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SIERRA BLANCA

The landscape leading up to Sierra Blanca is about as desolate as one might expect to find in southern Texas. Situated thirteen miles from the Mexican border.  The town whose name in Spanish means "White Mountain Range" is hot, dusty and monotonous. It’s home to 650 people, and were it not for bizarre stroke of bad luck, Sierra Blanca would be thoroughly anonymous.

Sierra Blanca, however, is the recipient of a shit load. Human waste, that is, straight from New York City. Shipped by rail approximately 1500 miles, this infamous cargo travels from the Canadian border to the Mexican one, fact that has not gone undetected by our neighbors to the south.

But why go through all this hassle? Why not dump the waste somewhere in upstate New York, or at least stop halfway in West Virginia? Why ship it the length of the country?

Sadly, this is the Golden Rule in its purest form: He who has the gold rules. Sierra Blanca is located in the poorest county in Texas, one of the poorest in the US. There are 3600 residents in its county, which is the size of Connecticut. Forty percent of them live below the poverty line, 70% are Mexican, and the average annual income is $8,000.   Not that anyone expects a giant dump of human excriment to be plopped down (yes, plopped) right next to the million dollar homes and country clubs of any suburb.   But, well....sigh.

The dump covers 91,000 acres of land. The stench can paralyze the town if the wind blows just so. And there are controversial plans to build a low-level nuclear dumpsite on the other side of the town. Radioactive, hazardous waste from the Northeast that will generate $50 million for the state of Texas up front, and millions more as the dump is filled. A nice little fecal matter/Sierra Blanca/ nuclear waste sandwich.

But they’re poor and mostly Mexican, so what the hell’s the difference. Right?

Thanks for reading.  Thoughts?  mailto:thoughts@thetp.com

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