Pamela K. Miller, Alaska Community Action on Toxics
Pamela K. Miller is a biologist and director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics (ACAT). ACAT works to protect human health, water and air quality, and the natural environment by collaborating with affected communities under right-to-know and other laws. ACAT exposes polluters, seeks to hold them accountable, and offers technical assistance to citizens who want to eliminate contaminants from their environment.
Tuesday, 30 May 2000
At just past midnight, the sun is setting over Mount Susitna across Cook Inlet. I’m at the office preparing for a briefing today on the environmental and health effects of persistent pollutants in Alaska for officials from the Interior Department and Congress. Marilyn Heiman, Bruce Babbitt’s special assistant for Alaska, invited me to talk about the importance of the global treaty to reduce and eliminate certain toxic chemicals. For us, this is not an abstract issue, but one that affects the safety of our water and food, our health and the health of our children. The problem is how to say everything that needs to be said in five minutes.
I’m glad for the long daylight hours, but like other Alaskans, I tend to turn manic in the summer. From the office, I can see that fishermen are still plying the waters of Ship Creek near the Port of Anchorage. I wonder if they know about the three Superfund sites just upstream at Fort Richardson, Elmendorf Air Force Base, and the Standard Steel industrial site. How could this be Alaska? Unfortunately, the military, mining companies, and oil corporations continue to pollute with impunity here. ACAT has used GIS mapping to locate over 2,000 contaminated sites around the state. Most people tend to think of Alaska as pristine. It’s my job to break the bad news (it’s our right to know!) and get people to do something about it (let’s find creative ways to eliminate toxic chemicals before they are produced and released in a huge uncontrolled experiment!).
Another staff person, Lorraine Eckstein, is here completing a lengthy article about ACAT’s work for the Alaska Conservation Foundation Dispatch. It’s good to have some company, but we’re both running out of steam after working on it for several hours. I try to remember that the article will go out to some 15,000 people and help inform them about important contamination issues in Alaska and the significance of our work.
It has been a busy weekend with putting the finishing touches on our investigative report about the deliberate radioactive-waste dumping by the U.S. Army at Fort Greely in Interior Alaska. I made two trips to the printer to proofread the report and then dropped the final copy off for our volunteer webmaster.
People in the small community of Delta, about 80 miles from Fairbanks, asked if we would investigate the safety of the experimental nuclear reactor at Fort Greely. This report represents two years of research by our organization working with Norm Buske of Nuclear Weapons Free America. Norm is a wacky physicist who investigates the transgressions of the Department of Energy and Department of Defense at places like Hanford, the Navy nuclear submarine base at Bremerton, Wash., and the French nuclear test site in the Pacific. Norm and I authored a report on the radioactive leakage from the world’s largest underground nuclear test site at Amchitka Island, Alaska.
We are preparing for the release of this report on Fort Greely by printing several hundred copies and making it available on our web site on June 6. Stay tuned for the revelations!
“Knowing what I do, there would be no future peace for me if I kept silent.”
— Rachel Carson
Get Grist in your inbox