National Black Environmental Justice Network

In The Spotlight: Toxic Wastes and Race

Dillard environmentalist receives national honor Beverly Wright, director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice at Dillard University, is one of 10 recipients of this year's Heinz Awards because, the awards board said, she has broughtattention to environmental issues affecting poor communities. The awards by the Heinz Family Foundation, which are being announced today, recognize public-spirited work. They will be presented Oct. 28 in a ceremony in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington. Each recipient will be given $100,000 and a medallion.

Time for New Type of EPA Regional Administrators The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created in December 1970 under President Richard M. Nixon. From the very beginning, EPA's ten regions were set up as nearly autonomous sub-agencies. President Barack Obama made a bold move this year by selecting Lisa P. Jackson, the first African American to head the EPA. Now the president is set to select EPA regional administrators—ten important and powerful posts that can reshape the agency which suffered severe setbacks under President George W. Bush. Having Jackson, an African American woman who grew up in New Orleans, at the helm of EPA is historic. However, having a black head at EPA headquarters in Washington, DC is not sufficient. Fundamental change is needed in the regions, especially regions where states have a legacy of slavery, Jim Crow segregation, and resistance to civil rights and equal environmental protection under the law, such as Region 4, eight states in the Deep South (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee).

Families who live near landfill say pollution contaminated their water wells, caused cancer Nearly 100 people attended an NAACP rally in Dickson to call attention to polluted well water that one family alleges is causing cancer. Jimmie Garland, vice president of the NAACP's Middle Tennessee Chapter, says people have been sickened by drinking contaminated water. Garland says since many black families were affected, it's a sort of "environmental racism." One of the speakers on Saturday, Sheila Holt-Orsted, says her family's well was contaminated by chemicals from the former Dickson County Landfill. She says she has cancer, and her father died of cancer two years ago.

Middle Tennessee rally links pollution and racism Jared Thompson has made the trip from his home in Northern California to visit relatives in Kingston Springs every year since he was in grade school.He'd heard family stories about distant relatives from Dickson and about the county's troubles with contaminated drinking water, but when he heard about Saturday's NAACP environmental racism rally, he wanted to learn more."I'd never been to this type of event before, so I didn't know what to expect," said Thompson, 26. "But this seems like a good turnout, and there's a lot of energy in the crowd. I hope this event can spark a change because this seems like a big problem."Thompson was one of about 85 people who attended the environmental racism rally in Dickson. The event aimed to promote understanding of the issue, organizers said.

A real-life example of the deadly mix of “wastes and race” Historically, African American and other people of color communities have borne a disproportionate burden of pollution from landfills, garbage dumps, incinerators, sewage treatment plants, chemical industries and a host of other polluting facilities. Many dirty industries have followed the “path of least resistance” allowing communities of color to become environmental "sacrifice zones" and the “dumping grounds” for all kinds of health-threatening operations.

Landfill Lawsuits Continue The fight continues more than 20 years after a Dickson County family's well was found to be contaminated with a toxic chemical from a nearby landfill. Since the first lawsuit filed in 2003, the Holt family says they're a victim of environmental racism. And they won't stop fighting for justice until the landfill is clean and many families like theirs no longer have to worry for their safety. At the rally, Sheila Holt-Orsted says, "They don't know what they have taken from my family." She holds up a picture of her father at a rally in Dickson. By Erika Kurre for WZTV-TV.

NAACP Hold Rally; Claims Toxic Well Poisoned Black Families Their story has been featured across the country, and for years, the family has claimed poisons from a local landfill have been causing deadly diseases,  including cancer. Saturday, the NAACP is rallying behind them in a fight they say is really for all Americans. "When this problem is healing for Holt family, it is also healing for Dickson County," said supporter Jerry Jerkins. Saturday's event brought awareness to what the NAACP and a Dickson family call "environmental racism." For years, the Holt family says they were exposed to toxic water because of a nearby landfill.  They believe studies have proven a chemical that can cause cancer was leaking into the neighbors' well water supply system. For years Sheila Holt-Orsted says her family and others on Eno Road were being exposed to a toxic chemical that leaked into their well water system. By

In Our Backyard: Environmental Racism in Dickson You may not have heard of Dickson, Tennessee, but this weekend, the town is center stage in the movement for environmental justice. Civil rights leaders gathered there for a national summit on environmental racism to highlight environmental health issues facing communities of color. The location was a pointed choice. For about a decade, the town of about 12,000 has been at the center of an environmental lawsuit involving a local family and a contaminated landfill, which is just a stone’s throw from dozens of homes in a mostly Black community. The Holts claim that family members have been plagued by health problems due to a toxin from the landfill, trichloroethylene (TCE).

National Civil Rights Leaders Gather for Environmental Racism Rally On September 5, 2009 Civil Rights Leaders from across the nation will gather on the grounds of the Memorial Building Mayors Office at 202 Center Avenue in Dickson, Tennessee for an all day rally from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Dickson is home to one of the worst Environmental Racism cases in the history of the United States. The Holt family has been fighting for the past 10 years to bring justice and awareness to the contaminated water leaked from the county landfill.

Rally for Environmental Justice in Dickson, TN Rally with Justice and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ, the Tennessee Baptist Missionary Convention, The Center for Environmental Justice of Clark Atlanta University and the Tennessee NAACP on September 5, 2009, 10 a.m. at the Memorial Building, 200 Center Ave, in Dickson TN (35 miles west of Nashville) in support of the Holt family whose well became contaminated with TCE, a dangerous toxin.  Those who lived on the property, just 54 ft from the landfill have suffered death and disease.  The family believes their health issues came from drinking contaminated water from their well.  Having finally been warned of the danger, they stopped drinking the well water.  Their homestead is still contaminated. You can sign the petition at by clicking HERE.

Sept. 5 Labor Day “Call to End Toxic Racism” Rally in Dickson, Tennessee To highlight the nation's continuing toxic dumping problem in African American communities, civil rights, faith based, environmental justice, and health leaders from around the country are planning a rally in Dickson, Tennessee on Labor Day weekend Saturday, September 5. Dickson is located about 35 miles west of Nashville. Organizers of the rally chose to highlight the struggle of the African American Harry Holt family--the "poster child" for toxic racism. The Holt family's 150-acre farm and wells were poisoned and their wealth stolen by the leaky Dickson County Landfill. Five generations of Holts have called the Eno Road community home.

Environmental Justice Advocates Testify: Repeal Bush-Era Hazardous Waste LoopholeRule deregulates 1.5 million tons of toxic waste, puts low-income and communities of color at increased risk
Environmental justice advocates from around the country traveled to Arlington, Virginia today to ask the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to repeal a Bush-era hazardous waste loophole and restore safeguards to prevent toxic spills and contamination.

U.S. blacks face harsher climate change impact
American blacks are likely to suffer disproportionately from climate change and they are willing to pay to combat it, a commission aimed at raising awareness about global warming said. Blacks are more than twice as likely as whites to live in cities where the so-called heat island effect is expected to make temperature increases more severe, the newly formed group said at a briefing. More blacks also will be "fuel poor" as energy demand rises due to higher air-conditioning loads, population growth and urbanization, commission said.

Sign the UCC Petition to End Toxic Racism in Dickson, Tennessee
It has now been a year since the United Church of Christ released "Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty." The 2007 UCC report profiled the failure of various levels of government to protect the African American Harry Holt family's in Dickson, Tennessee who's wells were contaminated with the toxic chemical TCE from a county owned landfill. To view and sign petition click HERE.

EPA sets tougher air-quality standards
The EPA's new smog limit is 75 parts per billion of ozone, down from the current level of 80.  Because of rounding, the old standard was effectively 84 parts per billion. The EPA failed to head the advice of its independent science advisory panel who unanimously had said the standard should be no higher than 70 parts per billion. In a March 2007 letter to the EPA, panelists said there is "overwhelming scientific evidence" for a reduction of that magnitude.

Local Citizens, Conservation Group File Suit Seeking Cleanup of Alleged Water Contamination in Dickson County, Tennessee
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and two residents of Dickson, Tennessee, Sheila Holt-Orsted and Beatrice Holt, today filed a lawsuit against the Dickson County and City governments. The Complaint alleges that trichloroethylene (TCE), an industrial chemical disposed at the Dickson Landfill that has been linked to neurological and developmental harm and cancer, poses an imminent and substantial endangerment to human health and the environment.

MLK and the struggle for environmental justice
As we celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and consider the effects Dr. King's work have had on the United States, I want to highlight an often overlooked aspect of that work, how Martin Luther King and the civil rights struggle have influenced American notions of environmental health and justice.

Toxics Tour Planned to Highlight Environmental Racism: National Campaign to Spotlight the Deadly Mix of Toxic Racism and TCE Contamination on an African American Family
On Thursday, November 29, a coalition of national leaders, representing environmental justice, civil rights, scientists, women’s health, academia, faith-based and religious groups, legal, and elected officials, including congressional staffers, from around the country will meet at Nashville’s Fisk University and board a bus for Dickson, a small town located about 35 miles to the west. The national leaders will travel to Dickson and participate in the “Take Back Black Health Toxics Tour” and see for themselves in real time a slam-dunk, in-your-face case of environmental racism.

The environmental justice braintrust: A dispatch from the Congressional Black Caucus conference
Appropriately, the theme of this year's 37th annual Congressional Black Caucus Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C., was "Unleashing Our Power." For the first time in history, the U.S. House of Representatives has four African-Americans serving as chairpersons of major committees. In addition, 17 African-Americans lead major subcommittees, and Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina is the House Majority Whip. Activists and health experts hope that this change in leadership will help enact serious environmental justice legislation to promote safe and healthy communities.

Standing on Principle: The Global Push for Environmental Justice
Climate change, acid rain, depletion of the ozone layer, species extinction—all of these issues point to one thing: environmental health is a global issue that concerns all nations of the world. Now add environmental justice to the list. From South Bronx to Soweto, from Penang to El Paso, communities all over the world are finding commonality in their experiences and goals in seeking environmental justice.

Black Mayors’ Judgment Clouded by Smog: The Air is Tough to Breathe
Environmental racism has moved to the forefront of African American concerns, but some Black mayors have crawled into bed with the polluters. Desperate to get job-creating industry into their communities at any environmental cost, these city executives throw health issues to the winds, their minds clouded by dreams of "economic development." Sadly, the National Conference of Black Mayors' executive director is urging federal officials not to raise standards of allowable air pollution, in fear of chasing away investment in their cities. The result: the populations of Black-led cities will literally choke on the chimera of growth.

EPA Urged to Strengthen Ozone Standards to Protect the Most Vulnerable
Air pollution threatens the health of millions of Americans, especially those who live in urban areas. More than half of U.S. population lives in counties with unsafe air. Ground-level ozone or smog affects more than 158 million Americans in ten of the eleven most populous states (California, Georgia, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas). Air pollution claims 70,000 lives a year, nearly twice the number killed in traffic accidents.

Environmental racism takes Senate stage
Sheila Holt-Orsted sat quietly in the Senate hearing room in the Dirksen Senate Office Building while before her a dream was fulfilled: the first Congressional hearing on environmental justice. Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), chairwoman of the Environmental and Public Works Committee's Subcommittee on Superfund and Environmental Health, held the unprecedented hearing on July 25.

Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty
The new United Church of Christ report finds African Americans and other people of color more concentrated near wastes facilities than two decades ago.  In 2007, people of color now make up 56 percent of the residents living in neighborhoods within two miles of the nation’s commercial hazardous waste facilities; they make up a whopping 69 percent in neighborhoods with clustered waste facilities. 

Warren County (North Carolina) Protests at Twenty-Five
It has now been twenty-five years since the 1982 protests against a controversial toxic waste dump in Warren County, North Carolina gave birth to the national environmental justice movement.  The protests also put environmental racism on the map.

A Well of Pain: Their Water Was Poisoned by Chemicals
Was Their Treatment Poisoned by Racism?  The Harry Holt family in Dickson, Tennessee wells were poisoned with trichloroethylene or TCE from the Dickson County Landfill while the government stood by and did nothing.  

The Black Metropolis in the Twenty-First Century: Race, Power, and Politics of Place
This new book brings together key essays that seek to make visible and expand our understanding of the role of government (policies, programs, and investments) in shaping cities and metropolitan regions; the costs and consequences of uneven urban and regional growth patterns; suburban sprawl and public health, transportation, and economic development; and the enduring connection of place, space, and race in the era of increased globalization.


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