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June 13, 1969 - Image 4

Resource type:
Michigan Daily, 1969-06-13

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FRIDAY, JUNE 13, 1969



Rubbish and garbage clut-
ter the banks of the Mahon-
ing River promoting a rat
population explosion (left).
Sometimes the furnace preci-
pitators fail and soot-filled
smoke wafts across the Repub-
lic Steel skyline (upper right).
A young boy sits idly on an
abandoned- car in the fore-
ground of the unattended Mc-
Bride Park (lower right).
Rats and

industry -





WFARM PASTORAL nights are ideal
for going down to the banks of
the Mahoning River a n d shooting
Thick dark rats, with fierce cres-
cent e y e s and without the scurvy
ghetto look, breed contentedly here
in beds of rubbish and garbage.
On summer nights a bright lollipop
moon silhouettes them against the
1Aver as they peer eagerly into
Campbell's pork and beans and Spam
They stagger only a f e w inches
when shot and then idly roll over.
A .22 without a scope is good sport-
with a scope is too easy.
The Mahoning originates in Pen-
nsylvania - a n d winds 108 miles to
Lake Erie. Just across the Pa.-Ohio
line, outside the city limits of War-
ren, the Mahoning River Valley me-
nagerie of empty milk cartons and
raw garbage begins.
Here rats f a c e population prob-
lems and are moving from the river-
side to tunnels under nearby houses.
Rats also face competition from
packs of dogs that feed on the gar-
bage and dig them out of thei nests.
Vince Capalin says he's been chas-
ed by the dogs, which run in packs
of three and four. Once he had to
out-race them back to his house af-
ter picking up the mail.
Walter Johnson says he doesn't go
outside without a holstered -45 and
his 120-pound German Shepherd.
Johnson has lived near the river for
19 years. "People come down from
Warren and even from Pennsylvania

to 'dump their j u n k," he explains.
"It's been piling up for years."
He's tried 'to stop some of them.
One guy, who'd r e n t e d a U-haul
trailer to pack a basement-full, tried
to beat him up. Another promised
Johnson he'd "get him." In the last
year shotgun blasts have pelted his
house three times.
The township owns most of t h e
woodlands along the river but has
made no effort to clean up the trash.
"I used to be able to go swimming
and fishing in the river when I was
a kid," Johnson complains.
Now, of course, only carp live in
the grimy and clogged river. Brace-
ville is less than 20 miles downstream
from Newton Falls where edible fish
still survive. But pollution is moving
rapidly upstream.
Farther downstream , from Brace-
ville is Warren, the hub of the Val-
ley, home of the world's largest steel-
producing complex-
Republic, Copperwell and Rockwell
Standard crouch on the city limits
and spew out a daily column of fiery
ferric soot into the air and industrial
acids into the water.
THIS IS A valley of filth. This is
the way it's been for a long time.
Roofs and house sidings through-
out the Valley reflect a ferric tinge.
Sheets hung on a clothesline for more
than 30 minutes are forever hued.
Even the trees have red-stained
The steel industry is notorious. But
other smokebellied factories, 43 in
the Warren area, also contribute. Un-
der t h e s e conditions Warren resi-
dents have evolved a habit of stash-
ing everything leftover from the gar-
bage disposal and then carting it to
the river, thereby saving $34 a year
in trash collection costs.
Some of the Walter Johnsons rem-
inisce about better days and grouch
for somebody to do something. But
the Mahoning is in such wretched
shape that no one really seems to
care about its banks.
Besides, Warren residents, at least
many w i t h upper middle-class in-
comes, can spend t h e i r weekends
away from the Valley.
Naturally the blacks, who h a v e
lower-class incomes and are only 20
per cent of Warren's 70,000 popula-
tion, can't.
Racial resentment toward t h e

BLACKS A R E especially bitter
about the city's apparent apathy
toward their recreational problem.
First, the city has less than one-fifth
the federally recommended acreage.
Second, the city pays little attention
-to the neighborhood playgrounds on
the South Side.
McBride Park on Cedar St. is piti-
fully inadequate to begin with. And
the McBride swings still aren't up,
the grass is waist-high - with two
months of warm weather already
Mrs. Pearl Jackson is the voice of

river where it snags all the debris
coming down."
Perich heads an ad hoc commit-
tee now 'all white after two black
members left. He says' he's been at
odds with them since 1 a s t spring
when t h e y objected to holding a
meeting on the day of Dr. Martin
Luther King's funeral.
"Frankly I didn't want those kind
of people on my committee," he ex-
Perich is also distressed because
black leaders haven't cracked down
on teenage vandalism. One black

probably guarantee a new adminis-
BACK IN 1960 a community group
protested Warren a nd Youngs-
town's policy of flushing 40 million
gallons of raw sewage into the Ma-
honing each day. After warnings
from Ohio's health department, the
cities backed down and installed a
primary treatment plant which only
cuts the flow to 25 million gallons a
- ]7HE STEEL industry has even less
to fear since many of its pollu-
tion practices are protected by weak-
willed state regulations.
Only solid wastes a r e outlawed.
Most liquid and gaseous wastes are
perfectly within the law.
Steel companies u s e a chemical
process to settle particle compounds
to the bottom of leeching p o n d s.
Then they drain the water back into
the river.
Most particles do sift to the bot-
tom. Some don't. They go into the
Rockwell Standard has an espec-
ially imperfect process. Rockwell,
however, spends more time on shoot-
ing out press releases on the process
than in refining it.
Few steel companies make any pre-
tense about infiltrating air and wa-
ter with legal waste.
In 1964. when Republic expanded
its plant, it installed BOF furnace
precipitators mostly for the benefit
of gaudy press conferences. Old
stacks continue to belch out red and
black clouds. Precipitators on t h e
new ones have only changed the col-
or of the smoke, not t h e level of
Sometimes the precipitators don't
work and the entire plant is engulfed
in stinging smoke.
"POLLUTION isn't pollution until
you don't want it," sighs Mike
Zockle, a special education teacher
and newly-elected president of the
Conservation and Outdoor Education
Association (COEA).
COEA numbers a goodly assort-
ment of birdwatchers and tongue-
cluckers, many of whom are more
excited about nature studies in the
hinterlands and anti-sex purges in
the drugstores than in cleansing the



In the early 60's the temperature
of the river rose as high as 140 de-
grees Farenheit near Lake Erie.
Cleveland steel mills objected be-
cause the water was unusable f o r
cooling. So the sibling steel compan,-
jes politicked for a reservoir.
Federal and local monies financed
the West Branch -Reservoir, which
now empties cool water into the riv-
er whenever its temperature reaches
110 degrees.
Of course the river never freezes.
VEGETATION along t h e river is
lush green early in spring and
late in fall. But the river is a steam-
ing, stinking mess.
"For the Mahoning to clean itself
up would take almost 100 years now,
even if industry stopped dumping in
wastes today," Zockle says.
No Valley factories are likely to do
that - today, tomorrow or next year.
"Almost everyone in Warren has
the feeling he owes something to in-
dustry, either his education or his
job," explains Zockle. "So pollution
is just a necessary evil."
Valley industries do pay nearly 90
per cent of the Warren school taxes
and employ several thousand War-
ren residents.
As in all middle-class, urban in-
dustrial spas, Warren whites have a
tendency to associate the increasing
trash piles with the increasing black
"They see only what they want to
see," Zockle bristles. "The junk in -

A new high school was built over
their cries. Then last fall banners
flared and bands marched. The two
teams had finished fifth and ninth
in Ohio's Class A.
The new school also has a large
$5,000 greenhouse located near the
back. Directly behind the greenhouse,
school janitors empty the school's
wastebaskets on the ground.
The same symptoms of this gar-
bage neurosis pop up all over the city,
even in the church yards.
Still downtown businessmen prat-
tle on abdut the South Side "where
those colored people live and breed
juste like the rats."
Many South Side blacks have been
quartered in World War II-era bar-
racks, packed into the cheap lumber
boxes under Republic's smog skyline.
The barracks have been condemned
for more than 10 years.
Now aided by the federal public
housing act they're moving to new
low-rent apartments.
The apartments had bright yellow
sidings. But they are already dirty
from the pollution punishrnent.
All of the public housing sites are
well within range of Republic's
DON'T THINK I wanta move,"
says Mrs. Jackson, whose wash-
and-wear house is immaculate.
"Don't seem like anything really be
Mrs. Jackson is a heavy woman
with dark welts on her arms where


McBride Park. "I call down there to
city hall every year for them to come
cut the griss," she says. "They don't
pay attention less it's election year.
"Then they hurry on down so they
can get their seat in the city hall.
But once they get it, they just sit on
City officials say the p a r k isn't
used enough to warrant regular at-
Perkins and Packard are the two
main inner-city parks, both of which
border on the Mahoning and both of
which are despoiled by rubbish.
Pete Perich is Phamnionina a ,lone-

gang recently stripped down a bull-
dozer which a local contractor had
brought in to level ground for a new
BLACK LEADERS say t h e black
community resents being left out
of the decision on the playground.
"These colored kids are just put-
ting us a step backward," Perich says.
"But I think they're in a minority.
Most Warren kids are good kids . . .
and belong to the Boy Scouts and so
Rather than asking the black
gangs to join in his clean-up cam-




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