Editors, Daily Planet:

First of all, thanks for your coverage of the toxic cleanup issue. Your paper and Richard Brenneman’s reporting have made this the diary of this process.

As a direct reply to your May 6 editorial:

We at the Richmond Progressive Alliance are under no illusions about how the state Department of Toxic Substances Control may conduct the oversight of the cleanup of the former Zeneca toxic site or any other for that matter. I can recall no instance where either the state Environmental Protection Agency or the federal EPA was pro-active in regards to looking out for the health and safety of the public. They had to be sued and pushed by community activism, usually, after the community had paid a heavy price in suffering due to horrendous health effects.

In fact, it could be argued that what the federal EPA has done with its publishing of supposed “safe levels” of exposure to radiologic, cancer causing or mutagenic toxic substances, is made what in a clearer frame of reference is unacceptable, acceptable. In light of what we have learned over the last few decades about the health consequences of protracted exposures to sub-lethal doses of toxins, the EPA is one more level of bureaucracy running interference on behalf of corporate polluters being held to account for their actions. There is no “safe” level of exposure to dioxin, only levels that erode one’s health slowly enough that apologists for corporate barbarism can wrap their disclaimers in the blanket of legitimate sounding scientific skepticism.

No, the DTSC is no panacea. The EPA and environmental standards were and are an important victory on the path to social accountability for the actions of private interests. But history shows any reform, no matter how noble, can be turned against the citizenry if that citizenry fails to remain organized and vigilant. We want access to the more stringent standards and the protocols for community input, which do not exist with the Water Board. It will be up to us as community activists to hold the DTSC to its mission.

Tony Sustak