Report: 27 Facilities Using Hazardous Chemicals Pose Risk To Thousands Of Low-Income Neighbors

There are 27 facilities in Connecticut that use such large quantities of hazardous chemicals that they are required to submit disaster response plans to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. About 170,000 people—roughly 5 percent of the state’s population—live within a mile of these facilities, risking exposure to a leak, explosion or adverse health effects. Low-income people and children of color under the age of 12 are more likely than their white counterparts to live in these “fenceline” communities, according to a report by the Center for Effective Government. In its report “Living in the Shadow of Danger: Poverty, Race and Unequal Chemical Facility Hazards,” the center examined more than 12,500 facilities in 50 states, grading states based on the “disparities faced” by people living adjacent to or near these facilities. The center reported that children of color under age 12 living in the state were 2.2 times more likely than white children to live within a mile of one of these facilities. In many instances, residents are unaware of the dangers just blocks from their homes, the report said.

Unhealthy Mercury Levels Persist In Our Waterways And Fish

Wethersfield resident Patrice Gilbert knew that compact fluorescent bulbs contained mercury, so as they burned out, she put them aside until she could find out where to properly dispose of them. One day, she accidently knocked one off the counter and it broke. “I scooped that broken one up, put the other three in a paper bag, put that in a plastic bag and put it in my recycling bin,” she said. “I didn’t know what to do with them.”

Gilbert’s action is typical.  Nationally, only an estimated 2 percent of household CFLs are recycled properly, the Association of Lighting and Mercury Recyclers says.  In Connecticut, only 4 percent of households participate in hazardous waste collection days – where mercury-containing CFLs, thermostats and thermometers should be recycled. Instead, those items usually end up in one of the state’s trash-to-energy plants, where, through the disposal process, mercury gas is emitted into the air and eventually pollutes waterways and ends up in fish.   While 40 percent of mercury pollution in Connecticut comes from out-of-state sources such as Midwestern coal-fired plants, volcanoes and other sources of pollution, 60 percent comes from in-state sources – primarily the state’s six trash-to-energy plants and its one coal-fired plant.