Lawyer Monthly - September 2023

Shawn Collins My Work and My Clients I have fought polluters for more than 23 years. My clients are individuals, families, and communities whose air and water have been contaminated by the reckless discharge of dangerous chemicals – usually carcinogens – from factories, industrial parks and landfills. In my cases, chemicals with names like TCE, PCE, DCE, vinyl chloride, ethylene oxide, arsenic, toluene and glyphosate were poured, spilled, dumped or spewed into the air – often for years – by companies who did not care to spend the money to dispose of the chemicals responsibly or protect those they knew would be exposed. Left to migrate throughout the environment and find their way into homes, schools, churches and parks, these toxins were then inhaled and consumed by residents who had no idea the chemicals were even there, let alone how badly their health was being threatened. No one bothered to tell them. Not the polluter. Not even their government. My Legal Life Leading the Charge Against America’s Biggest Polluters Instances of harmful pollution and ecological disasters have grown unsettlingly commonplace in the US – despite environmental regulations that appear strict on paper. Why is this, and how can polluting corporations be held responsible for the damages they cause? Enter Shawn Collins, the ‘environmental lawyer for the people’. In this exclusive interview, Shawn shares a look at the work he does and the clients who come to him, as well as a glimpse into the ongoing battle to hold polluters accountable in the US. 22 LAWYER MONTHLY SEPTEMBER 2023 The discovery of a toxic chemical in the community frightens residents, understandably, and warns those who might be interested in living there one day to stay away. The contaminated homes – typically the most valuable asset a family owns and hopes one day to leave to the next generation – can be rendered worthless in an instant of discovery. Who wants to live in a home like that? In a place like that? A life of saving and building and caring can be lost. Parents are terrified to learn that the home they thought was a place of sanctuary and safety for their children is actually quite dangerous, because colourless, odourless industrial chemicals have infiltrated the family’s water supply, flowing daily out of the kitchen tap and showerhead. Or they have silently intruded into the home’s breathing spaces, having migrated there as the vapour remnants of industrial solvents dumped into the groundwater decades earlier. In some cases, far more than ‘just’ the value of a home is lost. Health can be irreparably damaged. People

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