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Potential Contamination, Hazards Associated With Proposed Landfill, Central Focus of Meriwether NAACP Meeting

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TPV News Staff

Greenville, GA

 Zarate, Shirley Grier Hines (Meriwether NAACP President), Evelyn Zarate, David Baker

The R.D. Hill Community Center, in Greenville, Georgia was the setting for the recent meeting of the Meriwether County Branch of the NAACP held on Monday night at 6:30.

 

Monday night’s meeting, comprised of a racially mixed group of citizens, was enhanced by the presence of two speakers, Edward Dubose, Georgia State Conference NAACP President, and David Baker of Anniston, Alabama, Founder of Community Against Pollution (CAP) based in Anniston. 

 

Among other things, one of the objectives of the meeting was to make clear that the NAACP is here to serve a vital role in the community.  

 

With growing concern and legal controversy over the proposed Turkey Run Municipal Solid Waste Landfill, several Meriwether County NAACP members felt it was necessary to bring in someone who had already experienced the plight of environmental injustice.  Baker brought that expertise to the community by sharing his experiences with Monsanto in Anniston. 

 Baker runs a non-profit organization, CAP, (Community Against Pollution), which he founded in 1998.  His organization is responsible for many of the monetary awards, and other accomplishments related to the industrial giant formerly known as “Monsanto,” now known as Solutia, which the communities ultimately sued because of a plethora of health problems heaped upon them as a result of the company’s dumping PCB’s into the environment, poisoning the systems of most of the Anniston residents.

 

Baker shared stories about how in 1993, a fisherman had found a severely deformed fish about 5 miles from Anniston’s Monsanto Plant (now Solutia).  The fish was taken to a laboratory where it was analyzed it and they found it to be a mutated fish.  It had the face of a cat-fish but the body of a bass.  That’s what brought about the investigation of the Monsanto plant.

 

From 1931 until 1971, a period of 50 years, Monsanto manufactured PCBs, short for polychlorinated biphenyls, dumping the untreated by-products into the streams and landfills, which were located near several minority communities in West Anniston.   

 

Baker’s brother, Terry had passed away at 17, suffering from a striking array of illnesses including: brain tumor, lung cancer and hardening of the arteries. Although

at the time of Terry’s passing, no one made the connection between Terry’s death, and the pollution of the environment; Baker still recalls how they used to play in the drainage ditches that carried runoff from the nearby Monsanto plant.  Recalling getting boils on his head and rash called core acne under his feet due to PCB pollution, Baker stated, “We use to throw rocks, shoot bows and arrows, tie a tree from a tree and cross over the

water.” He said, “But I always promised my mama that one day, I would find out what happened to Terry.”

 

Then while working for an environmental company in 1995, Baker accidentally discovered that there had been 50 years of covering up the presence of PCB’s, because Monsanto did not warn the community of the untreated wastes they had been dumping into the steams and landfills.   The result was contaminated fish, contaminated soil, one of the highest cancer death rates in the world, and extremely high rates of developmental and physical deformities in children in that community.   As a result of the discovery of the cover-up, a legal battle ensued, and Monsanto was forced to engage a monumental clean-up operation, buy up several properties surrounding the plant, and award large settlements to residents affected by the contamination.

 

During his presentation, Baker discussed how the proposed Turkey Run Municipal Solid Waste Landfill will affect the community,  the drinking water, and the health of the citizens, and even make it impossible for children to even play outside.  Baker encouraged the citizens to get involved in the fight to protect their drinking water.

 

“Fifteen to twenty years down the road, you do not want to be another Anniston, Alabama, where almost 70% of the people are affected with cancer and children are born with birth defects.  It’s a city plagued with high death rates.  Once your water gets contaminated, it is hard to clean up.”  Baker also spoke about the ground and the dirt.  “It’s going to be in the food that you grow and eat.  You may not see it in this generation, but you may see it in the next generation will the children.”

 

Dubose affirmed Baker’s comments, stating, ‘This situation is going on throughout the state of Georgia.  Companies like Greenbow target rural areas that don’t always have things in place and can’t fight it.  Dubose was happy to know that  this issue is still alive, after 3 years, and that there is growing support from other groups both within and outside of the community.  

 

Among those present at the meeting was Evelyn Zarate of Troup County, who has joined Meriwether County’s NAACP and is one of the plaintiffs represented by Attorney Christopher Reeves who filed a petition in January, challenging the Landfill permit issued by Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division.  Zarate and her husband, who are active members of the NAACP  asked the NAACP for assistance in addressing some of the concerns raised by the proposed Landfill.

 

Also at the meeting was Commissioner Freddie Hines, who prepared an appeal on behalf of his constituents in District 1.   Even though Hines’ appeal was denied, he has continued to be supportive of other efforts to challenge the landfill permit.

 

Shirley Hines, Meriwether NAACP President said, “We want to make sure that people’s rights are not violated, we are going to be a positive force in the community, and are going to be about positive change.   We also want to make sure that certain sectors are not targeted for violations of this kind,” said branch President Shirley Hines.  “We’re concerned about the quality of water and the quality of life in Meriwether County, not just in District 1, but for our neighbors.   We have to be good stewards of our natural resources.  This is not just an environmental injustice issue, but we feel our local elected officials should be focusing on the quality of water, and we should have good quality drinking water.  We need everybody to be concerned about this and support our efforts.”

 

Administrative Law Judge Kristin L. Miller is set to make a ruling on May 12 on the Petition filed in January by Seagraves and others.

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