the Ossa Peninsula the infamous Ossa Peninsula that I brought
back malaria from this last November. But we stopped and the people we were
with and my husband were out tramping up and down the woods looking for
orchids. And I was carrying my camera. And looking from the edge of the road
into the jungle. It was very dark in there but I saw this white shape. It had to be
about four feet high; it was just huge. It was far enough away so that I could still
recognize it. But I thought, "What is it?" It looked like it had to be a huge bird of
prey. You know, I was so stunned that I did not take a picture of it. Well, it
would not have turned out anyhow; there was not enough light to get a good
picture. But I got a good view of it. And then it started taking off and it was the
most magnificent thing. And then I saw it dive and take a monkey. It actually
took a monkey! And I could hear it squawking as it went off. And my husband
came back and said, "I thought I heard monkeys." And I said, "I saw this huge
white bird." And I described it and said, "It came and took a monkey away." He
said, "You know, I think you saw a harpy eagle. It just has to be a harpy eagle; I
have seen pictures of them. But I was told that it could not be a harpy eagle
because they were extinct in that area, [that] they were not found in that area
anymore. [But] it was. And people had not seen one there in twenty years or
so. So they are still out there; a few are left. But it is so rare that people see
them or so many animals now. I feel sorry for biologists and botanists of the
future. Maybe they will spend more time examining land fills than they will
jungles. But anyhow, that is why I do what I am doing. Now I have depressed
S: I will be OK; I will bounce back.
D: Well, the mosquitoes will still be there. They talk about cockroaches taking over
the world, but I think the mosquitoes will be right there on their backs. Look at
what has happened here; we have __ fever showing back up again in the
States even. We have not really totally controlled any of these things. We have
become complacent about giving our children vaccinations. But these things
have reservoirs that they can come back from. Look at what has happened with
antibiotics; we have misused them and now we are finding so many things that
are not being affected by the antibiotics we have. We have to keep on changing
them. And where do most of the antibiotics come from? They come from the
tropical jungles. When those are gone, we will not have sources for a lot of our
medicines. [And] then what will we do?
S: __ synthetic chemist? I do not know. Another thing I think I wanted to touch
on was the Florida Environmental Network Bulletin Board.
D: Well I guess I have been doing this now since [1986 or 1987]; it is seven or eight
years now that I have been working on environmental stuff. Over the period of
time, more than a few bathrooms have [had] my name stenciled [in them]
someplace because I have gotten a lot of phone calls. And some of them I am
really pleased to get. [For example, I am pleased when] the DEP tells people to
call me for information. I feel if somebody thinks enough of what I am doing [to
direct calls toward me], I am not too prejudiced that they are willing to send
people to me to get information. And I get lots of requests for information from
all over the United States and [even] from overseas. I get phone calls from
Switzerland and from Australia for information. And like I said, I am a volunteer.
So it gets pretty expensive, faxing information to people and sending information
to people. I once figured out and I did not let my husband know that it cost
me about $400 a month in phone bills to do what I do. That does not include all
of the driving I was doing.
[Anyway], I was getting really tired. I was talking at county commissions and
talking before small groups. I would go anywhere they wanted me to go. And I
thought, "There has got to be a better way." So instead of duplicating all of this
stuff I thought, "I will start a bulletin board." The idea was that I wanted to get
good information the best that I could find to the people who could use it. I
have been at meetings where people citizens who were upset about something
and really working hard to get information were only contacted if some
[organization] like Citizen's Clearinghouse for Hazardous Waste or Greenpeace
[had information to share]. [And in many cases, the citizens] had gotten some
generic information from them that did not have much in the way of background
to it. They would get up to talk to the county commission and would just get
laughed out of there. These people would not show these citizens] any respect.
These [citizens] were people who would stop their "me" life; they stopped their
"me" attitude and tried to reach out to do something for others in their community.
They totally just changed their life around, working outward instead of inward.
And these [organizations and commissions] people would not show the [citizens]
the respect to listen to them because the [citizens] did not have something that
they would respect.
And so what I wanted to do was find other people who would provide expert
witnesses, who would provide information to help citizens who wanted to become
involved. I wanted to get these people from the universities who had all of this
knowledge, but very rarely got involved with issues. They did not want to go out
and act silly in the street or have their name out there with people who would
poke at them [with]: "Why are you saying this? You work in chemistry; you
ought to know that most of the money for your facility comes from...." So I
thought, "If I have a bulletin board, I can have all of these various people on it.
They do not really have to say that they are doing this or doing that. But they
can interact; they can talk to each other." Another thing is, when you have to
type your information in you are a lot more careful about what you are saying.
You are less likely to pick up the phone and talk to somebody you are mad at
and let him know how mad you are. You cannot do that in e-mail. And you
usually phrase your questions better. Instead of being really upset and not
getting your point across, you have a chance to look it over and say, "That is not
really what I meant to say," and change it. So it seemed a good idea to start a
bulletin board. And then I would not have to mail out all of this information. I
would have a lot more people who I could interact with and it would save me time
and road rubber. (I was beginning to feel really guilty that I was burning more
gas and tires than most of the polluters were. And how could I justify this as an
environmentalist!) [Laughter.] And I wanted to spend some more time at
home; I am getting too old to do this anyhow. So I started it last January, which
is about sixteen months ago. And I have always had an interest in computers so
it was fun; it was a challenge. It was really a challenge to get it up and running -
let me tell you. And I only have one line at this point because it still does not
have any money coming in. So that is another $30 that I put out every month.
And then of course most of the materials that I want are published materials so I
have to get permission from people to put them in. And then I either have to
type them all in, or scan them in. So that meant I had to go out and spend
$1,000 on a scanner. Do not ask me where that came from. But now we have
thirty-two different conferences on the board, and we have about 245 people all
over the state.
[And] I do not know how they ever got my number, but I have people calling from
Connecticut and Arizona. A guy calls from Georgia every month or so. And
[people call] from California. So other people have heard about it. Maybe they
are going to set up their own [bulletin boards] and they are just taking all of my
information which they are welcome to do. But I made it specifically for
Florida, to look at Florida information that is out there. [Because] we have so
many people at the University doing so much good work. And then they
produce it and nobody reads it and it is sitting in the library someplace. And it
refers to problems we have here in Florida and I wanted that sort of information
out. It has a lot of people from DEP [Department of Environmental Protection],
people from Fish and Game, [and] people from environmental services sections
from various counties. It has some county commissioners on it. [And] it has an
awful lot of lawyers on it (I think half of them are looking to see what I am doing).
One of them, I know is; he makes a point of reading everything that I put up or
that somebody writes to me. But then he is a lawyer for the Farm Bureau, so I
can forgive him even that. [And] he has mellowed over the months. There are
a lot of consultants who get information that they probably then sell to their
clients. That should irritate me, but I do not know. If it is good information, it is
okay. There is good and there is bad information. I try to keep good
information. I try to present a cross section of what is going on in the state at
any given time. I put up things like the Audubon legislative updates [so] more
people see those. And some of them do not want their names on Audubon
roles. But they would really like to see what they are saying. Well his chance is
to sort of be anonymous and to download it. So I do not know how many files
we have got; we must have a couple thousand now. It is about forty megabytes
of space on files, which does not sound like a lot when other people have up to
700 megabytes of files to download. But they are talking about programs; they
can put up hundreds of those in a few minutes. What I am talking about are text
files of information, [and] it takes a lot of time to put them in. We have all of the
rules and regulations from the DER. They have a rules bulletin board that
nobody was calling, but everybody wanted so I put it on my board anyhow.
And we have sections like the wetlands, hazardous waste and medical waste,
paper separating (I put up there), [and] tires--even tire information is up
there--and that sort of thing. And surprisingly, I have less environmentalists on it
than I do other working people. But then I like to think that most of the working
people are environmentalists anyhow. They certainly would call themselves
that. And I am maybe just presenting a few ideas they had access to before.
And the other thing I think we do very well is, because the group I have worked
with the Florida Defenders of the Environment is what they call a "501 C3",
they are a tax-exempt organization. So if you donate something to FDE you can
take a tax break for it. This means that, if you have old equipment, you can
donate it and I can fix it up and loan it out or give it to people who do not have the
equipment. So I end up putting a lot of systems together. And people who
would like to be involved with the network, or groups that are forming but do not
have any way of communicating, I like to see them get good information so I offer
them a system and a modem and show them how to get on line. And so we are
getting a lot of people who have never used computers and have certainly
never used bulletin boards into using a board of something that is of interest to
them. And that has been very popular. And I think we are going to expand
quite a bit this next year; there is a group of public-interest lawyers, lawyers that
are willing to work and not take compensation for things that are for the general
good of the public, like environmental issues. But if you are willing to donate
your time as a lawyer, that does not mean that you do not have a lot of expenses
too. They have expenses for [things] like research and time spent on that.
There is a group at the University of Florida law center that has formed and is
looking for grants, so that law students could do some of this research and be
reimbursed for their time, and so [that] support can be given to some of these
lawyers to take on more of these cases free of charge for environmental
groups. Businesses have money to hire good lawyers and to do research;
people in a community do not, and it is very expensive for them. So the idea is
that they would communicate through the board. I have put in some more
phone lines. [And the idea is also to] have some support from them, which
would be nice. And they can communicate between themselves and work on
legislation, send e-mail and offer assistance to people who are using the board.
So I think that is going to be helpful in the future. There is one called "Eco-net"
which is a very large bulletin board that serves the United States. It actually has
people from all over the world on it, through various other nets like Pegasus Net
from Australia and Green Net from England, and there are several other
environmental bulletin boards. But this one we are trying to make specifically
with a Florida interest in mind. So it has become a cross of new information on
Florida. We will put it up and hopefully it will grow. And I could spend less time
on the road. And the number for that is (904) 466-3151. It is a normal bulletin
board so if you have communications software you would set it for eight data bits
and one stop bit and __ which is different from what you would set it for if you
were trying to get into the University system. So hopefully, if somebody ever
listens to this tape, we will still be up and running. I think so.
S: I think I would like a little bit of information about the Florida Defenders of the
D: Well, it was started over twenty years ago by Marjorie Clarke and a number of
her friends from the University and from the community. It was formed in
response to the Cross-Florida Barge Canal. And I guess I sort of worked with
them or for them because they have a lot of the same ideas I do about the quality
of information and being very careful about the research they do and not talking.
They say, "Have your brain in gear before your mouth is in motion."
I had a lot of respect for Marjorie Carr and her husband, Archie Carr (who is now
deceased). I can remember being back in Panama and reading conservation
journals or scientific journals that would have some of Archie Carr's work in it.
And Archie Carr had visited Panama several times. My husband knew him but I
did not. And reading about this family who lived in this lovely-sounding place
called Micanopy and how they worked on environmental issues, I guess I sort of
hero-worshipped them. It seemed to be a nice thing to think about: working as a
family on environmental issues to save the world. Maybe I sort of put on my
rose colored glasses when I was reading it, never once thinking that I would end
up in Micanopy or working with Marjorie. And it has been a great pleasure. I
feel I have been honored to have something to do with this organization.
They mostly work on issues on wetlands and conservation issues. [They]
certainly [worked on] stopping the large canal which they were successful at.
Now they are looking to remove the Robin Dam to return the Oklawaha River to
what it looked like before they ever began that. Those people do not remember
back then. It is hard to convince them that there was much better fishing in the
Oklawaha than there ever is in that damn dam. But some of us older folks
remember. We have people that work on wildlife issues and there were all sort
of things like that. No one ever worked on the nasty things like hazardous waste
and toxic [materials]. Marjorie had asked me to field questions on that sort of
thing. And that is when my phone call rate tripled. And after doing that for a
while they said, "Well, you do all of the work. We might as well just call you a
volunteer specialist." And then [it was], "You have been a volunteer specialist,
we might as well just put you on the board." I do not know where it is going to
go from there, but they are still a very active group. They send a newsletter out
to almost a couple thousand people in the state. Hopefully they will be around
for another twenty years. I can give you some materials to include in your thing
about FDE. I think your class interviewed Marjorie.
S: My final question: as an environmental educator, where do you see the future of
our environment? [In] which direction [does it lie]? What do you think will
D: Oh, I am a pessimist; you do not want to ask me that. Bob and I think we were
sort of born at that cusp from our time to what the future time will be, and we are
perhaps outliving what should have been our time. The environment will be
different in the future there is no question about that. I do not think there will
be rain forests and there will not be the [same] diversity of plants. Hopefully, we
will still survive, but it will be a different world. I am not saying it will not be as
good [of] a world; maybe [it will] even be a better world. But it will be a different
world. It will not be my world. I do not know.
Florida has so many problems. If you were to ask (what you were smart enough
not to ask) what I consider [to be] the biggest future problem in Florida, I will still
tell you I think it is going to be water. Because there is not enough of it, it is not
where it needs to be, and what we have, we are polluting. So we may go back
to having water wars in the next ten years. More people are going to move to
the South. Of course, we have global warming (if you believe in that) so we will
get more people moving to the North. That has to be better for Florida but
probably two thirds of Florida will be out of water anyhow in the future. How far
forward do you want to go? I fortunately live on a very high hill for Florida so
you can come visit me by boat if you want. And my twenty acres will look the
same (hopefully) a long ways down the road because we have not cut off our
woods and we want them to stay. But the face of Florida will change because of
the pollution in the air. We have trees that are dying right now. We have a lot
of palms that are dying along the coast. And they are in an area that looks to be
pristine; [the trees do] not [appear to be] under any particular stress until you
realize that they are standing in saltwater instead of freshwater now. Because
the saltwater has come in a lot further with a lot of problems. Part of it has been
the coastline sinking or the coastline rising. Part of it has been because the
amount of freshwater we have been taking out of the system is being replaced
with saltwater. We have whole areas along the coast where you just see the
tops of the palms are dead. [And] as we have more combustion, if we do not
change our ways very, very soon, with more automobiles and the rest we will
have more of the acid rain. And perhaps that will change the types of plants we
have. I did a series of articles for a group here on global warming. I had
contact with some of the scientists doing research on what global warming will
mean to storms. And they said we will not have any more hurricanes, but the
ones we have will be much more fierce. And we may have had a foreboding
with [Hurricane] Andrew [August 1992]. We may actually have to let parts of
Florida go back to what they were before. I do not know how we will ever
reclaim the Everglades but the coastline has been changed a lot. Can you
imagine water being piped down the middle of the state to keep Miami alive?
The saltwater intrusion in that part of the state is terrible; they have lost so much
of their freshwater supply.
[End side B2]
D: OK, dark visions of the future. Well, if we do not have a problem with global
warming, then Florida's population, which is now increasing at almost 1,000 a
day, [will become a problem]. How long can we continue that? If you can
imagine the stress here, we are suing the federal government for billions of
dollars because we cannot afford to take care of all of the immigrants. And
things are getting worse. Outside of the United States we will have more
immigrants coming to Florida; it is the easiest place to get to. [And] we will have
more people coming down from the North. Something has got to give. Now of
course if we sank, that would take care of the problem.
We are killing our coral reefs. Do you want to get into problems with global
warming and coral reefs? One of my friends in Panama was a Dr. Peter GLYNN
who works on coral reefs. He is now working here at the University of Miami.
And he has come up with proof that a lot of problems in the coral reefs are
caused by the warmth of the water increasing. And it is killing the polyps that
form in the claws. Plus the fact that he has traced, in the Gulf stream, just a
myriad of pesticides coming up from Central and South America, following the
Gulf stream. As we sell all of our great agricultural chemicals to these third
world nations. And they buy them to produce more crops for our consumption,
well the runoff from their systems is going into the water that comes right back up
and we end up killing our own coral reefs. And that is depressing.
And then there is Florida Bay. That is a good subject. [The bay] is dead; it is
literally dead. It is a huge area with the agricultural runoff coming off the
Everglades. [It is] agricultural runoff, from high nitrates to levels of pesticides
and things that run off. And then of course, the more of the Everglades that we
We could talk about Blockbuster [Videos]. Wayne Huizenga has just
gotten this week permission to build his own fiefdom down there close to the
Everglades. He is going to make a much larger [tourist] attraction than Walt
Disney World. And he is going to have more privileges; he is going to have his
own taxing district down there! So if you have enough money and power, you
can set up your own kingdom. You do not have to find a desert island, you can
do it in the state of Florida (if you can imagine). And the more that we do things
like this that are changing the shape of the Everglades, the less chance it has to
survive. And what will happen if the Everglades are gone? Well, that is even
less water getting into South Florida more saltwater intrusion as we take out
more. [We] had a reduction in nesting birds something like ninety percent in
the Everglades over the last ten years from actual bird counts. I could tell you
lots of horror stories; there are people who do nothing but collect these stories.
Have you ever heard of the calamity calendar?
S: No, tell me.
D: Oh my. I cannot think of the names of the people who put it up. We have got
one around here someplace. But they just keep a little file of all the little things
that people do not notice, like the tons of snakes and amphibians and reptiles
that are killed crossing the prairie on [SR] 441 and 1-75. Literally tons are killed
every year. I think it is estimated to be 1.2 tons per year. How long can you
continue doing that before you no longer have snakes and amphibians? And
then we have the diopse of all of the amphibians around the world. Several
species are just totally extinct now. Not just in Central American countries, but
in the United States, too. What has caused that? Well some people say it is
more ozone in the skin. (Amphibian skin is very porous and sensitive.) Some
people say it is the acid rain, that the eggs are not hatching that they are laying.
Some people are saying it is because of the change in climates, not having
enough dry weather, or it comes at a different time of year. Whatever happens,
it has reduced species of very famous amphibians. Like the golden frogs of
Costa Rica? They are gone. Noone has seen any for five years now. There is
somebody at the University of Florida who works on them. And believe me, she
has looked. I photographed them. I remember taking a seven-day walk over
the mountains of Panama. And believe me, it was strenuous. At the top of one
pass called Pasa de la Zorra (or the Fox's Pass), there was a beautiful meadow.
It was almost like an Alpine meadow. And [there was] a huge I call it a stream,
but it looked like a river crossing the meadow. And on the other side of it, a
flat area, there must have been thousands of red frogs. And they were so
prevalent, that we were afraid to walk; we were shuffling our feet. We were
shuffling anyhow, because we were too tired to lift them [laughter]. This was up
at 4,000 feet of altitude, in high mountains. We were several days' walk from
civilization and they were that prevalent. And somebody decided to go up there
and study them, and now we cannot find them. And that was not that long ago.
I am only forty-seven. It used to be that we talked about how things were in our
grandfather's time. Now we talk about how things were ten or fifteen years ago.
Is there anything else you want me to depress you about?
S: I think I would like to know a little bit more about the international scene. Have
you been in contact with organizations worldwide? Give me a world view.
D: Things are not black enough here? [laughter] We still work a lot in Central
America. We spend a couple months a year in Costa Rica. We were in Europe
this year. And I find that we are a lot further advanced in some of our ways than
other places are. And we are exporting a lot of our industry. As we become
more aware of what we are doing to ourselves here, we try to do the same thing
someplace else and just export it there. Certainly the industries that were
managing things in one particular way like incineration do not like the idea
that they are being put out of business. So they go to another country. I will tell
you about the little call I got from St. Petersburg, Russia. It was Leningrad.
There was a professor at the university there that put a message on the Russian
version of Epo Net. (It is now called something like Glasnov, but it was not
then.) And because it had to do with a company in Florida, somebody shifted it
to my message base. A company from Clearwater, Florida had made an offer to
the government of the USSR to put in a power plant, free of charge. They are
going to do this out of the goodness of their hearts. They are going to put up
this massive, million-dollar power plant that would generate free electricity. And
all they wanted from Russia was tax breaks and the land. And it just seemed
too good to be true to this particular professor, being a doubting Thomas. He is
obviously an environmentalist like me. So he wanted to find out some more
about this company. I said I would be happy to look it up. I went to the
department corporations up in Tallahassee and found that yes, there indeed was
this particular corporation. But it was not at the same address that they had.
So I decided to try to contact them. Now this was only about two weeks old.
They had just presented this proposal to Russia, for the powers that be over
there. And yet they had given an address of a company that they had held, that
had been closed for over a year. We could not find them at that particular place.
But through the Division of Corporations, I found out that they had another office
open. They were not in Tampa, they were in Clearwater. And going by, they
had a store front; that is all they had, a store front! And it was locked. I could
not see anything in it, but there was the name on the door. I was there during
the middle of the week, so maybe they only work on Saturdays and Sundays, or
maybe they only work on holidays I do not know. But I could not find that they
had ever engineered or built a power plant ever. They were just a name on a
door. So that made me a little bit leery. You are offering to build this huge
facility and have no expertise. You do not have an office of engineers and
consultants. You do not have money in the bank if something goes wrong. So
we found out more about the project. And their great idea was they were going
to import hazardous waste from all over the world, and burn it there to produce
this electricity. It sounds like a great idea if you can get away with it, because
they would be paid top price by these people who wanted to get rid of hazardous
waste. So they are being paid by the people to do that. They do not have to
pay taxes or buy land there. And big deal they have to put out some electricity
for the city. But who knows if they have the expertise to do it safely? Who
knows what they were going to bring in, and how they were going to store it when
it got there? What it was going to do if there was an accident on the high seas?
[They were going to be] moving this stuff all over the world. If you make it
someplace, you ought to learn how to take care of it there. If you cannot take
care of it there, then you should not be making it there. The idea that we are
going to produce something here in Florida and take the waste and ship it just
the length of Florida, is frightening. The idea that we are going to put it on boats
and ship it to Russia, is immoral. This happens all the time. Needless to say,
that project did not go very far. But I had to put my two bits in there. I do not
think I am very popular in some places.
There is a project right now in South Africa. I have got another message from
the Equi Net because Florida has a mercury problem. Therefore, I must be an
expert in mercury. Well I beg to differ; I do not know anything, and I would
rather I did not know anything about mercury. But I contacted some people at
Florida State University and at the DER up here in Tallahassee, trying to help
these people. There is an English company called Four that has an incinerator
in South Africa, near a tiny village whose name escapes me for the moment.
That village is in a very rural area, but it has a population of natives and of
course the workers from the plant. Well, unfortunately two workers from the
plant are dead, and twenty-eight are now suffering the effects of what we call
Minimacka Disease overexposure to ethyl mercury. So they are not doing
something right. They have been importing waste from the United States, from
several plants in Louisiana. And by federal law here in the United States, you
are responsible for any waste you make. [It is] what they call "from cradle to
grave": you cannot just ship it off; it has to go to a place that will take care of it to
the best of our ability at this point in time. So these companies legally are
still responsible for that waste (if it is not being taken care of properly). But of
course they do not know this in South Africa. And the company is burning a
waste that contains 5% mercuric chloride. These are what they call "spent
catalysts". They have got 16,000 tons of this material that they have collected.
Some of it, they even try to disguise by shipping it through Indonesia first, and
then to South Africa. So that is called "trans-shipping". As of right now, in the
last two weeks, because of so much input from people, we have been able to get
the company to shut down operations. And they have now agreed to have a
panel of experts go in an evaluate the safe disposal of this material. Because
they were burning it without any environmental equipment at all; they were just
throwing it and burning it. They had a rotary kiln incinerator, but they did not
have any __ control devices. They obviously were not monitoring what they
were doing. They refused to measure for mercury. It is an expensive test
anyhow. And they were not monitoring their work, or anything. So right now I
am looking for a couple of experts to go as part of a team to South Africa, to do
an investigation and to present the results to both the company and to the
government and to this group that is protesting down there. And it is a
responsibility to find the right people to go. Because if I send just an
environmentalist that is in that field, will he get the respect that perhaps someone
from a scientific community would get? And would the people from the scientific
community have an open enough mind to look at all the broader issues? Or are
they going to think that if it is incinerated, it is safe? So it is a difficult thing to
decide who the best people to send would be. Anyhow, that is what I am
working on today and tomorrow.
Let us see. Then there are all of the pesticides that we produce in the States
that we do not register here, because they are too toxic to register. We could
not group them. But we can ship them overseas for registration? That is
another problem. We ship these chemicals that the EPA will not even register
here. And believe me, that is pretty bad. Other countries assume that if they
[the chemicals] were made in the States, they are safe. And so they get
registered in other countries. And then they are given to people with hopefully
a translation of the __ and how to use them on it, but obviously not with as
much care as they were getting here. And then they use them on vegetables
that we then purchase and eat ourselves back here. It serves us right, don't you
S: What goes around, comes around.
D: Exactly. And that is a problem. The Benlade problem that Dupont has
characterized as being a bunch of neurotic farmers in Florida, has also popped
up in half a dozen countries around the world. And yet when Florida has
requested the information from the various governments, it has not been
forthcoming. Because nobody wants to admit that they have done something as
stupid as they obviously did. We have heard from unofficial sources that the rice
crop has been damaged in Malaysia and Japan. I know for a fact that Orchids
have been seriously damaged in many countries, especially in greenhouses.
Now we are getting rumors from Australia, that they have problems there. And
of course they have now associated Benlade with Analpthalmia, which is [a
defect characterized by] being born without any eyes at all. But that is a very
tenuous sort of connection. And I think that environmental pollutants would
have something to do with that, but I cannot say it had anything to do with
Benlade, per se. But that is another thing. A consultant for a law firm in
London was researching the incidents of Analpthalmia and Microcephalyn (being
born without a head, or a very small head). And [this consultant] found that,
before 1965, they only found one incidence of it ever having been put into any
sort of form where people knew it existed. It was extremely, extremely rare.
They estimate [that there were] less than one case per 100,000 live births. And
that case was in China, I think. And since 1965 which, coincidentally, was the
time that a lot of these organic pesticides were introduced especially Benlade -
it has now risen to be a serious problem. At this moment, right now, there were
eighty cases of Analpthalmia being investigated at Moors Eye Hospital in
London. These are only children; they are all children still. And we have three
cases here in Florida at the moment. There is a group of them in Pennsylvania
eight or ten. It is not rare anymore. What is causing it? I do not know. Is
something happening? Obviously, something is happening. And it may be
another twenty years before we know what, or another fifty. Unfortunately, that
is not good enough for the people who are having to raise these children, the
people whose lives are destroyed. They say, "We are just too short-lived to see
these things." So that is pesticides around the world. And when you think
about the accidents that they said could never could happen with the oil tankers,
could you imagine the same accidents happening with the pesticides being
carried, or with hazardous waste? And then you have the stories of the big
barges that were hauling waste from hazardous waste facilities ash and they
were going around the world. Nobody would let them dump. And they finally
ended up coming from the area of the Indian Ocean, they were emptying. They
never did find out where they dumped them, though. Someone has said that
they were dumped in the Indian Ocean. We have been using the ocean as a
dumping ground for so long. And we do not really seriously consider that that is
where thinking, intelligent mammals and even some that are not as intelligent -
live. And I know how I would feel if somebody was dumping on me. And I feel
it quite frequently. And I would think if there was anything down there intelligent,
I would not be at all surprised if they got up and told us what they think of us
eventually. Maybe they are I do not know. But we are just destroying the
oceans. We live in a closed environment. Our water from one place is moved
around but it is never really destroyed. Our air just travels around. These are
all finite items that we just change from vapor phase to solid phase to liquid
phase or whatever. And we have a finite amount of mercury in the world (or of
any of these chemicals). The problem is that we are changing where Mother
Nature put them, where they were fairly innocuous and the physical world had
learned to deal with these things, and we are putting them into other phases
where Mother Nature cannot handle them. And one of the big culprits of this is
chlorine. Chlorine appears in nature, but it does not appear in the forms that we
have been able to put it in with our chemistry. In all of the forms that it appears
in nature, nature has learned how to handle it over the millennia. It sort of came
along with plants and animals and the rest of it. Our ways of dealing with these.
And there were organisms out there that can actually eat up oil; they occur
naturally. Things that can purify some of these problems as they would naturally
occur. But we are doing things on such a massive scale that it cannot
recuperate. And we are putting chemicals together that were not together
before these fluorine compounds that nature cannot handle. And that is
where we are running afoul. Do I think we are going to destroy the earth? No.
Do I think we might destroy ourselves? Possibly. And I am not saying the earth
is going to look like it does now. It will recuperate. But whether or not we are
going to be here to enjoy it, I do not know.
S: And on that note, I would like to thank you; I appreciate you taking this time to
talk to me.
D: It will probably be ten years from now [when] somebody will here this [tape] and
everything will be peaceful, [with] no problems.
S: Thank you.