The Asbestos Business is Booming – But from the Wrong End

The Asbestos Business is Booming – But from the Wrong End

I eat dinner somewhere between 8:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. most nights.

Burned out from starting my Blackberry at 6 a.m. and shutting it down at 12 a.m., as well as sitting in front of the computer all day, I do workout, important for everyone to do, and I do speak with my wife, also important, but I tend to watch brainless television while I eat, as well as keep my Blackberry turned on.

I switched channels hoping to see a good movie on HBO, which usually has the same old movies that run for months at a high price. I usually look for a movie to take my mind off my business. When I switched to the first HBO channel it was airing an HBO Documentary series Mann vs. Ford, Mann being Mr. Wayne Mann of the Ramapough American Native Tribe, and of course, Ford being the Ford Motor company.

This series is related to my business, the business of treating hazardous waste to a non-hazardous material. Being the workaholic and craver for more knowledge, I watched the documentary to see if I could learn anything new about hazardous waste.

The documentary’s premise: that Ford was liable for the short life span of the Ramapough people; that dumping of paint toxic sludge was the cause of a cancer cluster in the surrounding area; Ford dumped the toxic paint sludge in the abandon mines and mountains of Ringwood, New Jersey where the Ramapough live.
The documentary goes on to show the history of the dumping, the suffering, poverty and constant fight of the Ramapough to rid the area of the toxic paint sludge.

When Ford closed its facility in Mahwah, NJ, Ford graciously donated the land for low-income housing to be built for the Ramapough.

With this donation, the taxpayer gave Ford a huge tax deduction.

When the Ringwood site became a Superfund site, again, the taxpayer, paid for the clean-up, in this case not once, but twice with long-term costs for monitoring the site, which means the taxpayer paid twice for the clean-up and continues to pay for the monitoring.

The lead paint’s attorney in the documentary is Ms.Vicki Gilliam.

Ms. Gilliam takes us to site of the cancer cluster to personally meet the residents and to point out the poverty and pain of the Ramapough.

Then, somewhere in the middle of the documentary we get the pain and suffering of Ms. Gilliam, how she was poor growing up on a farm, got married at a young age and had a child while still a teenager. Then her husband left her, she had to live in a trailer, but she was determined to become a lawyer. I am not sure what this portion of the documentary had to do with the Ramapough, because Ms. Gilliam didn’t know them while growing up or while becoming a lawyer.

Lawyers who take on the lucrative environmental cancer and illness cases know that the fees will be high and that they will be there when they finish, no matter how much they win for their clients.  Ms. Gilliam stated that legal fees would cost more than a million, possibly two million before the case was over.

My favorite scene, while showing the devastation of the Ramapough in this cancer cluster, takes place in an upscale restaurant at a meal with the lawyers, a consulting doctor and an environmental consultant drinking red wine and bottled sparkling water while discussing the Ramapough case. Of course the meal was tax deductible, charged to the Ramapough account, and partially paid for by the taxpayer.

Then we cut to the court and the Judge all paid for by the taxpayer.

The judge was adamant about not making this a long and drawn out trial.

In the end it was settled, Ford claimed no wrong doing and said that it was legal to dump at the time that it used the site as a landfill.

The total dollar settlement was $11,000,000. 00, less than carry-around pocket change for Ford. The monies paid to the plaintiffs ranged from the lowest $700.00 to the highest $34,000,000.00, a very small amount to pay for good health, something no amount of money can buy.

The lawyers, I would guess, got closer to the million to two million dollar mark and some good meals.
Now take the above law suit and times it by millions of cases with much larger settlements around the world, specifically asbestos cancer cases.

According to the Buffalo News, Ford paid a chemist with mesothelioma who worked for Durez Plastics with a machine manufactured by Ford that filed and ground brake shoes. Mr. Ginter won a $2.5 million settlement of which Ford paid 15%, or $375,000.00.

When asbestos containing materials are removed from our built environment we send it to another built environment, a landfill.

Today it is legal to dump asbestos containing material in a landfill, with two caveats: by law the asbestos containing materials sent to a landfill must have the original owner of the asbestos containing material’s name on the bag it is put in when removed and on manifest this way the lawyers will know who to sue, because there is a sign posted on the landfill that warns of the dangers of asbestos, which indicates that asbestos, although dumped in a legal landfill, can still cause health problems.

We all see the lawyers on television advertising: “if you have been exposed to asbestos, call us.”

We are in the awareness stage of recycling and the scarcity of landfill space.

We are in the awareness stage of toxic material dumping and the consequences of families suffering with illness and loss of loved ones.

We need to start permanently ridding our built environment of toxic materials, like asbestos, and at the same time reduce landfill storage.

There is no price big enough to pay for good health, no matter how good your lawyer is.

And so it goes with hazardous waste, especially asbestos.

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