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Hazardous Waste Is Potential Disaster Next Door for All

December 23, 1990

Mr. K. Grimes in a Nov. 18 letter, "Waste May be Hazardous to Your Wallet," related an unfortunate incident whereby a law-abiding citizen, concerned for the safety and welfare of others and for the environment, may face a very expensive bill for the cleanup of hazardous waste.

Mr. Grimes asks: Why would anyone report the possibility of a hazardous material on a property?

Why? Because it is our responsibility to our neighbors, loved ones both present and future, and the fragile environment we live in.

Mr. Grimes writes of the choice people have of either dumping something they suspect is hazardous in an empty lot on a dark night or facing a possible large bill from removal by the Fire Department. The choice is yours, but the criminal and civil liability costs are much greater for an illegal dumping.

The people spoke very clearly at the voting booths on Election Day. The state of the environment is a concern to us all. The deliberate, as well as the accidental or even potential, destruction of our environment cannot be tolerated by anyone--there is too much at stake.

Mr. Grimes also wrote: "I thought we paid taxes to have the police and fire department respond to situations that endanger the public." He is absolutely correct. The fire and police do respond to situations that endanger the public and will continue to do so. The Fire Department, with a specialized hazardous-materials team, did respond to this potential life-endangering situation, along with the Police Department and the Orange County Sheriff's Department bomb squad, in order to neutralize and make safe the situation at the McGuire family residence.

The costs are accrued from having private enterprise, along with specialized Fire Department hazardous-material teams, test and remove the hazardous materials to a state and federally licensed facility capable of the proper handling and disposal of hazardous materials and wastes. Proper disposal is expensive, but the other alternatives are even more costly: our family, friends, neighbors and environment.

I don't want to sound too emotional, but there is a definite problem aligned with the emotions. If you remember the displaced families at Love Canal--just to cite one example--we as public officials and citizens cannot tolerate any further contamination to the environment.

DONALD R. HERR, Fire marshal, Westminster Fire Department

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