Thirty Years after Love Canal: First National Guidelines on School Siting to Be Established

January 10, 2008

Today we have a guest blog from Stacey Gonzalez of the Center for Health, Environment & Justice.

Wow. We did it.

After six years of pressure on the government to create school siting guidelines that would prevent a school from being built on contaminated land, they have finally moved. Within the 800-page energy bill signed into law in December by President Bush were written these simple words:

Not later than 18 months after the date of enactment of this section, the Administrator, in consultation with the Secretary of Education and the Secretary of Health and Human Services, shall issue voluntary school site selection guidelines that account for (1) the special vulnerability of children to hazardous substances or pollution exposures in any case in which the potential for contamination at a potential school site exists…


This is huge!

This is the first time the federal government has given state legislatures direction when it comes to laws protecting where schools may be physically sited in relationship to toxic contamination sites. Prior to this legislation, no such federal instruction existed. Forty-five states do not have laws that prevent schools from being located next to toxic contamination sites.

However…Your work in the streets to protect your children from this huge gap in common sense legislation, to protect your kids from sitting every day in a school house filled with carcinogenic chemicals, from playing ball on fields laced with carelessly dumped toxins. . . your work is the real work that we celebrate.

Although we are thrilled that these small words will lead to federal guidelines on school siting, the real work still lays in the hands of grassroots groups across the country, to take to their state governments and demand that they draft and pass into law adequate and health-protecting school siting legislation, siting laws that will  prevent cash-strapped school districts from being the repositories for cheap and contaminated land left behind by big industry.

It is our hope that these federal guidelines will create the foundation, the impetus, the federal directive, to help compel states to make the right decision and pass their own school siting laws.

Congratulations to all of you who have worked with us over the years on this important issue. We couldn’t have done it without you.