Toxic Tenacity


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During the first few months of the community’s efforts, I viewed it as merely a public relations battle. I concentrated on becoming good at TV interviews. We seemed to get better as we progressed in the battle with the toxic dump site. But things changed after I went on a road trip home one afternoon from work! The events changed my view of the battle!
As I bounced along the country road, listening to country music, I noticed a large pick-up speeding up behind me. It started to pass but pulled in and pushed me off the road. I almost hit both a fence post and a power poll, but I managed to miss both! My anger turned to rage, and I pulled onto the road and chased the idiot at a fast speed, but finally, my rage subsided, and I stopped the chase. Later, I recognized the man at a meeting, and he was a dump employee!
So, this event years later came to mind when I got an afternoon call from a raspy voice wanting to meet me at 9:00 at night on the road up to the dump site. He said he had some important documents to give me that he wanted me to send to the EPA. He said they would be a game-changer! So, was it an attempt to kill me? I was hesitant but agreed to the meeting. We met each other halfway up the road to the entrance. Later, my secretary mailed them to the San Francisco EPA, and within a week, a six-million-dollar fine was issued against the site for excessive waste storage.
These were just the beginnings of the battle to close the site, and eventually, tenacity prevailed!

KENNETH MCCALIP holds degrees in history, geography, and Law from various California universities but was plagued with arthritis in his hands and thus never practiced Law. But his law background did prepare him for the upcoming events at the small, poor community school in the backwoods of Santa Barbara County, California. It was a perfect location to achieve his goal of helping poor people, but he was unprepared for the upcoming barrage of trials and tribulations. Little did he know, as Principal-Superintendent, he would be up against the vested monetary interests of Southern California combined with poor toxic waste supervision by both state and local regulators. But with tenacity, as his guiding star, he stuck with it to the hard-won end and the closure of the toxic waste dump site that was only one mile from his schoolyard!


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