Fighting Environmental Racism
TPV NEWS STAFF
Lone Oak, Georgia
Shirley Grier-Hines and her husband Commissioner Freddie Hines of Lone Oak, Georgia say they are lone rangers, fighting a battle that the whole community should be involved in, especially the black community.
Lone Oak is a small town in the southern part of Meriwether County, Georgia. The Meriwether County Board of Commissioners have voted to allow a Montgomery based company, Greenbow, LLC, to build a regional land fill on a municipal watershed that supplies the drinking water for Hogansville residents, as well as those in several surrounding communities.
Grier-Hines said she believes that Greenbow, LLC was formed specifically for that purpose.
Sometime in November, 2006, Meriwether County and Greenbow LLC signed an agreement for a master plan of a 300-acre tract Greenbow is donating to the county for commercial and industrial development. Greenbow, a Montgomery, Alabama firm, is planning to develop a regional landfill on Meriwether County land adjoining Interstate 85. The company earlier agreed to donate the land and another 54-acre recreation park as part of a package with the county.
But, according to Grier-Hines, there are facts about this land fill that the people don’t know enough about. First, that the land-fill will cover 15,000 acres of land. Secondly, the land-fill is to be located right in the predominantly black community, within 500 or so feet of Saint Paul C.M.E. Church, the church she and her husband attend. And third, there is a slave cemetery, and reportedly also there are Indian mounds located in the proposed land fill, and no provisions have been made to preserve this historic site.
They are going to try to cover it up with this landfill, and these things have still not been addressed by the County Commission how the cemetery is going to be preserved.
Commissioner Hines stated that some of the graves in the slave cemetery date back as far as the 1800’s.
Most of the people are on wells. In this part of the county there is no county water or sewerage. “I just don’t believe that the people realize how important this is. Within a year after the landfill is operational, the atmosphere will change. The water will become contaminated…
We are really concerned that our elected officials have not done their due diligence on the company (Greenbow) itself. We don’t even have a fire department. And the commission has not put into place any safeguards to protect the citizens, and ensure that the water will be safe for citizens on down the road. They don’t have all the answers, and they are not doing everything they can to protect us. And no one with the expertise is answering our questions…”
The Georgia Environmental Protection Department (EPD) have broken promises to send representatives in to talk to citizens and answer their questions.
Grier-Hines also said “While the Georgia Environmental Protection Department (EPD) ought to be about protecting the whole state, they went ahead and allowed this land-fill to go into a municipal watershed. They issued the permit. Why?”
“The real problem is that we don’t have people fighting with us. Black folks wouldn’t come out to the meetings. And the whites who did come to the meetings told us, it’s environmental racism. They asked, “Where’s the NAACP?” But, we could not get the people to come…
I was having such a difficult time with all this, my husband said, “Baby let it go.” I had to come to understand the mindset and the fear that these people have been under for so long.”
Grier-Hines told The People’s Voice, “First, we started an organization called “TEAM” (Tri-County Economic Advancement for Meriwether County). These were people who were concerned about the landfill, and the impact on that part of the county…
We did hire an attorney, and were suing the county because they felt like some of the citizens and even some of the commissioners were not properly notified. This man charged us $60,000.00 AND DID NOTHING!
There was one black commissioners who was also on the city council, and he ended up
casting the deciding vote. I believe this was a conflict of interest because the City would benefit from the landfill.”
Freddie Hines ran for and won a Commission seat as a result of the controversy over the landfill.
Shirley Grier Hines said they tried to get help from every avenue. “We went to the NAACP, but they were unwilling to work with us, because they said we hadn’t had an active branch in over 10 years, and the NAACP only comes in where there’s an active branch in good standing with their national.”
Grier-Hines then began organizing the Meriwether County Branch of the NAACP. “It took me more than a year to get 50 people to join so I could get a charter, and set up the branch. But, then, you have all these other hoops you have to jump through.” Grier Hines is now serving as President of the Meriwether County NAACP.
“What we need most right now is help. The local people need to show some concern, but at this point, I know that help will not come from inside Meriwether County.
Hines said with the NAACP Chapter up, and exposing them to different people, and speakers coming in, and getting exposure through the newspaper, I think we’ll finally get a group of people who will stand up. So the line of communication is opening up.
But, I know that my husband and I are not the savior for Meriwether County, but we are a voice. I’ve already learned that as soon as it goes one way or the other, they’ll say “I told you so. The only way I know to do that, is to get exposure outside of the county.”
Shirley Grier-Hines may have gotten her help. On Wednesday morning, she drove to Roanoke, Alabama to meet with David Baker and his staff of an Anniston based grass roots organization he founded, known as Community Against Pollution (CAP). Baker has won national recognition for fighting environmental racism against the black citizens in the West Anniston community, who suffered as a result of PCB contamination from Monsanto/Solutia. As a result of Baker’s work through CAP, millions of dollars have been awarded to residents in West Anniston, who otherwise would have been ignored by Monsanto/Solutia.
Baker brought along his technical advisor, Attorney Morgan Scott, and several staffers from CAP.
During the meeting, Baker advised Grier-Hines, “The only way you’re going to get the exposure for this issue, is you’re going to have to upset the apple cart. I’m an expert at that.”
Related Information can be found at the following links:
3-24-2005 – Regional landfill proposed for Meriwether County, Ga.
4-15-2005 – Meriwether County officials keep landfill ban in place
6-1-2006 – Landfill Takes Another Step
11-21-2006 – Meriwether Co. Signs Development Deal With Greenbow: Goal for Proposed Park is to Attract Kia Supplier
5-24-2007 Meriwether Changes Deal With Landfill Firm: Change Requires Cash Payments to the County
7-16-2007 AnotheMeriwether Changes Deal With Landfill Firm: Change Requires Cash Payments to the County landfill considered for Meriwether: Facility would produce electricity from gasification