Saginaw, lead poisoning, Environmental Justice tour

An update from the Michigan Environmental Justice For All Tour:

THE SAGINAW NEWS
Environmental justice tour to visit Saginaw
Wednesday, October 25, 2006

By: Jill Armentrout

A statewide “Environmental Justice for All” tour will stop Thursday in Saginaw to explore the impact of environmental health threats.

Eliminating lead poisoning and educating residents about dioxin risks in the Saginaw Bay watershed are focuses of the midday stop.

The Campaign for State Action on Environmental Justice is leading the tour from Detroit to Saginaw and Grand Rapids, where low-income and minority communities often are at greater risk of contamination hazards, organizers said. Representatives of the Saginaw Lead Hazard Control Program at the County Department of Public Health, the Ezekiel Project of Saginaw and HealthPlus of Michigan will host a rally to support the goal of eliminating lead poisoning by 2010.

They will introduce the Saginaw Lead Elimination Planning Campaign at

11 a.m. at St. John Lutheran Church, 915 Federal in Saginaw. Tour members will take part in a press conference at 11:30 a.m.

County health leaders are working to meet the state’s goal of eliminating the lead paint risk in the next five years, said Pamela L. Smith, manager of the Saginaw lead control initiative.

At noon, the state group will tour the city of Saginaw, looking at housing and the Saginaw River. A community discussion will follow at 12:30 p.m. at the First Ward Community Center, 1410 12th in Saginaw.

A state Department of Community Health study found that many people surveyed reported they eat carp and catfish from the Saginaw and Tittabawassee rivers, even though the state has said the fish contain dioxins, furans and PCBs at levels that could cause harm.

“Environmental justice is about who has a voice and who doesn’t, and who is being hurt,” said Michelle Hurd-Riddick of Saginaw, an environmental activist with the Tri-Counites-based Lone Tree Council who is taking part in the event. “We know a number of indigent people are fishing the river to feed their families or stretch their food dollar.”

More than 25 officials, activists and others have joined the tour, said Kathryn Savoie, an organizer with the Arab Community Center for Economic Justice and Social Services in Dearborn.

“We are talking to people around the state to promote policies and develop contacts in Saginaw and Grand Rapids,” she said. “Most of the people doing this work for the group are in the southeast part of the state. We want to see these other areas and share dialogue.”

Also during National Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, members of the Ezekiel Project faith-based coalition will discuss proposed regulations that would outlaw the import and distribution of toys containing lead.

The group’s annual public meeting is at 3:30 p.m. Sunday at First Congregational Church, 403 S. Jefferson in Saginaw. Lead is one topic on the agenda.

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