"If this had been a rich, white neighborhood, the landfill would never have gotten here," Uniontown resident Esther Calhoun, president of Black Belt Citizens Fighting for Health and Justice, told NBCnews. “They put it here because we're a poor, black community. They knew we couldn't fight back."
Earth Justice has been working hard on the issue of environmental justice for the victims of coal ash (must read at link). Consider donating to them so that they can continue to support communities in eco-crisis such as Uniontown.
At 1AM on December 22, 2008, a tsunami of over a billion gallons of toxic waste swept though the sleeping Appalachian town of Harriman, Tennessee, after a coal ash holding pond at the Tennessee Valley Authority’s (TVA) Kingston power plant exploded through a poorly constructed levee. The resulting destruction continued downstream for six miles and “flooded into tributaries of the Tennessee River – the water supply for Chattanooga and millions of people living downstream in Alabama, Tennessee and Kentucky”. The United Mountain Defense reported: “This spill is over 40 times bigger than the Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska. This is a huge environmental disaster of epic proportions.”
After the EPA’s timeline of cleanup in this area was complete, some of the coal ash was scooped up and sent to out of state landfills. If you are wondering who the lucky recipients were, wonder no more.
Sourcewatch reported on environmental justice concerns of these shipments:
Both the Georgia and Alabama landfills are located in areas with higher rates of poverty and higher percentages of African-American residents than state averages, a situation that has raised concerns about environmental justice. In Taylor County, more than 24 percent of the population lives in poverty, and over 40 percent of the population is African-American; by contrast, the state as a whole has a 14 percent poverty rate and is 30 percent African-American. Perry County in Alabama has more than 32 percent of its residents living in poverty and a 69 percent African-American population, compared with the state as a whole, which has a poverty rate of over 16 percent and a 26 percent African-American population. Perry County District Attorney Michael Jackson criticized the EPA for allowing TVA to dispose of ash at a landfill in a poor community in Alabama, calling the decision "tragic and shortsighted." He vowed to monitor the disposal site to ensure the process complies with environmental regulations.
Reports show that TVA also considered moving the coal ash to two communities in eastern Tennessee, both of which have populations of well over 90 percent white residents and poverty rates of under 21 percent. The two Tennessee sites considered were Athens in McMinn County and Oneida in Scott County. However, the company sought approval from state regulators solely for the sites in Georgia and Alabama. The communities that are receiving the coal waste from TVA were not provided an opportunity for public comment on the decision.
More below the fold.
See photo history of the arrival of the coal ash to Uniontown. Remarkable documentation work from yourcreekkeeper.blogspot.com/...
In March, 2016 the operator of the 1,200-acre Arrowhead Landfill filed a $15 million lawsuit against three local activists in the small rural city of 2,500. Approximately nine in 10 Uniontown residents are Black, and attorneys representing the defendants say Uniontown is a perfect example of a "low-income community of color overburdened with an unfair share of environmental hazards”.
The residents in this area have an annual income of 9,000 to 10,000 dollars per year. They are quite vulnerable as a result, and Green Group Holding’s Arrowhead landfill operator knows it. The landfill is labeled as a “municipal solid waste” dump which means it is not subject to any EPA regulations. In fact, as recently as 2015, Green Group Holdings has marketed the dump for coal ash waste in 33 states. This is true for dump sites through out the South’s black belt. The locals must endure the fallout from our toxic waste.
www.environmentalleader.com/... reported in May of 2015:
Green Group Holdings says its Arrowhead Landfill facility in Alabama is ready to accept coal combustion residuals (CCR) — coal ash — from utility companies looking to avoid civil litigation risks brought on by the new federal regulations.
The EPA regulations on CCR establish disposal standards, monitoring obligations, and associated public reporting requirements for CCR landfills, most commonly owned and operated by utility companies. However, the new rule does not address enforcement, meaning interpretation and enforcement of the rule will ultimately be determined as a result of civil litigation, putting utilities that dispose of coal ash in CCR landfills at serious risk.
As a municipal solid waste landfill, Arrowhead is not subject to the new EPA regulations and is ready to accept coal ash immediately. In fact, disposal of coal ash at Arrowhead will exceed the standards established by rule, creating for utilities a “safe harbor” solution not subject to further interpretation or dispute, and a clean transfer of obligation, Green Group says.
Arrowhead Landfill has already disposed of more than 4 million tons of CCR by its affiliate partner, Phillips & Jordan, according to Green Group CEO Ernest Kaufmann.
Meanwhile local residents have organized and created a Facebook page where they can keep each other informed on what is occurring in the air and the water surrounding the dump. They raise hell about what these eco-crimes are doing to their health. This Facebook page is what led to the civil lawsuit against the “Black Belt Citizens” organizers.
Truthout has a must-read article that highlights some of the postings from the Black Belt Citizens Facebook page that has so enraged the Arrowhead landfill operator that he has thrown corporate weight against the impoverished residents of Perry County.
October 23, 2015: Arrowhead Landfill and its owners, Green Group Holdings, neglects laws, peoples' rights, and our culture. First, corruption and unlawful actions get the landfill here. Then, 4 million tons of coal ash and garbage from 33 states. Now, Arrowhead landfill and Green Group Holdings are trespassing and desecrating a black cemetery. Black lives matter! Black ancestors matter! (Emphasis added.)
Mike Smith, an attorney who has represented the landfill since 2007 and filed the lawsuit, told Truthout that he respects the right to free speech, but claims there is "a line beyond which you really can't go." He argues that members of Black Belt Citizens falsely accused his client of illegal activities that could be considered felonies, and in the competitive world of waste disposal, that "damages our ability to get contracts."
In 2013, Calhoun and other residents filed a federal civil rights complaint against state regulators for reauthorizing permits for the landfill without considering how the facility impacts their already overburdened community, which is majority Black. The complaint is not the first of its kind in Alabama, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently agreed to investigate a similar complaint filed by a group of Black residents over a landfill in the southeastern corner of the state earlier this year.
Alabama and other Southern states are popular places to dump waste of all kinds, and for years environmental justice advocates have complained that landfills, especially those that store dangerous waste, are built next to low-income and Black neighborhoods all too often. A 2003 civil rights complaint filed with the EPA states that all of the more than 31 landfills permitted in Alabama at the time were located in predominately Black communities, but take waste from predominately white areas. Like so many others, the complaint was dismissed.
Online Lawyer Service notes a 2007 EPA risk assessment.
A 2007 draft risk assessment published by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) disclosed that a person has nine times the risk of getting cancer from exposure to coal combustion waste compared to the risk of getting cancer from smoking cigarettes.
The risk to health includes damage to the:
- Reproductive system
- Diabetics and others with ongoing health concerns
At least 11 toxins and carcinogens are found in coal ash including arsenic, selenium, lead, and other heavy metals.
The coal industry’s demise cannot happen soon enough. Another unwanted by product of coal is greenhouse gasses, which cause horrifying climate feed back loops throughout the world. These are events that we do not experience. People in Africa and South Asia are dying of starvation, thirst and heatstroke at this very moment because of fossil fuel gases. The planetary thermostat is broken and in the 2016 US election it's not even an issue. We can not afford to elect anybody in this country that is a climate change denier or enabler of the fossil fuel industry. And certainly not a President Trump who, along with his Republican Congress, have promised to undo the hard work on climate change mitigation that President Obama, Pope Francis and others were able to achieve in Paris when the world signed the Climate Agreement.
NASA makes the scientific warning on catastrophic climate change:
Earth-orbiting satellites and other technological advances have enabled scientists to see the big picture, collecting many different types of information about our planet and its climate on a global scale. This body of data, collected over many years, reveals the signals of a changing climate.
The heat-trapping nature of carbon dioxide and other gases was demonstrated in the mid-19th century.2 Their ability to affect the transfer of infrared energy through the atmosphere is the scientific basis of many instruments flown by NASA. There is no question that increased levels of greenhouse gases must cause the Earth to warm in response.
Ice cores drawn from Greenland, Antarctica, and tropical mountain glaciers show that the Earth’s climate responds to changes in greenhouse gas levels. They also show that in the past, large changes in climate have happened very quickly, geologically-speaking: in tens of years, not in millions or even thousands.3
Existing U.S. Coal Plants sourcewatch.org