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Last week the GCM team traveled to Kanawha Valley, West Virginia; or as the locals call it, Chemical Valley. Located just outside of Charleston, Kanawha Valley is home to multiple chemical plants and the largest storage unit of deadly methyl isocyanate (MIC) in the US.  MIC is a dangerous chemical used in pesticides, notoriously known for the deaths of thousands of villagers in Bhopal, India in 1984. Formerly Union Carbide and now Bayer Crop Science, this sprawling chemical plant looms over the nearby community.

Residents of Kanawha Valley are no strangers to chemical spills and explosions.  Shortly after Bhopal, Union Carbide’s Institute facility had a leak of the same deadly chemical, MIC, sending 130 residents to the hospital. The leak in Institute sent waves of fear throughout the country, sparking serious debate about hazardous chemicals.

At that time, residents and activists organized an incredible movement exposing the lack of information regarding chemical storage, leaks and accidents. Their work provided the foundation for the Community Right to Know and Emergency Planning (EPCRA, more on that later) laws and the Toxic Release Inventory: tools that are widely used today by communities across the US in the fight for clean and healthy neighborhoods.

Even with the additional information and publicity, twenty years later in Institute, odors still foul the air and accidents are still happening, which is why Global Community Monitor came to introduce Bucket Brigades as an effective community-based method to monitor air quality and develop the evidence to fight for change. Read the rest of this entry »