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Sickening Environmental Racism During the Clinton Administration

Posted by libhom Thursday, April 24, 2008

From Democracy Now! 4/24/08:

AMY GOODMAN: Lawmakers and the NAACP are calling for an investigation into reports that federally funded scientific experiments in 2000 spread sewage sludge on the yards in poor black neighborhoods to test if it could fight lead poisoning in children. The Associated Press reported on Sunday that researchers spread a mix of human and industrial wastes from sewage treatment plants on the lawns of nine low-income families in Baltimore and a vacant lot next to an elementary school in East St. Louis. The families were told the sludge was safe and not informed about the toxic ingredients the sludge could contain. The report implicated researchers and funders from Johns Hopkins University, the Kennedy Krieger Institute, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Housing and Urban Development Department and the Agriculture Department.

The researchers say the experiment successfully reduced the amount of lead in the soil. But some scientists question the findings, as well as the choice of neighborhood and lack of transparency with the residents. The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee will convene a hearing on the subject next month.

I’m joined right now in Washington, D.C. by John Heilprin. He’s the Associated Press reporter who broke this story.

Amy Goodman's interview exposes some truly reprehensible behavior by Bill Clinton's adminstration plus major academic and philanthropic organizations.

A bit later in the interview:
JOHN HEILPRIN: Well, one of the problems is we don’t know exactly who they are. No one will identify them. They were all families from these poor, low-income neighborhoods, black neighborhoods in Baltimore in so-called empowerment zones. And all of them agreed to take on—to have this Class A fertilizer tilled into their lawns. These were basically bald dirt lawns with high levels of lead contamination. And the Class A sludge fertilizer was tilled into the lawn to create grass cover, and on the theory that if the children ate the dirt, they would be better protected from the lead contamination, because the sludge would mix with the lead in the soil and make that pass safely through the body. That was the researchers’ theory.

AMY GOODMAN: But John, these families were given a financial incentive to accept this sludge on their lawn.

JOHN HEILPRIN: They were. They were given food coupons, free lawns, free doormats. We didn’t put that in the story. And they were essentially told that this was commercial-grade fertilizer, that it was safe, as you reported, and that they would be better off, that they would be better off using this fertilizer than before.

The thing that I found interesting was that this government-sponsored research essentially operates on the premise that this fertilizer is safe enough and good enough to eat, even though the researchers say that the fertilizer was not fed directly to the children, the premise of the research is that if they eat it, they will be better off.

Later, Helprin discussed who were the targets of this disturbing research.
JOHN HEILPRIN: Well, no one knows, of course, exactly why they picked those families or the neighborhoods, but I do think that nationwide, as with the spreading of sludge and with the research, it tends to go to areas where it is not challenged. In sludge spreading, the sludge is generated by cities, big city, rich cities, like New York, LA. They try to get rid of it in more rural areas, predominantly minority areas. And some of this research, as we reported, in East St. Louis also was done next to an elementary school. It was tilled into the soil next to an elementary school with 300 students, all of whom were black, and almost all were poor. No one can say for sure why that was done, but it seems to me that perhaps it’s done in areas where there are fewer questions. That’s what some of the experts say.

The racism of the Clinton campaign has its roots in the the Clinton past. It isn't just a tactic of the moment.



  1. this is another appalling example of how the poor in particular and even the less poor in general are viewed by the power elite..they simply do NOT give a shit. we are not humans to them, we are cost units, consumers, play things, externalities to be experimented on with sludge, GMO foods, floride ,DEPLETED URANIUM it just goes on and on...they do not give a flying fuck if we live or die..such is life today in our fascist oligarchy

  2. libhom Says:
  3. You've got it, proudprogressive.

  4. I love Amy Goodman. Maybe she should run as Ralph Nader's running mate.

  5. Anonymous Says:
  6. Reprehensible certainly--but I have to question the leap made from two agencies with questionable practices to personally accusing the Clintons of racism. I think this shows the racism inherent in our society as a whole.

    And I'll probably get crucified for saying it, but I'm puzzled how we've gone from, in general, considering Clinton to be one of the best presidents we've had to seeing him as a poster boy for bigotry.

  7. libhom Says:
  8. riverwolf: I can't speak for everyone, but I've never thought Clinton was a good president. I voted for third party candidates rather than vote for a homophobic, de facto Republican like Clinton.

    Here are some of the policies that I have disapproved of long before he started using the GOP's "Southern Strategy" against Obama.

    - "Don't Ask, Don't Tell"

    - Balancing the budget on the backs of the poor instead of the rich

    - NAFTA

    - "welfare reform" which punished poor women (especially of color) for structural unemployment

    - the formation of the WTO

    - refusal to even try to start a "Manhattan Project" to cure AIDS



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