I have been following the story of a possible cancer cluster along Coldwater Creek just outside St. Louis for a while now. That’s because my former colleague, neighbor and friend, Scott McClurg, is the lead plaintiff in a case filed in 2012. He and his other plaintiffs allege in the lawsuit that nuclear waste sites near the airport contaminated Coldwater Creek, a stream in the area where they played as children, grew up, and in some cases raised their own families. This contamination, the plaintiffs believe, is the cause of their illnesses, which include cancers and autoimmune disorders.
There are many, many facets of this story that are remarkable. For example, a group of high school friends coming together, discussing their illnesses and realizing that a surprisingly large number of cases of rare cancers and autoimmune disorders existed among them. Then, they mobilized legally, did some organizing and have been using Facebook to collect data concerning their illnesses. This is the sort of court case with human dimensions to it that will become a book one day. Certainly, at the moment, it is getting some very well-deserved press.
The most remarkable part of this story for me is not so dramatic. The most remarkable part is simply Scott McClurg. Here he is, fighting his cancer while at the epicenter of all of this legal action, taking care of his family in the midst of maintaining a very busy career, and still he was the neighbor who went over to my home while I was away at Thanksgiving to shovel my stoop.
So I wanted to do a brief post with a few links to the story for readers who might not otherwise see it. There’s been some more recent coverage, too. I also want to signal here that we will be expanding a bit in our posts at DPP. We will consciously look for more environmental justice stories, i.e., court cases and political actions in which neighbors come together to maintain a clean and healthy community. We will discuss this complex area of case-law, and explore how environmental justice and property politics are often intertwined. Specific environmental justice actions are not always apparent when you do not live in the communities where they are taking place, but the law and politics of property and disasters are always best understood in context. Therefore, please email me if there’s something you’d like me to consider writing about (email@example.com).