GASP has filed a civil rights environmental discrimination complaint with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency against the Jefferson County Department of Health (JCDH) for its issuance of the operating permit for ABC Coke, a division of Drummond Company located in Tarrant, Ala. on Aug. 11, 2014.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes Title VI, a statute that prohibits discrimination based on race, color, national origin, or sex by recipients of federal financial assistance. Over the past several years, JCDH has received millions of dollars in financial assistance from the EPA, among other federal agencies.
GASP, other organizations and individual citizens allege that JCDH’s issuance of the company’s operating permit has “the effect of adversely and disparately impacting African-American residents in the adjacent community,” a violation of Title VI.
“Families living in northern Birmingham neighborhoods have long been discriminated against when it comes to pollution burden,” said GASP Executive Director Stacie Propst, PhD.
Research shows that poorer, minority communities are exposed to greater air pollution than wealthier, white neighborhoods — and Birmingham is one of the worst urban areas in terms of disparity in air pollution exposure among whites and nonwhites. The residential areas near ABC Coke are, on average, two-thirds African American.
ABC Coke is a major source of particulate matter, volatile organic carbons, and toxic agents like arsenic. The Jefferson County Board of Health rules permit no more than a 1-in-100,000 incremental cancer risk from individual air contaminants, yet JCDH has not modeled or monitored ABC Coke’s emissions to determine if that cancer risk limit is being exceeded.
“State and local government representatives have made it clear that no help to reduce ongoing toxic air pollution will be forthcoming,” Propst explained.
“When everything you own is covered in black soot and your local health department fails to perform modeling or monitoring of air toxics in residential neighborhoods near the worst polluter in the county, what do you do? You seek relief elsewhere.”
Drummond Company was identified in 2011 by EPA as a potentially responsible party for toxic contamination in the 35th Avenue Superfund Site, along with Walter Energy, Alagasco, KMAC Services, and U.S. Pipe & Foundry.