Over Three Dozen Environmental Justice Groups Offer “Call to Action” Plan to New EPA Region 4 Head
ATLANTA, GA, November 12 - After meeting with Gwen Keyes Fleming, the first African American to EPA Region 4 (which includes eight southern states, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and 6 Tribal Nations) on Wednesday November 10, more than three environmental justice, civil rights, faith, community based organizations, and leaders from polluted communities delivered an eleven-point “Call to Action” for Region 4 reform that demanded fundamental change, a new culture, and a new enforcement framework at EPA—one that actually protects the environment and public health. They also called for equal protection and equal enforcement of environmental laws, something that has been lacking in the southern states for decades; end to the collusion between EPA Region 4, state environmental agencies, and polluting industry; halt to the “look-the-other-way” approach that has been a trademark of Region 4 which has led to higher health costs and degraded environments; and bold leadership and an uncompromising dedication to equal protection, environmental justice, and public health as top priorities in the region. The plan generally can be summarized in four words: transparency, accountability, justice, and trust. Working together with this shared vision and with impacted communities, the leaders are hopeful that the new region administrator can make environmental justice a top priority. Click HERE for the full “Call to Action” plan and addendum.
Environmental Justice Communities
Uniontown/Perry County, Alabama---The potential exposure of residents of Perry County to hazardous substances resulting from the disposal of metal-laden coal ash at the Perry County (“Arrowhead”) Landfill is a critical issue in this community. The ongoing transport of millions of tons of coal ash from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Superfund site in Kingston, Tennessee to the Arrowhead Landfill threatens to place those living near the permanent coal ash disposal site at great risk. The current operating permit is deficient in critical areas, and these deficiencies potentially place the community at risk for air and water contamination. The residents have requested EPA’s immediate attention to this matter and the amendment of the Agreement on Consent (AOC) to address these threats. Contact: Barbara Evans, WildLaw, Burkville, Alabama (For the full statement click HERE); Esther Calhoun, Blackbelt Citizens Fighting for Health & Justice, Uniontown, Alabama (For the full statement click HERE); David A. Ludder, David A. Ludder LLC, Tallahassee, Florida (For the full statement click HERE).
Campbellton, Florida---Representatives from the NAACP joined residents from Campbellton, Florida (Jackson County), a community where BP oil spill waste is being dumped. The April 20, 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster killed eleven workers and leaked more than 200 million gallons of crude into the Gulf of Mexico over 87 days--making it the worst offshore oil disaster in U.S. history. Six of the nine EPA approved landfills are located in areas where the percentage of people of color is larger than the people of color percent in the corresponding county--amounting to more than 80 percent of the total BP oil waste disposed. As of August 29, 2010, more than 55,319 million tons of BP oil spill solid waste had been disposed in nine Subtitle D landfills in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Of this total, more than 20,760 tons of BP wastes (38%) were dumped at the Spring Hill Regional Landfill in Campbellton. More than 76 percent of the residents who live within a one-mile radius of the Spring Hill Landfill are people of color. People of color make up 29.8 percent of Jackson County. Contact: Elmore Bryant, (NAACP Area Director). For the full statement click HERE.
Fort Walton, Florida---The Greater Sylvania Heights Front Porch, Inc., (GSHFP) is an organization comprised of neighbors in a low-income, predominantly African American area of Okaloosa County and Ft. Walton Beach which has manufacturing facilities and a large industrial park directly adjacent to a residential neighborhood. The GSHFP is working to improve environmental, housing and other living conditions within the Sylvania Heights and neighboring communities, including the greater “Lovejoy” community. The Lovejoy community faces a number of environmental issues. Located immediately adjacent to the residential neighborhood are an industrial park and several manufacturing and waste management sites. Because the community suffers from nonexistent or inadequate stormwater facilities, heavy floodwaters wash through adjacent contaminated industrial areas and carry pollutants through residential neighborhoods, where floodwaters ultimately collect and settle. In addition to these very substantial environmental issues, the community also faces abandoned or substandard housing and other problems. Contact: Sarah Schwemin and Rachel Gelbmann, WildLaw, St. Petersburg, Florida. For the full statement click HERE.
Gainesville, Florida---The Cabot/Koppers Superfund site covers 140 acres bridging two properties. It is comprised of two sites: the Koppers portion covering 90 acres on the western side, and the Cabot Carbon portion covering 50 acres on the eastern side. A wood-treating operation on the Koppers portion of the site, currently operated by Koppers Industries, has been active since 1916. Cabot Carbon formerly operated a charcoal production operation on the Cabot Carbon portion. This portion has been redeveloped and currently contains a commercial shopping mall, car dealership and a series of smaller stores and businesses. Two potentially responsible parties (PRPs) are funding the cleanup. Beazer East, Inc. (Beazer East) is the PRP for the Koppers portion of the site. Cabot Corporation is the PRP for the Cabot Carbon portion. Contact: Sarah Schwemin and Rachel Gelbmann, WildLaw, St. Petersburg, Florida (For the full statements click HERE); Sandra Watts Kennedy, President, Stephen Foster Neighborhood Association, Inc., Gainesville, Florida (For the full statements click HERE); and Maria Parsons, Stephen Foster Neighborhood Protection Group, Gainesville, Florida (For the full statements click HERE).
Pensacola, Florida---The Pensacola, Florida area is plagued with many environmental disasters. The two Superfund sites (Escambia Treating Company and Agrico Chemical Company) that led to the eventual relocation of over 300 families still present problems in the Pensacola area. In addition, there are other industries (Gulf Power-Crist Plant, Solutia Inc., International Paper, Reichhold Inc., and Arizona Chemical Co.) still in operation that have proven not to be very good neighbors. Pensacola residents are left wondering how they may have been exposed to hazardous chemicals and why their health is deteriorating and the EPA seems unwilling to bring any enforcement actions to protect public health and the environment. Contact: Francine D. Ishmael, Executive Director, Citizens Against Toxic Exposure, Inc., Pensacola, FL. For the full statement click HERE.
Tellevast, Florida---Homeowners in Tellevast, Florida, a small, and historic African American community, located just north of Sarasota, groundwater are battling threats from trichloroethylene or TCE , a "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen," contamination left by the American Beryllium Company, a manufacturing plant that made machine parts for nuclear weapons. The company was later bought by the giant defense contractor Lockheed Martin, one of the largest defense contractors in the United States with over 140,000 employees worldwide. Contact: Sarah Schwemin and Rachel Gelbmann, WildLaw, St. Petersburg, Florida. For the full statement click HERE.
Athens, Georgia---Pittard Road was given a cancer cluster investigation from 2003-2006 without DuPont/InVista's numerous environmental violations being documented or investigated by local, state, and federal authorities. They recently petitioned the Agency for Toxic Substance & Disease Registry (ATSDR) for another investigation in light of these significant violations. ATSDR denied the investigation. ATSDR was found guilty of extensive environmental public health failures by a House hearing on 12th March 2009 so they do not have trust in their cooperative findings with the State of Georgia. They remain convinced because of these violations and from documents they have obtained through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that Pittard Road was victimized by this industry. Contact: Jill McElheny, Vice Chair, Northeast GA Children's Environmental Health Coalition in support of Dunlap and Pittard Road Communities. For the full statement click HERE.
Burke County, Georgia---Leaders from Burke County, Georgia are concerned about that county's mostly African American Shell Bluff community being targeted for risky nuclear power plants. The first nuclear power plants to be built in decades are being proposed in Region 4 with an $8.3 billion federal loan guarantee. The loan guarantee will help the Atlanta-based Southern Company build two more nuclear reactors in the Shell Bluff community. The county is 51.1 percent black. The two new reactors would each produce 1,000 megawatts, and would work with two existing reactors at a site near Waynesboro, Georgia (62.5% black). The nuclear power plant is being promoted as providing jobs for local residents. However, numerous studies show that few low-income and people of color residents actually get jobs at these plants. Black communities get more promises than jobs--and they get pollution and they get sick. In 2005, Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL) commissioned an investigation of mortality statistics which compared cancer deaths before and after Plant Vogtle went on line. The study found that the death rate from all cancers in Burke County rose 24.2 percent, while the death rate fell 1.4 percent for all of Georgia. The statistics for infant deaths are of particular concern because they are even higher. While the cause of these increases is uncertain, the report did not rule out the pernicious impacts of radioactive air pollution. On August 10, 2010, the BREDL petitioned EPA under Section 505 of the Clean Air Act. They now await a response from EPA as to the status of this petition. Contact: Charles Utley, EJ Campaign Coordinator, Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Augusta, Georgia. For the full statement click HERE.
Valdosta, Georgia--- Residents from Valdosta, Georgia are fighting the construction of a 40 megawatt biomass incinerator slated for construction next year in their mostly black community which is already overburdened and environmentally impacted by incinerators and heavy truck traffic. The Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) held public hearings last May where residents asked it to consider "cumulative health impacts" in the permitting facilities rather than its traditional "smokestack by smokestack" evaluation. The biomass incinerator is being marketed as a "clean energy" project. However, many Valdosta and Lowndes County residents disagree, views held by a growing number of anti-biomass and incineration and forest protection campaigns. Contact: Leigh Touchton, President, Valdosta-Lowndes NAACP, Valdosta, Georgia. For the full statement click HERE.
Daufuskie Island, South Carolina---Beaufort County Council has approved $360,000 for a permanent waste facility on a site in our historic Gullah neighborhood that will serve only 65 residences. This will be the third Convenience Center on our island; the other two being Haig Point and Melrose. We would like to consolidate waste services on Daufuskie, not expand them. The "One Island Consolidated Waste Facility" that we foresee will handle residential and commercial trash. It will offer expanded recycling services including composting. This facility will significantly reduce the amount of trash leaving Daufuskie and going to Hickory Hill Landfill and will utilize island businesses and employ island residents. Hickory Hill Landfill in Ridgeland, SC is expected to reach capacity in 13 years. Contact: Daufuskie Island Conservancy, Daufuskie Island, South Carolina. For the full statement click HERE.
Fredonia Community, Tennessee---Residents in and around the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) "proposed" megasite, which includes the historically African American Fredonia community, have requested EPA Region 4 enforce NEPA guidelines and participation in a meaningful environmental study and analysis from TVA and the State of Tennessee at all levels but have been rebuffed and/or ignored at all phases of this huge designated industrial site including the most important phase, during planning and before decisionmaking. The residents ask only that this NEPA process be done in the order in which NEPA mandates—before major decisions and actions are taken. Contact: Gary Bullwinkel, Citizens Against the Haywood/Hatchie Megasite. Fredonia Community, Gary Bullwinkel and Lawrence Randall, Greater Fredonia Community for Environmental Justice, Fayette and Haywood Counties, Tennessee. For the full statement click HERE.