October 18, 2001

Tonight’s Program

It is a special pleasure for us to be on the phone with Mary Lou  Sharon, who was a classmate of Steve’s at Naugatuck High School in Connecticut.  They recently met up at a high school reunion,  and we heard Mary Lou’s amazing story of activism in essentially shutting down a toxic dump in our home town.

Listen to the Program

Our Questions for Mary Lou Sharon

By way of background, when Mary Lou and Steve were kids in the 1950s, Naugatuck, Connecticut, was an industrial center, producing sneakers, synthetic rubber, agricultural chemicals, and brass products.  The Naugatuck River held no life and changed color with industrial discharges, and the town often smelled of diverse chemicals that went up the stacks.  Most of that industry is now gone, but the effects remain, and that’s where Mary Lou Sharon came in.

Your story begins in the 1960s, when you noticed trucks headed up the road near your house carrying waste to the Hunter’s Mountain landfill.

•What was in those trucks?
•Why were you concerned?
•You formed a citizen’s action group.  Who was in it and what did you try to accomplish?
•In 1983 Hunter’s Mountain–renamed Laurel Park Landfill–was declared a Superfund Site.  Didn’t that take care of your concerns?
•In the course of your activism, you were threatened and vilified.  Why were some elements of the town opposed to your work?
•Despite the contamination, developers still wanted to build a number of homes up on Hunter’s Mountain.  Please tell us the story of that fight.
•In April 2011, you were declared Honorary Mayor of Naugatuck as part of Earth Day.  What did you do during your brief time in office?
•What advice do you have for other activists who are fighting difficult battles trying to preserve the environment and our health?

Thank you, Mary Lou Kosko Sharon, for being with us tonight and telling us this inspiring story.  Our home town is a much better place to live, thanks to you, and we’ll look forward to seeing you down the road at Naugatuck High School reunions.  Listeners, if you would like to learn more about this story, here are some links:

NY Times: “Action on Dioxin”  http://www.nytimes.com/1983/10/14/nyregion/the-region-action-on-dioxin-in-connecticut.html

NY Times:  “Two-Year Battle Won at Dioxin Site”  http://www.nytimes.com/1983/10/15/nyregion/two-year-battle-won-at-dioxin-site.html

Naugatuck Patch: “Mary Lou Sharon: Naugatuck’s Earth Day Mayor for the Day”  http://naugatuck.patch.com/articles/mary-lou-sharon-naugatucks-earth-day-mayor-for-the-day