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Toxic Triangle

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The Toxic Triangle

Three areas in low income communities of color pose serious health risks to California residents: AMCO Chemical in Oakland, CA; Hunter’s Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco, CA; and United Heckathorn Co. in Richmond, CA. The three sites have been declared “Superfund” sites by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency [EPA].  The EPA’s Superfund program was established to address abandoned hazardous waste sites, but does not guarantee that these sites will be fully cleaned up#. All three still pose a threat to the surrounding communities, violating CAT Articles 2, 4, and 16.#

The EPA began work cleaning up AMCO Chemical in 1997 but assessed that even after clean up, it could potentially pose a long-term risk. Investigations by the EPA confirmed the presence of vinyl chloride, a chemical that has short-term effects on the central nervous system such as dizziness and drowsiness, and long-term effects including liver damage and cancer, and the presence of benzene, a toxic air pollutant that has the potential to cause cancer with long-term exposure.##

At Hunter’s Point Naval Shipyard in San Francisco, the EPA revealed that the groundwater, sediment, soil, and surface water are contaminated with fuels, pesticides, heavy metals, Polychlorinated Biphenyls, and volatile organic compounds.

The EPA found pesticides in the Lauritzen Channel near United Heckathorn Co. in Richmond and determined that the levels are high enough to pose a threat to the wildlife and the people that consume that wildlife, particularly the fish that live in the channel.#

Activists named the three sites the “Toxic Triangle” and have held multiple hearings with the goal of seeking justice for their communities. These activists call themselves the Toxic Triangle Coalition and are working to raise awareness about the need to clean up these areas, but they have not been successful because of inaction on the part of the government.

In 1994, President Clinton issued Executive Order 12898, “Federal Actions to Address Environmental Justice in Minority and Low-Income Populations” to protect the health of people living in communities overburdened by pollution.# However, the “Toxic Triangle” Superfund sites have not been sufficiently cleaned up and, according to the EPA, still pose “potential threats.”

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