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1948 Donora, PA, smog disaster / Catástrofe en Donora, 1948

 
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Suronda
Co-Founder


Joined: 23 Feb 2003
Posts: 97
Location: Upstate New York

PostPosted: Wed Apr 30, 2003 7:39 pm    Post subject: 1948 Donora, PA, smog disaster / Catástrofe en Donora, 1948 Reply with quote

I'm a little late for Earth Day, but Bob's post regarding a mine diaster in Arnau, reminded me of a story I'd heard about a "disaster" in Donora, Pennsylvania. I checked it out, and sure enough I found documentation of a "smog disaster" that took place there over 50 years ago. The local zinc works emitted clouds of "sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and metal dust" that blanketed the area. Half of the town's 14,000 residents were hospitalized for breathing problems, and 20 residents died. For more information check out the story at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection.

I'm sure that many Asturian (Asturian-American) families were affected since many had moved there from WV as they followed the zinc industry. Does anyone have specific knowledge about this event, and how their families were affected?

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[Translated by JuanLeon]

Ya pasó el día del medioambiente, pero el mensaje de Bob sobre la catástrofe de la mina de Arnao me recordó algo que había oído de una "catástrofe" en Donora, Pennsylvania. Lo comprobé, y, efectivamente, encontré documentos sobre una catástrofe de "smog" que ocurrió allí hace 50 años. La fábrica de zinc liberó nubes de "dióxido de azufre, monóxido de carbono y hollín metálico" que cubrieron toda la zona. La mitad de los 14.000 residentes tuvieron que ser hospitalizados por problemas respiratorios, y 20 murieron. Para mayor información buscad en el Departamento de Protección Medioambiental del estado de Pennsylvania.

Estoy segura de que esto afectó a muchos asturianos (astur-americanos), puesto que muchos se habían ido allí desde Virginia Occidental, siguiendo la industria del zinc. ¿Tiene alguien conocimiento directo de este acontecimiento, y de cómo afectó a sus familias?
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Art
Site Admin


Joined: 17 Feb 2003
Posts: 4471
Location: Maryland

PostPosted: Thu May 01, 2003 2:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm posting a few more links on the Donora Smog story. You have to read several to get a good picture of how bizarre and deadly this event was:

http://www.dep.state.pa.us/dep/Rachel_Carson/clean_air_legacy.htm
http://www.dep.state.pa.us/dep/Rachel_Carson/marker.htm
http://www.dep.state.pa.us/dep/Rachel_Carson/clean_air.htm
http://www.dep.state.pa.us/dep/Rachel_Carson/dead20.htm
http://www.dep.state.pa.us/dep/Rachel_Carson/killer_smog.htm

The plant waited days to shut down their operations, even after people were heading to the hospitals in droves and a number had died. It appears that the local population didn't realize that anything was wrong until very late into the crisis, simply because they were accustomed to heavy smog from the plant. There are signs, though, that some outsiders considered it a dangerous situation.

What really surprised me, given our contemporary sensibilities is that the plant reopened a day later when rain cleared away the smog! Back to polluting as usual.... It appears that US Steel was sued and paid damages for this deadly event.

I hope we'd be more cautious today, but fear that we take clean air and water for granted rather than realizing that we must continue battling for them.

I find it odd that none of the names in the article sound Spanish. Does anyone know if any of the civic leaders or plant managers were Spaniards?

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[Translated by JuanLeon]

Aquí van varias referencias adicionales sobre la historia de la nube de Donora. Hay que leer varias para darse cuenta de lo extraño y letal que fué este acontecimiento:

http://www.dep.state.pa.us/dep/Rachel_Carson/clean_air_legacy.htm
http://www.dep.state.pa.us/dep/Rachel_Carson/marker.htm
http://www.dep.state.pa.us/dep/Rachel_Carson/clean_air.htm
http://www.dep.state.pa.us/dep/Rachel_Carson/dead20.htm
http://www.dep.state.pa.us/dep/Rachel_Carson/killer_smog.htm

La fábrica tardó varios días en suspender la producción, incluso después de que la gente se fuera en masa al hospital, y después de que varias personas hubieran ya muerto. Parece ser que la población no se percató del peligro hasta ya avanzada la crisis, porque estaban tan acostumbrados a la contaminación que producía la fábrica. No obstante, hay indicios de que a gente de otros sitios les pareció peligrosa la situación.

Lo que me sorprendió de verdad, dadas las prácticas actuales, es que ¡la fábrica volvió a abrir un día más tarde cuando la lluvia diluyó la contaminación! A contaminar como de costumbre...Parece ser que se llevó a la compañía US Steel a juicio, y que la compañía pagó daños por este acontecimiento mortal.

Confío en que hoy día seríamos mas precavidos, pero me temo que no valoramos el aire puro y el agua clara en sus justas medidas, y no nos damos cuenta de que es necesaría la lucha contínua para seguir disfrutándolos.

Me extraña que ninguno de los nombres que se mencionan en el artículo parezcan españoles. ¿Sabe alguien si los gerentes de la fábrica o los agentes sociales fueran españoles?
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JuanLeon
Translator


Joined: 04 Jun 2003
Posts: 24
Location: New York

PostPosted: Mon Jun 09, 2003 9:22 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Art says that none of the names in the articles sound Spanish, but I suspect
that "John Gnora" is perhaps "John Ñora", and, while I don´t know what it means or whether it means anything, "ñora" sounds very Asturian to me.

Juan

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[Translated by JuanLeon]

Dice Art que ninguno de los nombres que se mencionan en los artículos le parecen españoles, pero yo sospecho que "John Gnora" pudiera ser "John Ñora" y, aunque no sé lo que significa ni siquiera si significa algo, "ñora" me parece vocablo muy asturiano.

Juan


Last edited by JuanLeon on Mon Nov 24, 2003 9:45 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Sweeney



Joined: 02 May 2003
Posts: 205
Location: Virgina

PostPosted: Mon Jun 16, 2003 8:51 am    Post subject: Smog Reply with quote

The smog was exactly why my family left Donora. My grandfather had severe asthma. During WWII, his doctor told him he has to get away from all the smog or he will die. They moved to San Diego a couple years prior to the Donora Smog incident. If he did not move, I suspect my grandfather would have been among the dead.

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[Translated by JuanLeon]

La contaminación fué pecisamente la razón por la que mi familia se fué de Donora. Mi abuelo tenía asma aguda. Durante la segunda guerra mundial su médico le dijo que moriría si no se alejaba de la contaminación. Se fueron a San Diego, California, un par de años antes de la tragedia de Donora. Si no se hubiera ido, me imagino que mi abuelo habría estado entre los muertos.
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Sonia Garcia Mandzok



Joined: 03 Feb 2004
Posts: 32

PostPosted: Tue May 02, 2006 5:03 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

This is an extremely late reply but I just read this posting tonight. I was born in Donora and lived at the "zinc works end" (12th street) of town. I remember the Halloween parade and sitting on the curb watching, but then, pretty soon you could hardly see the parade! I was too young to understand exactly what was happening. I remember my mother would tie a handkerchief, cowboy style, around my face when I went to school and there would be a blackish ring around my mouth and nose. The Webster hills across the river were completely denuded then because of the mill. The white clothes hanging on the lines were a dingy gray because of the pollution. I remember the smells and taste of the air. When I moved to Los Angeles in the 60's the smog was really bad (to Los Angelenos) but to me, it was just like home. When we go on vacation and return home to LA I always tell my husband, (paraphrasing and joking) that "I love the smell of smog in the morning".

The Spaniards (Asturianos) in Donora, as far as I know, did not hold any "positions" in the mill; they were just workers. The name Gnora could have been of Slavic/Eastern European heritage as there were many "hunkys" (as they were called) living in Donora. But I find that difficult to believe, because we immigrants were really considered second class citizens. As far as I know, the mill was run by WASP's or as we called them, "Johnny Bulls". There was no political correctness then and all ethnicities had names, none of which were kind.

The smog was the death of our little town because US Steel did not want to spend the money to install new equipment. There is an excellent book "AND THE WOLF FINALLY CAME" The Decline of the American Steel Industy by John P. Hoerr. Donora was the first mill to go and it was a Domino effect from then on. I wonder if the old timers who worked in the Zinc Works would rather have had the unhealthy air and kept their jobs instead of leaving the area and watching a thriving community die. What is sad is that it didn't have to be that way. And I don't ever remember hearing that any one individual ever sued US Steel. It was certainly a different world back then.
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Art
Site Admin


Joined: 17 Feb 2003
Posts: 4471
Location: Maryland

PostPosted: Tue May 02, 2006 1:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sonia, it's never too late to reply here! That's the neat thing about a forum: everyone who is taking part in a thread gets an email so they can jump back in.

Thanks for adding your memories. Some of the people I met in Donora last winter thought that there wasn't ethnic tension there. Do you think there was less tension between the different immigrant nationalities than between the immigrants and the WASPs?

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¡Sonia, nunca está demasiado tarde contestar aquí! Ésa es el genio de un foro: cada uno que está participando en un hilo reciben un email así que están incluidos - y seguimos.

Gracias por agregar sus memorias. Algunas de la gente que encontré en Donora el invierno pasado pensaron que no había tensión étnica allí. ¿Piensas que era menos tensión entre las diversas nacionalidades inmigrantes que entre los inmigrantes y las WASPS (anglos, más o menos)?
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Sonia Garcia Mandzok



Joined: 03 Feb 2004
Posts: 32

PostPosted: Tue May 02, 2006 8:58 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Well, growing up in Donora, I didn't feel any outright "tension" between the different ethnic groups, it was only after I left Donora and was older that I realized that there was a subtle difference in the way we were perceived and treated. I don't remember any hatred between the different ethnic groups. Donora was really a melting pot. Two teachers, one in elementary school and the other in junior high, both made disparaging remarks about Spaniards and Italians. The parents really weren't thrilled that you married outside of your ethnic community but they accepted it. My father included. Except for the Greek community. I have a Greek American friend who was the first in her family to marry outside and her father disowned her and didn't speak to her until he was on his deathbed. Basically, I think that the children of immigrants were expected to go into the mill or other types of blue collar employment and were not encouraged by the teachers to reach higher.

The WASP's just lived differently, ate differently, spoke quieter than we. I remember playing one Saturday with a (WASP) friend and was told it was time to go home because they were going to have lunch. Yet with my Spanish and Italian friends that never would have happened. To me, it was strange. Not that it was wrong, just strange. I was always taught that you shared what you had and you never asked if they wanted to eat, you just set another place. We seem to be more emotional and warm and embrace when meeting, unlike WASP's. This is not meant to be denigrating or hurtful in any way, it's just my experience.
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