Last month, GASP requested an informational meeting and public hearing from Jefferson County Department of Health (JCDH) to raise awareness about Drummond Company’s Title V operating permit for ABC Coke, which is currently up for renewal. We were particularly interested in how residents affected by pollution could adequately voice their concerns.

This Monday, JCDH held an informational meeting about the permit. More than 150 people packed the cafeteria at Tarrant Intermediate School, anxious to learn more about the pollution permit granted to the coke byproducts facility in their neighborhood.

The meeting consisted of a presentation by two JCDH staff members and one EPA staff person. Those in attendance got an overview of what a Title V permit is, what the process is for applying and approving a permit, and how residents can comment on permits when they’re up for renewal, as ABC Coke’s is now.

The audience was denied the opportunity to ask questions at the meeting, but JCDH did supply note cards and pens so people could write down comments or questions and submit them for follow-up. Many in the room expressed frustration that there wasn’t a time dedicated to explaining the extremely complicated presentation — especially with a public hearing on the permit in less than two weeks.

We had the opportunity to speak with every major news outlet in the Birmingham region, which was a fantastic opportunity to expand the reach of the message that ABC Coke is the worst polluting industrial facility in Jefferson County, raising serious concerns about how our health is affected.

Now, our attention shifts to the formal public hearing that JCDH will hold Monday, April 14. The public is invited to attend the hearing and make comments about the permit. The deadline for written comments is Friday, April 18.

We set up a helpline for people concerned with pollution to call and leave a message about how their health has been impacted. GASP is committed to helping citizens make comments on this permit. Call 1-866-581-GASP (4277) to leave a message. We’ll follow up and submit complaints to JCDH.

In related news, Walter Energy’s Title V operating permit for Walter Coke located in the Harriman Park neighborhood. Like Drummond Company, Walter Energy was named by the EPA as a “potentially responsible party” (PRP) for toxic contamination found in the 35th Avenue Superfund Site, which includes Collegeville, Fairmont and Harriman Park.

GASP is asking JCDH to consider opening up future public meetings up for questions and answers. Too many residents left Monday’s meeting without adequate information about how pollution in their neighborhoods can be minimized.

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