Mohawk Man Fights to Remove Toxic Hazardous Waste From River


Yesterday the Associated Press reported on an Akwesasne Mohawk man, Larry Thompson (Kanietakeron), 57, who back in August 2011, fed up with federal inaction, drove onto a polluted landfill in Massena, New York, the site of a former General Motors factory, to remove the soil contaminated with the industrial chemical polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB).

Thompson was charged by New York State on August 11 with a felony count of criminal mischief and misdemeanor charges of reckless endangerment and resisting arrest. Currently free on a $100,000 cash bond, Thompson likely faces trial this fall, the AP reported.

Indian Country Today Media Network previously interviewed his wife, Dana Leigh Thompson, about her husband's efforts to clear the toxic waste from the General Motors–Central Foundry Division Superfund Site—one of the country’s top 10 Superfund sites.

"For 32 years we’ve been waiting for them to clean it up,” Dana Thompson said. The St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, of which she and her husband are not registered members, agreed in October 2010, along with 14 states, for GM to allocate $773 million to “resolve environmental liabilities” on 89 sites across the country, the U.S. Department of Justice said in announcing the settlement.

Under the agreement, Racer Trust, which owns the site, is responsible for administering the money and the cleanup. But now the company has demanded $70,000 from Thompson for minor landfill repairs, the AP reported.

“Remove the pile, remove the Superfund site, take all their poison out of here and put it into a secure site,” Dana Thompson told ICTMN of her wishes for the masked pile of crud. “They call it a cleanup but it’s really a cover-up, because they’re just covering it up.”

Two decades ago, studies documented higher than normal PCB levels in the breast milk of Akwesasne nursing mothers—attributed to eating fish and game from in and around the St. Lawrence River, contaminated by industrial pollutants from the superfund sites. More recently, adolescent Akwesasne Mohawks have been diagnosed as having twice the levels of the industrial pollutant as the national average.

PCBs are endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), commonly called endocrine disruptors. EDCs mimic or block hormones and disrupt the body’s normal functions. They are also linked to some cancers and have been found to have adverse health effects on the immune system, reproductive system and nervous system. ICTMN examined the issue in-depth in the article: Akwesasne Mohawk Youth Are Still at Risk of Industrial Pollutants.