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The Tennessee Valley Authority, the nations largest public utility, plans on shipping millions of tons of coal ash from a massive spill to a landfill in Perry County, Alabama. Perry County (AL-07) boasts one of the highest poverty rates in the country. Despite officials from Alabama and the federal government stating otherwise, environmental activists argue that the material could contain some very toxic material.

"It's unverified, depending on which sources you go to, what the level of toxicity is," said Michael Churchman, executive director of the Alabama Environmental Council.

"I don't see how they think it should be shipped to Perry County and treated like a banana peel or other items from my house."

So there is nowhere "suitable in Eastern Tennessee" to dispose this stuff, so it's just going to be dumped at a landfill at a poor county in Alabama.

This is another reason that we need Shelia Smoot in Congress to represent people in Perry County and other people in this district in 2010. She will stand up to make sure that people in these communities have a fair chance to voice their concerns over such issues.

TVA said it sent a test shipment of 1,500 tons of the sludge in 15 railcars last month to the Arrowhead Landfill in the mostly black county, where U.S. Census statistics show 31 percent of families live in poverty. A test shipment of the same size went to a landfill near Mauk, Ga.

The Georgia County where toxic ash is being moved also has a high rate of poverty.

Located in western Georgia's Piedmont, Taylor County is an agricultural area where almost 41% of the population is African-American and more than 24% of residents live in poverty, according to census data. By comparison, the state is 30% black with 14.3% of its residents in poverty. In recent years, Taylor County gained notoriety as one of the last communities in the South to still hold racially segregated high-school proms.

Why does the toxic material has to be shipped to neighboring states?

The Chattanooga paper reports that TVA also considered moving the coal ash to two communities in eastern Tennessee: Athens in McMinn County, which is more than 93% white with 18% of its residents living in poverty, and Oneida in Scott County, which is more than 98% white with 21% of residents living in poverty, according to census data. However, the company sought state regulators' approval only for the Georgia and Alabama sites.

While this might not be an instance of direct racism, the proponents of environmental justice claims, certainly have some statistical data to back up their claims

Researchers have found that solid waste landfills tend to be located disproportionately in communities of color and low-wealth communities. For example, a recent study in North Carolina found that the odds of a solid waste facility were 2.8 times greater for communities with where 50% or more residents are people of color compared to those where less than 10% of residents are people of color. It also found that communities with lower housing values were more likely to have landfills.

People in these communities certainly deserve a right to speak up on why such landfills and toxic waste should not be designated for their communities. Often times they are too often ignored and do not have the time to effectively organize a movement to stop such efforts.


This Perry County landfill sits in the 7th Congressional District of Alabama. Another reason that we are supporting Shelia Smoot who is running for this seat in 2010. She has always been an advocate for helping people stand up for their rights to be heard. Please read some of our other  diaries  on Shelia  who will be officially kicking off her Congressional Campaign next Saturday. We of course would appreciate any donations also.

Originally posted to draftsmoot on Sun Jun 07, 2009 at 09:34 AM PDT.

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