Don't eat. Don't drink. Don't breathe.
On a drive through the small Appalachian town of East Liverpool, Ohio, local activist Amanda Kiger points out the crops you wouldn't want to eat, water you wouldn't want to drink and the air you wouldn't want to breathe.
This tiny town, nestled in the Tri-Citi belt surrounded by rural Pennsylvania and West Virginia, is home to one of only a handful of hazardous-waste incinerators in the U.S. that process waste too toxic to go into landfills. It's also part of an area considered one of the nation's most polluted due to coal, nuclear, pottery and waste centers all along the Ohio River.
Cleaning the smoke, collecting the ash
Kiger drives through the town in the shadow of a massive incinerator smoke stack. Owned by Heritage Thermal Services, the facility cleans the smoke before it goes into the air and the ash from the toxic waste is tested.
If it's clean enough, it goes to a local hazardous-waste landfill. But that's if the incinerator is working correctly, and it doesn't always work correctly.
Here's environmental activist Amanda Kiger outside the controversial Heritage Waste Incinerator in East Liverpool, Ohio.
195 times above the EPA limit for toxins
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in 2105 Heritage Waste Incinerator was cited for emitting gases that contain high levels of toxic chemicals into the air 195 times above the controlled limit from November 2010 through December 2014.
"Heritage hazardous-waste incinerator in eastern Ohio repeatedly allowed toxins to contaminate the air over the past four years, exposing nearby residents to chemicals that can cause cancer, miscarriages and early death," the EPA says in a report.
In April 2015, Heritage was ordered to pay a $34,000 fine.
In 1994, then-president Bill Clinton in 1994 declared East Liverpool an Environmental Justice Zone and laid out plans to turn it around. More than two decades later, cancer rates are still high and homes and buildings are abandoned.
Save Our County lawsuit
Recently an environmental watchdog group called Save Our County filed a lawsuit against Heritage incinerator plant. The lawsuit filed in federal court alleges that the company violated the Clean Air Act by exceeding emissions limits.
Heritage Thermal Services spokesperson Raymond Wayne told local news station WMFJ that the company plans to vigorously defend the lawsuit.
Kiger says even though her town is a ghost town, she'll stay and fight as long as it takes.
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