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Local Activists Win Award At Annual Toxics Action Conference



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Local Activists Win Award At Annual Toxics Action Conference

Middletown –– The Canary Committee was honored with an “Outstanding Activism” award recently at Toxics Action 2003 for the Newtown-based organization’s work advocating for safe and healthy schools in Connecticut.

Toxics Action is Connecticut’s largest annual environmental and public health conference. More than 200 citizen activists were there to applaud Joellen Lawson of Newtown, Diane Ethier, Bill and Judy Sozanski, and Linda Sweatt, who accepted the award for the Canary Committee.

“The Canary Committee gets and ‘A’ for their incredible advocacy to stop sick schools from affecting any more children or teachers in our state,” said Kim DeFeo, Connecticut director of Toxics Action Center. “The committee is the brainchild of Joellen Lawson, whose own exposure to toxic mold as a teacher in a sick school forced her to accept a disability retirement two years ago.”

Citizen-turned activist Lois Gibbs gave the keynote address, urging the neighborhood activists who attended to stay involved and fight pollution in their communities. Ms Gibbs talked about the public health disaster at Love Canal that made her famous.

“When my kids became seriously ill, I didn’t know what to do. I had been noticing strange odors and substances in our neighborhood for years, so I thought there might be a connection,” said Ms Gibbs, now the executive director of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice. “So I went door to door and talked with my neighbors, and we discovered that our homes had been built next to a toxic waste landfill. The government tried to tell us nothing was wrong. But we organized, and won the permanent and safe relocation of the 900 families of Love Canal.”

Toxics Action 2003 hosted 17 workshops, spotlighting hazardous waste sites, dangerous facilities, and other serious public health threats that currently face communities in Connecticut.

“Today brought together hundreds of ordinary Connecticut residents who are doing outstanding work to protect the health and safety of our communities,” said Vanessa Pierce, field organizer with Toxics Action Center. “They will all leave with new strategies and enthusiasm to pressure polluters and government officials to do their job to protect our families from toxics.”

In addition to the Canary Committee, Toxics Action honored activists from Hamden, New Britain, and Waterford for their work protecting communities from toxic pollution. State Senator Donald Williams, co-chair of the Environment Committee, gave the closing remarks.

Since 1987, Toxics Action Center has assisted more than 450 neighborhood groups in their fights against toxics hazards in their communities. Toxics Action 2003 is the fifth annual Connecticut conference of Toxics Action Center. The center was founded in Boston after the case of contaminated drinking water in Woburn, Mass., that was later dramatized in the book and movie, A Civil Action; additional offices subsequently were opened in Maine, Vermont, and Connecticut.

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