Take a break from those endless email threads and spend five minutes catching up on the latest trends in sustainability and business with the latest 3p Weekend.
Another day, another public health crisis brought on by a corporate or government screw-up. If it feels like you've been reading more of these stories lately, that's probably because you have.
In each of these events, all of which hit the headlines over the past two years alone, the shirking of government and corporate responsibility went beyond the shameful and into the dangerous and deadly. It's happening with frightening regularity, as infrastructures continue to age and companies and governments employ unproven means to boost revenue following the economic downturn.
As we move into 2016, let's be sure we don't forget the environmental and social lessons learned by these ethical horror stories. Those who do not remember history are doomed to repeat it.
The ongoing leak prompted Gov. Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency earlier this month. News accounts indicate about 2,000 people were evacuated before the declaration, but some reports anticipate that the entire Porter Ranch population of 30,000 will eventually be relocated. The company that owns the storage facility, Southern California Gas, says it may not be able to stop the leak until February or March.
The case attracted the attention of Erin Brockovich, who told CNN the problem can be traced to the 50s-era well itself — and the fact that the company never replaced a safety valve that was removed in 1979.
As 3p correspondent Tina Casey points out, firmly establishing cause and effect has been a difficult task. But evidence is mounting "that links injection wells (and, in rare cases, fracking itself) with earthquakes in populated areas, once again calling into question whether the oil and gas industry — a mature industry with generations of experience and research under its belt — is sufficiently prepared to safely expand its operations," she posited on 3p last week.
Years after the practice was uncovered and made public, the company finally discontinued its use of the toxin. Yet, as 3p legal correspondent Michael Kourabas points out, "the health effects of the replacement chemical are unknown, and DuPont has paid a meager price — in both dollars and publicity — for the harm it has caused and may still be causing."
And, he continued, it's already too little too late: Some studies indicate that we may already have as much as 5,000 times more PFOA in our blood than is considered safe to ingest.
Earlier this month, the newly-elected mayor of Flint, Karen Weaver, declared a state of emergency in an attempt to deal with the crisis. 3p correspondent Jan Lee explains: "Records now suggest that the Michigan Health Department knew there could be a health risk from the new water source. Some researchers suggest the responsibility for the crisis goes deeper than that."
Although federal law makes it illegal for a landlord or a seller to rent or sell property that could pose a risk of lead poisoning, the problem still persists, with some lower-income areas showing a higher incidence.
In October, an above-ground fire occurred at the landfill -- highlighting the site's ongoing problems. Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster is fighting a legal battle to get the landfill site cleaned up. He even filed a lawsuit against the landfill’s owner, Republic Services, 3p's Gina-Marie Cheeseman reports.
Montana Gov. Steve Bullock declared a state of emergency in response to the spill, but he assured residents that the river would be cleaned up by Bridger Pipeline, LLC, the Wyoming-based company that owns the pipeline, 3p's Jan Lee reports.
Gov. Earl Ray Tomlin declared a state of emergency, and officials scrambled to alert some 300,0000 residents of the pollution and to close access to drinking water. The spill closed schools, stopped commercial flights and converted the state capitol’s downtown core to a “ghost town,” 3p's Jan Lee reports.
In February of last year, three U.S. attorney’s offices and the Department of Justice Environmental Crimes section, filed charges against Duke Energy for dumping waste in a string of events that date back to at least 2010.
By highlighting the recent rash of human health crises, we hope to remind readers that we still have a long way to go in making every business a responsible business.
Image credit: Earthworks
Mary Mazzoni, Senior Editor, has written for TriplePundit since 2013. She is also Managing Editor of CR Magazine and the Editor of 3p’s Sponsored Series. Mazzoni’s recent work can be found in Conscious Company, AlterNet and VICE’s Motherboard. She is based in Philadelphia.