Remembering Marie Harrison on the Anniversary of her “Very Last Breath!”

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Demolition of a polluting power plant and halting residential development on a Superfund site are but two of the miraculous testaments to the life of “Saint Marie of Hunters Point.”

Marie Harrison was a member of the Huntersview Mother’s Committee on May 15, 2006 when the turbines of the 70 year old PG&E Hunters Point Power Plant — located at 1000 Evans Avenue at the base of the Hunters Point hilltop -shut down…for good! Ten days after putting into service the Jefferson Martin Transmission Line, Pacific Gas and Electric Company kept the promise it made in 1998 to shutter the delapidated natural gas fired plant after replacing the 400 megawatts of backup power the power plant supplied.

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Southeast San Francisco Circa 2006. In addition to the PG&E Power Plant that exploded in 2000 and discharged billowing stacks of toxic air contaminants, Bayview Hunters Point sites a federal Superfund site, a sewerage treatment plant, toxic waste sites and polluting industries and is burdened by excess construction dust and airborne emissions from highways and major freeways.

What began as a tight knit group of “mothers turned environmentalists,” mushroomed over 25 years to become a mighty coalition drawing consensus support across a broad spectrum of community leaders, environmental activists and scientists, health and legal experts, regulators, politicians and elected officials at all levels of government.

Huntersview Mother’s Committee “Showdown” at the PG&E Power Plant

PG&E Hunters Point Power Plant circa 2007…Now you see it!

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A San Francisco Health Department study conducted in 2000 found residents of Bayview Hunters Point twice as likely to be hospitalized with asthma as San Francisco residents overall. Bayview Hunters Point and Potrero Hill were found to have the highest concentrations of air pollution emissions in the city according to the EPA. Photo: Chris Carlsson

PG&E Hunters Point Power Plant circa 2008…Now you don’t!

“When each of the gun-powdered charges exploded — it sliced through the building material, causing it to fall on top of itself and the stack fell over in its entirety….PG&E eventually agreed to shut it down and Friday’s final demolition marks a significant community milestone.” Hunters Point Power Plant Demolished/ABC7 San Francisco Sep 19, 2008

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Former site of the PG&E Hunters Point Power Plant. A study funded by the San Francisco Foundation identified emissions from the plant included the cities highest levels of nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, dangerous chemicals and volatile organic compounds. — photo Chris Carlsson

Marie Harrison’s divinely inspired crusades to end the environmental injustice that plagued her community and ravaged her family and friends with a host of environmental diseases from headaches and nosebleeds to skin rashes and unexplained cancers, ended on May 5, 2019 after she suffered a cardiopulmonary arrest and died of a chronic lung disease called pulmonary fibrosis.

Her once healthy lungs became progressively more stiff from scars caused by decades of bombardment by fine particles, toxic fumes and airborne chemicals. It restricted her breath but not her message. Wearing nasal cannulas and an oxygen tank she continued her fight…to the very last breath!

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Pulmonary fibrosis is a form of interstitial lung disease in which lung tissue becomes stiff and damaged by scars and cannot perform the work of transporting oxygen to the bloodstream and body.

Memorializing the one year anniversary of her death, in May of 2020 the Marie Harrison Bayview Air Monitoring Network (MHBAM) finalized site selection for the community led, AB 617 funded project to place 10 Dylos particulate air monitors in key locations throughout Bayview Hunters Point. Greenaction community organizer Dalila Adofo coordinates the ten member MHBAM steering committee. Proposed sites include Joseph Lee Recreation Center, Southeast Clinic, Thurgood Marshall High, Hunters Point Boys & Girls Club, Hunters Point Shipyard entrance and the industrial regions of Yosemite Slough and Bayshore.

Dalila Adofo — Greenaction Organizer Marie Harrison Bayview Air Monitoring Network

In “Marie Harrison, mother of the movement for environmental justice”, SF Bayview editors acknowledged tributes to Marie Harris “legendary warrior who laid down her life for her community” are pouring in from the San Francisco Chronicle, Examiner, SF Weekly, Mission Local and from the SF Bayview where Harrison wrote a weekly column about environmental issues.

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“We have the right to live, work, play and worship on land that is clean.” To the very last breath: Marie Harrison’s epic stand to save Bayview Hunters Point. Ahimsa Porter Sumchai, MD

It has been a year since my friend Marie Harrison lost her epic final battle at age 71, following a cardiopulmonary arrest on May 4, 2019. In the passing year I have come to recognize her destined role…as mother…as martyr…as the ”Joan of Arc” of the Environmental Movement in Southeast San Francisco!

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Saint Joan the Maid
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References:

https://sfbayview.com/2019/05/marie-harrison-mother-of-the-movement-for-environmental-justice/

https://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Big-victory-for-Hunters-Point-activists-As-PG-E2534998.php

https://www.sfchronice.com/green/article/Hunters-Point-enviromental-activist-Marie-138269556.php/

Medical Director - Golden State MD Health & Wellness. UCSF/Stanford Author & Researcher. PI HP Biomonitoring. Certified Clinical Nutritionist. PoliticoMD!

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