One afternoon when I came home from work, my grandson's friend was sitting on the couch with his head in his hands. He told me, ''I just found out that another one of my good friends was diagnosed with cancer.''
Austin is a junior in high school. Unfortunately, I was not surprised. When you live in the toxic corridor of the Ohio River, serious, fatal and debilitating diseases are not unusual.
East Liverpool is an area being studied by the American Cancer Society because of cancer rates and by U. of Cincinnati researchers, cooperating with Dr. Roxanne Burns, Kent State faculty member, for manganese levels. Because of the work of Alonzo Spencer, the county has been declared an Environmental Justice Area.
A major problem that contributes to global warming is coal-fired power plants: First Energy's Sammis plant at Stratton and the Cardinal Plant further down river. First Energy installed scrubbers that were supposed to clean emissions. However, the smoke and steam coming out of the smokestack is still dark. Some say only one of the scrubbers is working; others say the scrubbers were never placed in operation.
''Little Blue,'' a fly-ash dumping ground for the Bruce Mansfield Power Plant, changed a bucolic environment to a fenced-in nightmare. The site sits just above the Ohio River. First Energy has plans to clean up by 2016.
Ironically, although the cleanup calls for treating and releasing the water into the Ohio River, for a number of years local residents have reported that Little Blue is shrinking. Where did that water go? Only one place is possible: into the river.
Burning coal contributes to mountaintop removal mining. We know that the greatest contributor to global warming is the power plant cycle.
In his State of the Union message, President Obama pledged to act administratively to reduce pollution that will affect climate change and environmental health. A poll conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council and Environment America, following the State of the Union, shows that 65 percent of Americans believe climate change is a serious problem and a strong majority (i.e., 60 percent) support President Obama's use of executive authority to reduce the dangerous industrial carbon pollution that is causing climate change.
Although he charged Congress to act first, President Obama made it clear that if Congress did not act, his administration would do so. In this time of inaction on the part of Congress, given the importance of the issues we face with climate change, the President and his Administration must hold fossil fuel corporations accountable, reject proposals to import dirty fuels, support development of clean energy and protect communities from future climate disasters like Hurricane Sandy.
It is evident that we cannot wait. We must imagine a world in which a junior in high school does not have to mourn over the cancers and cancer deaths of his friends. The time for the president to act is now.
Patti Capel Swartz