Legislatively Speaking

By Senator, Lena C. Taylor

State Senator Lena C. Taylor

As they dig ore from open pits in Northern Wisconsin, and process these rocks into marketable minerals, the chemical process releases toxins into the atmosphere.

The workers at these mines and the rural residents surrounding these mines will breathe the same types of toxic contaminants that urban Blacks breathe from Milwaukee ’s industrial neighborhoods. Milwaukee ’s Black residents know firsthand what Native Americans and northern Wisconsin residents have to fear from a mining site. The factory’s bellowing black smoke creates neurological toxins that accumulate in eatable fish, drinking water, and the air we breathe. They have become familiar threats to the health of elderly residents and young children, as well as pregnant women.

Arsenic, lead, carbon dioxide, methyl mercury and other poisonous contaminants disrupt community lifestyles and are particularly dangerous to mental and physical health. As you drive through urban areas, you can witness how contaminants have created unsustainable environments. These toxins that adversely affect ecological integrity, micro- organic diversity, human health and well-being are taking a physical toll upon our population. Infertility in men and women, increased incidents of autoimmune diseases, increased risk of heart disease, and exacerbation of lung disease and asthma are just a few of the repercussions from cars, refineries, power plants and other sources as they willingly send pollutants into the air. As these toxins eventually settle in water and soil, homes and buildings, parks and gardens, they contaminate the future of our young people and send others to an early grave.

This is not an exaggeration of environmental injustice. Midwest cities with large Black populations were the hub of the most dangerous polluting industries in the world. Human exposure to toxins usually occurs through a combination of methods that include innocently inhaling and digesting poisons. Science has contributed significantly in mitigating pollution causes and human tolerance.

This is why I am reaching across the aisle to shake the hand of Republican Senator Dale Schultz of Richland Center. His reason to not support easing of mining restrictions was built upon scientific fact and not partisan politics. I commend a politician who recognized that unusual cases of stomach pain, nausea, partial paralysis and blindness maybe a result from the body’s unknowing accumulation of inorganic heavy metals from industrial plants and mining sites.

The significant health effects of streamlining iron ore mines in a rural environment exacerbate the same health problems from streamlining environment protection for urban factories.

With the help of Republicans and Democrats, I want to create a taskforce that aims to foster research, provide education, and come up with solutions about how industry and communities can work together to stop intentional and non-point pollution. Our children and children’s children do not want the future of their communities destroyed under the guise of job creation.

With ninety percent of the state’s mining equipment produced in Milwaukee, I want to see more Black residents securing these new jobs at local plants. Job creation using taxpayer dollars to increase worldwide manufacturing capabilities has dismissed the capabilities of urban residents. With the help of technology, we can eliminate many of the environmental and human hazards associated with urban industries and rural mining. This in turn will help create the green energy jobs that were promised to the members of my community.

To this day, Milwaukee ’s Black residents are still reeling from the toxins produced by neighborhood tanneries, metal manufactures, smelter plants, and iron foundries. These Black skilled workers were part of the Black middle class that is shrinking from lack of job opportunities. Milwaukee ’s strong manufacturing base was a solid economic engine that employed many Blacks in dangerous jobs after World War II.

As a result, Milwaukee ’s Black population has a higher proportion of exposure to toxic chemicals than Wisconsin ’s general population. Upon visiting Wisconsin, the director of the Environmental Protection Agency said a child waiting at an urban bus stop will ingest more pollutants then a factory worker it a factory. The combination of asbestos, lead, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxides, particulate matter and ozone gas are in such harmful concentrations that people’s cognitive thinking, memory, motor coordination and social behavior can be permanently affected.

On Tuesday, Democrats proposed an amendment, the Jauch-Schultz amendment, which would restore some environmental safeguards left out by the Mining Bill. However, Republicans decided to send this amendment back to committee. It is saddening that partisan quarrels have gotten in the way of our overall goals to provide quality jobs to Wisconsinites yet not compromise our already reeling environment.

While it is important to stay committed to the promises we have made to so many citizens of this great state regarding job creation, other outlets that do not pose such serious health and environmental risks must be considered.