Chemical Valley is a petro-chemical industry disaster zone in Sarnia, Ontario – alongside the St. Clair river – and Port Huron, Michigan. Chemical Valley holds 40% of Canada’s chemical plants, and 20% of Canada’s ‘refineries.’ Benzene and mercury are just two parts of a daily barrage of toxic substances released into the region.
At the Aamjiwnaang reserve – an Indigenous community – residents are living inside of “Chemical Valley.” Indigenous lands have been prime real estate for chemical companies in the past. In one instance Dow Chemical cleared a set of Indigenous owned buildings to construct a Polymer plant where insecticides, antifreeze, and other such toxic products have been churned out.
To gauge the extent of the problem, Sarnia and Port Huron residents have been conducting an independent, voluntary health study in Sarnia’s heavily impacted south end. Local activists note how “there have been no formal studies in
Sarnia, ON or Port Huron, MI which are also in close proximity to the plants.” However, Aamjiwnaang research has uncovered a birth ratio of 33% male to 67% female births on the reserve. Community researchers have evidence of an array of health crises, including respiratory problems, miscarriages, as well as severe & chronic headaches.
Since 2002, the Aamjiwnaang Health & Environment Committee has been leading community efforts to investigate and challenge ongoing assaults from surrounding chemical and fossil fuel industries.
(Photo by S.H.A.M.E.)
Residents successfully opposed plans for a Suncor ethanol plant immediately beside the reserve – where plant operations would have further intruded on a road that leads to the Aamjiwnaang cemetary. In November 2010, Aamjiwnaang residents extended their previous opposition by launching a lawsuit against Chemical Valley companies and their government allies.
Sarnia (and Port Huron) residents recently have joined others in mobilizing to confront Enbridge and BP. Their local protest network, S.H.A.M.E. (or Sarnia’s Hometown Activist Movement Emerging), is calling for “a more just political, and economic system in which the welfare of our planet and all life on it are put above financial gain.” These activists
are demanding basic emergency response measures and pipeline inspections.
The stakes of these front-line struggles extend well beyond the immediate area. As toxins blow across the region, the heavily polluted St. Clair River is flowing into Lake Erie. Locals are confronting immense corporations like Shell, Nova Chemicals, and Suncor.