A passion for righting wrongs moves Pueblo volunteer
By Carol Carpenter
RMC Communications Team
If there’s one thing about living in Pueblo that really bothers Kiera Hatton-Sena, Sangre de Cristo Group’s (SdCG) Environmental Justice and Communications chair, is that her beloved hometown is often used as an “environmental dumping ground” for larger metropolitan areas in the Front Range.
“Our community already struggles with innumerable challenges, and adding unnecessary environmental toxins and pollution from outside the community is absurd,” Kiera states. “Pueblo should not always be the recipient of pollution caused by the not-in-my-backyard mentality of Colorado Springs and Denver.”
A member of Sierra Club for only one year, Kiera is already an active and dedicated SdCG volunteer and leader. She points to two major examples of environmental pollution imposed upon her city from outside the area:
- The Comanche Power Plant, a coal-fired power plant that Xcel Energy uses to power the Denver metropolitan area, pollutes Pueblo's air.
- Colorado Springs Utilities repeatedly floods Fountain Creek with their city’s sewage.
Not only does her hometown suffer from environmental degradation, but economic injustice as well, Kiera believes. “Pueblo often is the environmental dumping ground for the rest of the state because of its lower socioeconomic status, and there isn't enough money in Pueblo to fight it,” she emphasizes.
Because she is determined to help do something specific to remedy these and other pressing issues, Kiera, along with other members of the SdCG Executive Committee, are now working with the Environmental Protection Agency to get the Eiler's Neighborhood (Colorado Smelter) on the National Priorities List as a Superfund cleanup site.
This historic south Pueblo neighborhood, she explains, is plagued by toxic levels of lead and arsenic in its soils. The neighborhood is largely comprised—more than 70 percent—of young, often-lower-income Latino families.
“These young families are disproportionately affected because they have children playing outside in the contaminated soils, and children are at far greater risk than adults,” Kiera points out. “The only opposition to the cleanup has come from other adults with no children in the home. Work continues to gain momentum to protect these Pueblo children, but more volunteers are needed to help with outreach.”
Interest in Sierra Club
Kiera, daughter Midori, husband
Daryl and Forest the dog enjoy a
With a strong passion for righting the wrongs of environmental and economic injustice, Kiera became interested in Sierra Club last year after learning it was the only active environmental organization in Pueblo. “I wanted to continue work I had been doing regarding environmental justice in the low income and Latino communities of Pueblo, specifically relating to fracking and energy efficiency standards,” she says. “I stay in the Sierra Club because as one of the few young members, I have found great friends and mentors in the members of the SdCG ExCom.”
And, in fact, it is partly the age disparity in Sierra Club that will likely keep her committed to the organization in the future. “The future of the Sierra Club is at risk if we cannot find ways to attract and encourage younger members,” she said. “Our organization is aging, and we must actively work to find new ways to engage families, students and minorities. We need to be developing new leaders so the important work of the Club can continue.”
Fortunately, the SdCG comprises a very large geographical area—essentially the entire Arkansas River basin—meaning her Group can more easily find the leaders that will allow it to grow into a stronger organization that can address the environmental concerns of the entire region. And Kiera definitely wants to be a part of that.
Kiera invites other Sierra Club members and supporters with interest in the SdCG to contact her on twitter@kierahattonsena or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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