Doctors, seniors, parents, coaches, voice concerns
Protect South Portland news release
Local physicians, coaches, seniors, and the American Lung Association gathered today at the Betsy Ross House, a senior-citizen residency in South Portland just a half mile from the proposed tar sands smokestacks, to express their serious concern about the health impacts of a tar sands export terminal on the South Portland waterfront. The group is particularly troubled by the oil industry’s continued denials that air and water quality will be adversely affected.
“Tar sands smokestacks would burn off dangerous toxic chemicals, including cancer-causing benzene,” states Dr. Tony Owens, a local emergency room physician. “This pollution can trigger asthma attacks and cause breathing and heart problems, particularly for children and the elderly. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) has determined that benzene causes cancer in humans. It’s irresponsible for the oil companies to be denying the serious health effects of a tar sands project.” (http://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/Benzene_FactSheet.html)
“The Lung Association already has concerns about the air quality in York and Cumberland counties,” remarked Edward Miller, Vice President of Public Policy for the American Lung Association of the Northeast. “Any additional and significant source of pollution in southern Maine, including a tar sands export facility, is extremely troubling.”
In order to export tar sands, the oil industry would need to build two 70-foot smokestacks on the pier next to South Portland’s Bug Light and an oil pump station right next to Kaler School. The smokestacks would burn off toxic chemical additives before tar sands oil is loaded onto tankers for export. And there are concerns that tar sands oil would be stored in the holding tanks right next to South Portland schools and playing fields. The storage tanks and smokestacks would release toxic pollutants, known as VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds), which contribute to smog, lung disease, and even cancer.
Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs, are the air pollutant of greatest concern. These toxic pollutants can cause cancer, but they can also irritate the eyes, skin, and respiratory tract, impair lung function, and affect vital organs. To take one example, benzene is recognized as a known human carcinogen. Long-term exposures to benzene can cause leukemia, a blood cancer, and other blood disorders such as anemia. Benzene and other dangerous chemicals will be released into the air if a tar sands facility is built in South Portland.
“I support the Waterfront Protection Ordinance to make sure that the oil tank farm right in the middle of South Portland’s schools is not filled with millions of gallons of toxic tar sands oil,” said Margaret Donahue, volunteer coach and PTA past-president. “If the tar sands export facility is built in South Portland, these tanks could release triple the amount of toxic air pollution (up to 440,000 pounds per year) right next to where our children learn, play, and spend their days.”
“I live in the Betsy Ross House and am worried about breathing difficulties. If they go ahead with their plan to put tar sands oil smokestacks less than half a mile away I can’t just move away, and neither can most of my neighbors,” said Janice Doctor, 81 year-old, lifelong South Portland resident. “If the smokestacks go up, I’ll be breathing that toxic air, gasping for breath, coughing, wheezing and who knows what else. I could be on oxygen for the rest of my life. Is that any way to treat longtime senior residents?”
“This is very personal to me,” said Cathy Chapman of South Portland. “I have 4 generations of my family living here in South Portland: myself who has asthma, my son and his family including my 19 month old granddaughter, and my 93 year old mother who has chemical sensitivities who lives right here in the Betsy Ross house. I love South Portland. I have owned my home here over 20 years. However, should tar sands be exported from here, I and my entire family would have to move. The only way that we can protect our families from the health threats of tar sands is through a vote FOR the Waterfront Protection Ordinance on Nov. 5.”
“I am speaking out today because I am outraged by all the lies that the oil industry is spreading throughout our community,” said Donahue. “As parents, coaches, teachers, and community members, we need to pay attention to the facts about what’s at stake. USA Today reports the air around our children’s schools is already poor and that’s without the smokestacks next to Bug Light Park and these tanks releasing even more toxic pollution from tar sands oil. We should be working to clean up our air, not make it more toxic.”
“I’ve seen a lot in this City—but the proposed tar sands oil export terminal and smokestacks are the worst yet,” said Janice Doctor. “Storing tar sands in South Portland and exporting it from the pier near Bug Light would increase dangerous air pollution in South Portland. The only way to stop this wretched idea and protect the air we breathe is to vote yes for the Waterfront Protection Ordinance.”
“We all have a stake in how this turns out,” said Owens. “This is about the community of South Portland and it’s also about the clean air, water, and good health that everyone in Maine values. The impacts are potentially far-reaching and grave.”
In three weeks, South Portland voters will consider the Waterfront Protection Ordinance, a citizen-driven effort that would prevent a tar sands export project in South Portland while allowing oil companies and all other existing businesses to continue to operate and upgrade their facilities. Last spring, more than 125 local volunteers collected nearly 3,800 signatures from registered voters in just 11 days to put the ordinance on the ballot on November 5th.