To a student at UR, Kodak is probably thought of as nothing more than the provider of cushy corporate scholarships and rsum-boosting internships, perhaps a supplier of film for art majors and maybe to some, Kodak is recognized as playing a large role in the general Rochester community.

What you might not realize is that along with all the great things Kodak does, it also has a horrific legacy of pollution, maintaining the not-so-desirable ranking as New York’s top manufacturing polluter.

The factory, less than five miles from campus, releases millions ? yes, millions ? of pounds of pollution every year into the air we breathe. You may not see the immediate affects of these emissions here on campus, but in nearby neighborhoods the carcinogens released at Kodak have been linked to high rates of childhood cancer, including brain tumors and thyroid cancer, as well as numerous other diseases.

The chemicals responsible for this mess include benzene, hydrochloric acid and dioxin, which are formed when toxic waste is burned in Kodak’s multiple incinerators.

This environmental injustice has angered many members of the Rochester community, who had a chance to voice their concerns and demand clean air at a public hearing on Thursday, September 12. The purpose of the hearing was to gather citizens’ comments regarding Kodak’s pending emissions permit. Kodak is currently in the process of obtaining a new Title V permit from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC). The permit will essentially grant Kodak continued rights to emit pollution, as long as the company meets the standards set in the permit.

The permit-granting process represents a chance for the state and citizens to curb Kodak’s pollution. However, as the proposal now stands, little would actually be accomplished to decrease toxic emissions, due to loopholes and loosely worded conditions for monitoring and reporting pollution. If accepted as it currently stands, the permit would allow Kodak to increase emission sources without notifying the DEC. It would also limit the public’s ability to hold Kodak legally accountable for their pollution, and would limit the necessary monitoring of emission sources, without including any specific measures for decreasing emissions.

At Thursday’s hearing many citizens stepped forward to publicly raise objections to the current wording of the permit. Speakers at the hearing demanded greater accountability, stricter monitoring standards and a specific plan to facilitate the gradual phasing out of toxic incineration.

They recommended that burning be replaced by the cleaner and more economic waste-processing alternatives used by several other chemical corporations. The bulk of these demands were presented by members of the Kandid Coalition, a local off-shoot of the Citizens’ Environmental Coalition dedicated to helping Kodak decrease toxic releases to the air, water and community.

Several UR students attended the hearing to demonstrate support for the community’s demands of Kodak and the DEC. It proved to be an informative and inspiring experience, thanks to the committed citizens who stepped forward to demand environmental justice.

If you would like to learn more about these issues, and discover ways that you can take action to reduce emission of toxins to the land, air and even our dear old Genesee, visit or come to the next UR Grassroots meeting, held Wednesday nights at 8:30 p.m. in Wilson Commons Room 122.

Stewart is a junior and can be reached at, Sylvester is a sophomore and can be reached at

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