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Environmental lecture series begins

Katherine Gales | Thursday, September 18, 2003

The lecture series on environmental justice began Wednesday evening as Jose Bustos of the Service Employees International Union discussed the topic “Dumps, Justice and the Catholic Worker Movement.”

A native of Mexico and resident of East Chicago, Bustos is chairman of the Coalition for a Clean Environment, which was formed in opposition to the construction of a Confined Disposal Facility (CDF) in his area. For the past seven years, Bustos has been protesting the construction of the CDF, intended to remove waste by the “clamshell method” from the ship canal, in a district populated mainly by minorities.

Calling the CDF “a sad fact for our region,” Bustos pointed out that the proposed disposal site would be the biggest in our nation – over five times the size of Chicago’s Wrigley Field. According to his lecture, nine of the 20 chemicals that the EPA considers most hazardous to humans will be present at this site, in close proximity to a high school.

“This proposal is a corrupt plan for toxic waste disposal – an environmental injustice, plain and simple,” Bustos said.

He defined an environmental justice as “the fair treatment of all people … equal enforcement of environmental treatment and policy, where no one gets more and no one gets less.” However, “[the] poor and minorities suffer the most [and] benefit the least,” he said. “It’s a form of racism – the intentional placement of hazardous waste in areas occupied by minorities.”

As his goal, Bustos identified the need to “start a real dialogue, where common concern is in the open and taken seriously.” He observed a lack of respect by the Army Core of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency for the people of East Chicago. “I am hoping that this year or the year after we will be able to put a stop to this project,” he said.

In particular, Indiana is having trouble with pollution. Bustos cited a variety of figures that prove that pollution is literally in Notre Dame’s backyard. “All of those chemicals will get to Notre Dame eventually,” he said in conclusion.

Bustos is running for city council, hoping for victory “God willing and with support of the grassroots.”

Bustos was the first in a lecture series sponsored by the University’s O’Neill Family Chair, Science, Technology and Values Program, Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, African and African-American Studies Program, and the Departments of Anthropology, Biological Sciences, and Civil Engineering and Geological Sciences.