Reading Around the Internet, January 11, 2016

Good morning — we have a beautiful, cold morning here in Cape Girardeau. It’s a welcome change to the rainy weather we had all weekend.

A few noteworthy items popped up late last week and over the weekend around the Internet that I know various readers may find interesting:

Toxic Torts

There’s an interesting discussion about a toxic tort case in The New York Times Magazine, titled “The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare.” Lawyer Rob Bilott has been working to expose a very long history of chemical pollution. Nathaniel Rich describes the history behind the case as well as some of the legal maneuverings. For those interested in groundwater issues as well as toxic tort litigation, it’s both a fascinating and frustrating read: fascinating, because of the manner in which the case came to Bilott and his commitment to it; frustrating, because there remain so many unresolved issues after years of litigating.

The Mississippi River Flood

As the flood that caused so much damage here in Missouri and in Illinois moves southward, the Army Corps of Engineers continues to activate flood works in various areas. Yesterday, they opened the gates on the Bonnet Carré spillway in Louisiana. This spillway is activated in order to allow waters from the Mississippi River to flow into Lake Pontchartrain. The goal is to keep the river below the 17 feet (the levees in New Orleans protect the city up to 20 feet). If the Morganza spillway needs to be opened, the earliest that will occur is October 13th. They expect the river to crest tomorrow. WeatherUnderground has some great coverage. If you click through, be sure to also check out their discussion of the subtropical storm that appears to be forming in the Atlantic.

Also, NASA has released images of the New Year’s Flood. For those of you particularly interested in flooding along the river the images are very interesting. If you scroll down, you’ll see that they have also provided links to various other sites that may be of interest, including the National Weather Service’s review of the event.

Huge Bushfire Creates Weather System in Western Australia

Finally, this story caught my eye. There’s a huge blaze in Yarloop, Western Australia that has (it appears), created its own weather system. Courtney Bembridge at ABC News ( reports on it, describing the ways in which this weather system is making it more difficult to fight the fire. Because the heat of the fire is rising to meet moisture in the atmosphere, lightning storms have formed. The story explains the process, with graphics and is well worth taking the time to read.

Cancer Clusters and Radiation in Coldwater Creek

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. Theres 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 theres something youd like me to consider writing about (