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Category Archives: Gainesville

Earlier this month the Environmental Protection Agency released their final clean-up plans for the Cabbot-Koppers Superfund site. The 700 pages of recommendations took nearly 30 years to produce. Dominique Shaw, a masters candidate at Florida A&M's journalism program, has been researching the disproportionate toxic burden placed on poor people and people of color.  She tells us that Gainesville is a classic example of "environmental racism." (Photo from the Fine Print)

Dominique Shaw reports:

Many people are not informed about ER. No not the medical drama, but the ER known as "environmental racism," even though it’s in many of our backyards.

Environmental racism is when big industries place hazardous waste or toxic facilities in low income communities, often neighborhoods of color. These facilities pollute the community through the water, air, and soil. Often, these industrial projects get green lit before the community knows what it means to have them move in.

Gainesville, Florida has a neighborhood that exemplifies ER. Twelve schools sit within a two mile radius from a 140 acre hazardous waste site. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) designated it the Cabot-Koppers Superfund site in 1983.

Superfund is the federal government's program to clean up the nation's uncontrolled hazardous waste sites. They seek to find the people responsible and make the polluters pay otherwise the government funds the clean-up.

In this case, Beazer East, Inc, is being held responsible. The site is made up of the Koppers' 90 acre wood-treatment operation, and Cabot Carbon- a former charcoal operation that has been redeveloped into a commercial space.

The land is choked with 32 different toxins such as dioxin, arsenic, and chromium that came from Cabot-Koppers. Recently, Dr. Steve Roberts from University of Florida's Center for Environmental & Human Toxicology, showed the severe cancer risks residents face because of the dioxin contamination from Cabot-Koppers. The data revealed that people are 3,610 times more vulnerable to cancer in the northern area of the Superfund site than what is allowed by the state.

The sad truth is that this neighborhood is not unique. Environmental Racism has been discussed for over a generation by researchers all over this country. Awareness about poverty, race and low property values can arm communities to fight back against environmental racism.

For more on this issue of environmental racism, check out our story on the first American case of ER to be heard by an international human rights commission, "The Battle for Human Rights in Cancer Alley

Dominique Shaw ER.mp3 1.5 MB