superfund site


“And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence” — from The Sound of Silence

New Orleans is known, in great part, for its music. Perhaps that “truth” in its blood and bones will enable residents there to tune into what I have to say here.

The Agriculture Street Super Fund Site in New Orleans (70126 zip code) is “considered one of the worst hazardous waste sites listed by the EPA” and there should be warning signs posted all around for nearby residents and passers by, but — according to my sources in the Big Easy — there’s nothing to be found along those lines whatsoever. One in ten U.S. citizens lives near such a site, and so this is a monumentally important observation to drive home. Citizens overseas face a similar lack of concern for public health among authorities, of course, regarding many different kinds of toxic sources. This has international import.

The reason I’m writing this article, though, right now is that I’m planning to visit New Orleans shortly, and I want to plant some seeds of activism which can bloom prior to my arrival. Specifically, if one looks at the four Active Non-NPL sites that are listed at the Home Facts Environmental Hazards Super Fund Sites page there’s something really curious that begs for concerned citizens to address. That is, when you click on the single Active NPL site page for New Orleans the arrow within the middle of the red area is NOT in the middle; it lies a little to the right… indicating that the Agriculture Street Super Fund Site is closer to the worst in the country than it is average within the NPL category. However, when one clicks on the four individual toxic locations which follow it (the orange Non-NPL hazardous sites) THEY ARE ALL EXACTLY IN THE MIDDLE of the orange areas.

How can the New Orleans Naval Station, the Southern Forest Research Station, the Franklin Avenue Drum and the New Orleans Area Parathion Sites all measure exactly the same in terms of toxicity? That absolutely defies credulity, and begs any concerned citizen to ask authorities to explain themselves, to justify the generic measurements they’ve provided for the public.

In fact, given the fact that the EPA itself has been suspect for quite some time, there’s no reason why citizens shouldn’t question the legitimacy of the Archived designations, the locations assigned green colors, indicating that their toxicity has been taken care of, the areas made safe. To what extent is all of the categorization designed to simply placate the public, relax folks who would otherwise be up in arms, screaming for accurate assessments? For their lives.

Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs’ “Wooly Bully” comes to mind. The wool’s being pulled over the public’s eyes, I’d say. And please keep “sham” in mind as I touch upon many matters here which are falsely presented as the truth… by people we extend too much trust to by far. [More on that far below.]

Think about it. What kind of panic might ensue if people ‘cross the board became informed, and then cross (or worse) about the fact that they’re not only being poisoned, but lied to too took action. It’s all too much to contemplate for the powers that be, so they decided long ago to… put on a show. Go to whatever lengths might be necessary to provide acceptable ratings to keep folks from becoming irate, and doing something about the mendacity and danger.

“Oh, these are archived, so you can go on with your daily lives.” “Those over there shouldn’t concern you because they’re not in your neighborhood, and — besides — they’re not top priorities for the EPA.” None of that addresses the fact that we have no reason whatsoever to trust the faux watchdog agency, no scientific findings which we can embrace to reassure us that living, playing, working or visiting near a Super Fund site (proximity of a certain distance, wind blowing this way or that, etc.) makes no difference respecting our health.

Nothing’s on the table for discussion. Nationwide, not just in New Orleans. And worldwide lots of segments of societies have given up, pure and simple and sadly. Badly accepting what need not be tolerated.

Nothing enough’s been addressed to date. But that can change, and that’s why I’m writing this article, hoping that school authorities in the Big Easy realm will pick up the ball and run with it after reading this; I intend to circulate a copy of this in academic circles in their area this coming week.

For virtually every discipline, the curriculum can accommodate the facts and thrust of what’s delineated above. Meaning, teachers across the board can incorporate lessons respecting civic engagement, and simultaneously be instructing youngsters as per the parameters presently imposed on educational institutions. They can honor what’s considered of core importance, and inject a new ingredient.

I wrote this piece while watching a National Association Basketball Finals game. And an advertisement came on for Round-up, one of Monsanto’s big poisonous sellers during a break in the playoff contest. Which led me to the thought that schools need to help their charges self-educate about the abominations of corporations AND the abominable behavior of governmental agencies. Kids need to feel their personal agency. Be taught that they can do something significant by way of stopping the horrid momentum which they are all aware of these days.


And the groundwork for encouraging that must be laid with exposure to the new facts of life for American youth in the 21st century.

Here’s hoping the educators I’ll cross paths with in New Orleans will want to call a spade a spade, and at least play “Wooly Bully” for the kids so that they can dance to a different tune than what they’re able to come up with at present… with the mediocre music that’s being played via silence in so many parts of academia.

Meaning, it’s “mediocre”,,, to say the very least… to be preparing students exclusively to carve our careers at destructive corporations such as Monsanto or to put all of their academic heartbeats into goals which will land them a job with a corrupt governmental agency; the EPA, as things stand, is not the only undesirable agency, and I’ll be glad to provide definitive documentation for that radical accusation, upon request. The thing is, students can prepare to work for a decent company and/or to serve the Collective Good under the auspices of the U.S. government AND — simultaneously — get to work (while in school) on contributing to changing the status quo.

To do that, though, again, will require calling a spade a spade*, which is not what’s going on in too many classrooms these days… with almost the entire focus of a given student being on purely personal utilitarian goals. Goals which are based on misinformation about what many corporations and agencies are actually doing… and — so very important — WHY.

*Which is what finally happened with BP and the Army Corps of Engineers once Katrina hit… and hard truths unfolded following its aftermath. Too late.

We all know what Dr. Martin Luther King said about being silent in the face of what is abhorrent. At least I hope the reader does. Regardless, many wise people throughout the ages of mankind have underscored the importance of speaking up about the truth. No matter who employs you… especially when it comes to life and death issues.

I believe that the academics I’ve had contact with already in the New Orleans will want to give a fresh take on the Big Picture. And I hope these hard truths for Big Easy education will be embraced fervently. If they are, I will drop everything and travel to their realm to contribute in any way I can.

Making lots of noise midst the sound of silence.

Richard Martin Oxman, Director of Flannery O’Connor Academy, can be reached at The author wants readers to understand that what’s been touched upon here is only the tip of a very dangerous iceberg, and to secure a clue as to what that means… he asks one and all to check out some of the imagery embedded in the “Wooly Bully” footage provided, and then to contact him to engage in very necessary discussion in depth. With the idea of DOING something about the whole shebang in solidarity. Peacefully. And with great love. “The Sound of Silence” came out when the author first began teaching college kids in 1964. He KNOWS what the challenges are now, and firmly believes it’s NOT “too late.”


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One Comment

  1. K SHESHU BABU says:

    There are many areas where educators are ‘ silent’ ….they should identify the black spots and try to address them

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