On a short tour through Gila River Indian community near Chandler Arizona, and just outside of Phoenix, the skeleton of a casino rose against the sky, high class hotels and spas clustered nearby led to what was the grand finale for me, a cowboy town! According to its website Rawhide offers attractions such as, Arrest-a-guest, desert train rides, shotgun weddings, sundown cookouts, a shooting gallery and much more.
Just nearby this flash back to the wild-west, in Lone Butte Industrial Park is a chemical waste recycling plant - Romic Environmental Technologies Corporation. We drove by and stepped outside our minivan rentals to observe a thick white mist spew from it's roof piping. One of the WEA staff began sneezing uncontrollably. Lori Riddle of GRACE (Gila River Alliance for a Clean Environment), shared her story with us that day in a church hall where a painting of Mother Theresa hung over her shoulder. It was fitting.
Lori and GRACE aim to shut down Romic, and are building on a successful track record. In 2002 GRACE was instrumental in closing Stericycle, a medical waste facility also located in the Lone Butte Industrial Park .
The effects of these facilities, has had a large price. Lori's health is poor and she has sacrificed everything to put the health of her community first.
Her work is paying off.
In 2007 the Gila River Indian Community (as landlord) voted to shut down Romic by refusing to approve it's permit. The waste management facility has been operating without a permit for over a decade. Now more permanent steps are underway to close the plant.
Even if the plant is closed it doesn't address the larger issues of waste management and environmental racism. And It doesn't give Lori or her young daughter back their health.