Toxic-cleanup group honors Fairfielder

Fairfield, CT – Local resident Charlotte Leslie, and former Fairfield teacher Joellen Lawson of Newtown, and others are being recognized for their leadership in their effort to clean up hazardous waste and protect the health of the community. Members of the Connecticut Foundation for Environmentally Safe Schools have been selected from over 100 nominees to receive one of Toxics Action Center’s 25 Years of Victories Awards.

Award winners were chosen by a selection committee of distinguished environmental and public health professionals and will be honored at the Environmental Action 2012 conference in Boston, Massachusetts on March 3rd. Lois Gibbs of the 1970’s Love Canal toxic cleanup case will hand out the awards and congratulate the winners.

Charlotte Leslie was the PTA President of the former McKinley School when it was closed permanently due to pervasive mold contamination in 2000. She was a founding member of the Canary Committee in 2002 (now known as CT Foundation for Environmentally Safe Schools or ConnFESS) when Toxics Action Center provided training on how to run an effective legislative campaign that laid the foundation to the successful passage of An Act Concerning Indoor Air Quality in 2003.

McKinley subsequently was knocked down and a new school built on the Thompson Street site.

“The mission of ConnFESS is to promote policies, practices and resources that protect school occupants from environmental health hazards such as mold, lead, radon and asbestos,” explained Lawson, whose 23 year career as a special education teacher ended in a disability retirement due to exposure to indoor air pollution at the former McKinley School.

Miller said of ConnFESS, "This group worked very hard to build bipartisan coalition of state House and Senate members to pass Public Act No. 03-220, An Act Concerning Indoor Air Quality in Schools in 2003. They deserve this award. That law set standards for new construction and set forth a plan to remedy the problems that still exist."

Nearly a decade later Charlotte Leslie continues to advocate for healthy environmental quality in schools and warns that "local school districts must never forget the health and financial consequences caused when school facilities are not adequately maintained. Indoor air quality programs such as Tools for Schools must be implemented to be in compliance with the law. Leaky roofs and moisture incursion must be addressed in an effective and timely manner to protect our students and the professionals who are devoted to helping our students reach their social and academic potential.”

The primary purpose of such programs is to prevent sick building syndrome and long-term related illnesses that can end careers and leave students with life-long lung diseases.

The 25 Years of Victories Awards recognize 25 of the most successful local efforts to clean up or prevent toxic pollution across New England between 1987 and 2012. Those years correspond with the 25 years that Toxics Action Center, an environmental group based in Hartford, has been working with neighborhoods and community leaders.

Toxics Action Center was founded in 1987 after the tragic case in Woburn, MA that A Civil Action is based on. The mothers of Woburn took action to protect their health of their children when the chemical company W.R. Grace contaminated their drinking water. The Woburn leukemia-cluster eventually claimed the lives of 14 children. In response, a group of public health and environmental advocates created an organization to help residents who faced their own Woburn situations. Toxics Action Center began organizing citizens to raise and pass ballot initiatives to protect citizens from harmful toxic waste. Today, Toxics Action Center has offices in every New England state and works with over 80 communities each year.

Toxics Action Center – known in those days as the Massachusetts Campaign to Cleanup Hazardous Waste – began organizing citizens to raise and pass ballot initiatives to protect citizens from harmful toxic waste. The first initiative increased enforcement, cleanup, and citizen access within Massachusetts’s Superfund system. Now Toxics Action Center has offices in every New England state and works with over 80 communities each year.

Toxics Action Center has worked side by side with over 700 communities and directly trained over 10,000 people.

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