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Thursday, August 11, 2005

Joyce and Bill Rhodes 2005 Citizens of the Year

Researched and Written by Catherine (Kitty) Pierce

Occasionally, there are people who believe strongly in their beliefs and have the courage to standby their convictions. While sorting through an accumulation of newspaper clippings, I was reminded of the efforts of two Lindley citizens who alerted Lindley residents of a potential danger to their families, neighborhoods and environment. It took them over 24 years to prove their point and to gain some satisfaction that the problem was being corrected. A bit of history is needed to tell their story.

In 1977, Steuben County and their customer Corning Inc. opened a landfill on Gibson Road in the Town of Lindley. In February 1978 the residents of Gibson Road complained to the Lindley Town Board about the litter left by the trucks without coverings, the damage to the road and the drainage they were beginning to see coming from the landfill.

In March 1978 a blockade was staged to draw attention to the problem with the landfill. Joyce and Bill Rhodes became spokespersons for the concerned citizens. In 1982 part of the landfill closed because it was known to be a potential hazardous waste site.

In 1985 Bill Rhodes sued Steuben County for $150,000 because he believed his dairy, his livelihood, was being affected by polluted water from the landfill draining into his water supply for his cattle. He had lost 15 cows and calves from a debilitating condition due to an unknown cause. The case was thrown out because it lacked “specific expert evidence” that the waste run-off from the landfill was causing problems with the dairy herd. However, the case did have an impact in that it drew attention to the Lindley landfill. The Rhodes lawyer made the statement, “This case has made New York State take a good look at the Lindley landfill. I honestly believe the Rhodes have done a service to their community.”

On May 29, 1987 Bill filed a second lawsuit against the county because he felt the cancer he had came from toxic material from the landfill drainage that was polluting their well water. Joyce sued the county that same year for $2.2 million claiming personal injury to herself, damage to her dairy cattle and loss of property value on their farm near the landfill. In January 1988 three more families on Gibson Road filed a claim regarding the landfill against the county.

In April 1991 big headlines in The Leader declared the Lindley landfill was a hazard because it contained heavy metals, pesticides, phenols and PBC’s. Lindley knew it had its own “Love Canal”. Something the Rhodes family and neighbors had been trying to tell everyone since 1978.

On July 3, 1994 the county agreed to pay six Gibson Hill residents $24,000 to satisfy claims that run-off from the landfill had damaged their property. Since the beginning numerous newspaper articles stated how much the Lindley landfill was costing the county taxpayers. In October 1998 the county announced it would cost $2.1 million to clean up the Lindley landfill. Finally, in 2002 the Lindley landfill closed down and at the May 2005 Lindley Town Board meeting, Bob Nichols, our county legislator announced the Gibson Road would be repaired this year.

This does not begin to tell the financial, physical and emotional impact that all this had on Joyce and Bill. It must have been a relief to them to finally bring this to an end and not to say “I told you so.” After 24 years of struggling to see an end to this situation they should have been proud knowing that they helped to identify an environmental threat to the Town of Lindley.

Bill was a WWII Veteran. He was discharged as a Sergeant in the Army at the end of the war. He served in the European Theater for 15 months where he was in the Battle of the Bulge. This was one of the most difficult WWII battles and Bill admitted he did not like to remember or talk about those days. Along with his farming, Bill worked 14 years at the Ingersoll Rand. He and his brothers operated a milk route for several years picking up farmer’s mils in cans and delivering them to milk plants before the days of bulk tanks. This was done in the summer, winter, rain, sleet and snow.

During the landfill episode, Bill found time to serve as Town Assessor for 25 years, the last few years serving as Chairman. He was often found at the Town Hall keeping the assessor’s books in order anf or listening to people complain about their taxes. He also found time to be a husband and father to three children, Terry, Nancy and Kathi, a grandfather to seven grandchildren and four great grandchildren. He was a member of the Presho United Methodist Church, the Cooperative Extension and served on the Agway Board of Directors and the Addison Milk Producers.

And where was Joyce all this time? Right by Bill’s side. Joyce was often the person quoted in the newspaper articles about the landfill. As a Registered Nurse she was probably more aware of the potential dangers of the contamination than the rest of us. She worked as a registered nurse at Corning Hospital. Without a doubt she received many of Bill’s assessor calls. Joyce is an active member of the Presho United Methodist Church, participates in its programs and in the Presho Cemetery Association.

There are probably other things that these two people did for the community that we do not know. It is too late to thank Bill for voicing his concerns about the landfill and for his contributions to the Lindley community and to his country. However, it is not too late to recognize Joyce on their behalf for their efforts and contributions.


Click on the photo to go to Sallyann's photostream for more pictures of the ceremony.

2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

6:57 PM  
Anonymous Sallyann said...

I deleted the above comment because someone posted an advertisement.

1:29 PM  

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