By Sylvia Carignan
From his seat on a sun-worn wicker couch, Shaun Hoolahan reaches down to the corgi panting at his side and tells her to roll over. Bessie flips belly-up, exposing a pink, golf ball-sized lump on her chest.
“Tumors,” he said, pointing out the spot on the dog’s front left paw where a cancerous toe was amputated. “She’s got them all over her body.”
For years, grass wouldn’t grow on some parts of his two-acre property, and Bessie used to spend lots of time lying in the dirt in his yard, Hoolahan said. “I could fertilize, water, and just nothing would grow there,” he said. “The more I started to dig into it, the more concern I had.”
In 1980, it made sense for Congress to give the EPA’s Superfund program “a big stick and a lot of deference,” persuading intransigent companies to move toward quick cleanup, said Mark Templeton, an attorney at the University of Chicago who works with residents in East Chicago, Ind., who are also living with a lead smelter’s environmental legacy.
“Now that we’re three-plus decades into it, I think there are definitely times where there are real important questions about whether EPA has selected a protective remedy or not. And it can be very concerning when residents are, or feel like they are, excluded from getting the kind of cleanup that they deserve,” Templeton said.