TOXIC TOUR OF TEXAS
1988-1992
Home Page | Exhibition Home | Reflections Home
LORRIE COTERILL
South Dallas County

      There’s nothing that makes you more charged than seeing people empower themselves. I tell them, “The power is y’all’s, guys. Take it. Don’t give it away.” I think one of the things, too, is that with Ann’s (Richards) election, these agency people started seeing the power of the people. And I think there’s a lot of power in people. I see some things that have changed in the Health Department just since staff started getting active like pulling citizens into hearings. Our system is built for public participation. It’s the balance of the scales.
      And some of my most satisfying work? Beatin’ Waste Management, bustin’ Dal Tile, and staying on the Texas Health Department (TDH) enough about suspected groundwater contamination at the South Dallas County site. We requested split test samples from both the TDH and them, and they went for it. These were the first split samples done in Texas, and now it is the norm. Keepin’ the Red Barnes dump out, too. That was a 1,000 acre dump that was to come in this area. Because we are establishing a reputation...that’s the whole idea...they realized our power and backed off.
You’ve got to get a reputation about not tolerating being dumped on.
      But with Laidlaw, our community is too split. We have two different groups in this city. It became a war of the groups. That’s the divide and conquer routine, and that’s what the companies want because that’s what’s effective. But from Laidlaw, what it did was open our eyes and made it so we could go into other communities with our knowledge. Like Save Our Community over there in Ferris that kept Waste Management from expanding their dump. We helped them set up and organize.
      You wanna know what keeps me goin’? God does. God gives me the energy and the drive, and when people say they are so tired, I just seem to reach down in my pocket and there’s more strength. And the more I am into it, I wonder why God puts the people together that He puts together. You know, sometimes things happen that are not scientifically explainable...You educate your community and tell them what’s happening, and then let them make educated choices. We are definitely stewards of the land.